Back in June, Caritas Westminster hosted an online event, ‘Engaging Young People,’ which brought together young people and those organisations who work with them. The aim was to see what young people have been getting up to during the pandemic, and how we can build on some of their experiences of supporting social action and social justice during this time, once we emerge out of lockdown.
The below extract is a testimony of one of the event attendees, Morgan (18), who provides an account of her experience of lockdown, echoing some of the topics discussed at the event, and how as a young person, lockdown has allowed to her develop her engagement with tackling social injustices.
The first few months of lockdown were lost in the blur of restless nights and indolent days. We binge watched tv shows on Netflix and watched a constant stream of TikTok videos. In many ways, the younger generation are the most privileged in these harrowing times; we have a decreased health risk from coronavirus and are also celebrating digital inclusion. However, even while mental health and social action have been a positive forefront of the pandemic for young people, many are going through loss and are away from family members.
As Danny Curtin from Million Minutes said, ‘everyone is going through trauma’. This trauma doesn’t always stem from the places you would anticipate, it doesn’t have to be the loss of a loved one or something similarly synonymous with tragedy. We are missing huge milestones in life and that can be traumatic; job prospects are low, the economy is falling, exams are cancelled, weddings are cancelled, predictive grades for University, A-levels, IB, GCSE are reflective only of an algorithm. Many lives have and will be shaped cruelly by the pandemic and in ways that no one could have predicted.
Nevertheless, through the bitter wind, we have noticed the need for change.
The pandemic was the spark to a social media revolution. Huge movements have taken over the internet- people rushing to support Black Lives Matter, the Yemen Crisis and Climate change. Like never before, we are witnessing a time where we are so deeply connected with the same itch to help, even while being so far apart. Thousands of people are raising their hands and learning about inequalities to be a part of a cultural and social change.
Despite the variations of living conditions of young adults, we have witnessed the incredible enthusiasm to help, whether in their community or worldwide. Due to furloughing, many have had extra time to get involved with volunteering. There is a growing number of teenagers getting involved in food banks and this has encouraged parishes such as Hounslow, to promote volunteering as a good addition to a CV.
Some individuals are not staying with their families during this time and instead are living in secure and often international bubbles. SPEC reported that even though they have had to remain contained in their bubble and voluntary outreach has been difficult, their contact with St. Luke’s has been helping make phone calls to older people, in order to make them feel less lonely.
Something important we have learnt in this time and was reinforced by SVP President and Caritas Representative of Hounslow parish, Vincent Fernandes ‘let’s not beat ourselves up about doing what we can’t do at the moment and instead focus on what we can do’. This is something that needs to be heard. Despite the losses we have faced, as a group of young people, we have shown the world our response to trauma. Away are the snowflakes, instead we have proved our strength and determination.
Pope Francis wrote in the Christus Vivit, ‘the young want to be protagonists of change. Please, do not leave it to others to be protagonists of change. You are the ones who hold the future!’
While the upcoming times will not be the easiest, it is something can work through together. Come and join our gathering of young people, in the 18-30 age bracket, who are motivated by social action and social justice. The elevation of particular social injustice issues, such as Financial insecurity and Job Losses, Black Lives Matter and The Climate, alongside the increase in online gatherings, has given us a window of opportunity to introduce a Young Caritas project. If you are aged between 18-30 and want to make a difference and for your voice to be heard, join us virtually on 28th July.