Break Away staff has spent recent weeks reflecting on and researching the implications of coronavirus (COVID-19) on students, staff/faculty, alternative break programming, and higher education at large.
We know how hard students, staff/faculty, and community partners have worked to plan, train, recruit, fundraise, and generally prepare for our work in community. We have been watching alongside you as campuses have shut down travel, alternative break trips, and even classes.
We understand your fears and frustrations surrounding this pandemic. We continue to be in solidarity with student leaders who are taking on the brunt of the work tempering worry and mourning the loss of programing, both for community partners and student learning. We feel your disheartenment. This pandemic has ripples that will be felt for a long time.
Although the majority of programs send trips in March, active citizenship isn’t relegated to one week in spring. These closures and cancellations call for creative responses (we’ve seen the memes, Gen Zers, and know you’re up for it). Engage active citizenship from wherever you are, whenever you can. Making others a priority in your decisions and life choices doesn’t just have to happen in person.
Active Citizenship in the Face of COVID-19
As a communicable disease, COVID-19 presents a unique opportunity to unpack the way in which these types of diseases disproportionately affect communities already at the intersection of multiple systems of oppression.
The call for people to work from home, self-quarantine, or go to the doctor assumes equitable access to these options. In reality, there are significant portions of our communities for whom that is not an option due to job limitations, lack of paid sick leave, or access to health care benefits.
In the current conversations around coronavirus, there is a lot of mention of “high risk”, “vulnerable”, or “at risk” individuals without a real acknowledgement of who these folks are, nor our collective responsibility to keep each other safe. The norms and structures of our world are not built for disabled people and they face disproportionate barriers and consequences during times of crisis.
We also want to clearly name the rampant racist and xenophobic narratives surrounding COVID-19. We all need to engage (and encourage others to engage) in self-reflection around our language and beliefs about this pandemic. We all play a part in combatting the ideologies that inform these bigoted and racist actions.
We believe in you. We continue to be your biggest fans. And, for what is probably the hundredth time you’ve been told today, please wash your hands.
Your partners in the Movement,
The Break Away Team