Now with the highest death toll in Europe, Britain appears to have passed the first peak of the Coronavirus outbreak. Amid all the bad news of the crisis, there have been many uplifting stories. Thousands of people are working together with the NHS’s ‘Army of Volunteers’, with charities and local schemes. Many have also assisted informally, through one of the 3,400 dedicated social media volunteers groups in the UK.
Support has come from different generations in different ways, but one of the less noticed trends is the younger generation volunteering to help their communities. Those who are sometimes portrayed as too selfish to care about their elders are contributing to the effort, and it is not just children putting rainbow drawings on their windows. Young people are writing letters to isolated older members of their community, delivering groceries and volunteering their skills.
One example can be found at Farnborough College of Technology in southern England where fashion teacher Samantha Jones has been helping students to provide clothing for local NHS staff and those working in care homes, often overlooked for donations. One of her second year students has used machinery from her father’s engineering company to laser cut patterns for scrubs, thus speeding up the process. Jones is proud of her students who ‘stepped up’ and ‘have gained so much confidence at the same time’.
Meanwhile, the older generation is giving another kind of support to young people: the example of their experience of hard times and memories of communities coming together. The 100-year-old Captain Tom Moore, who raised £32 million for the NHS by walking around his garden, embodies an older generation who refuse to be laid low by the pandemic.
A comparison between the coronavirus and life in time of war may seem a little exaggerated, but it has meaning in this case, with families remaining apart and people displaying a collective national spirit. And the significance was fully apparent when the 75th anniversary of VE Day celebrations in May were adapted to the health crisis. Instead of large flag-waving gatherings, people were encouraged to observe a minute of silence at home.
The collective wisdom of that generation was duly celebrated, but no one should forget the energy and enthusiasm that young people have demonstrated during the crisis. Amid the missteps of the authorities, this sense of intergenerational solidarity is something to treasure.