“When This Is All Over” – Yousef Maner

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It has become a phrase all too common: “When this is all over…” No one knew this would happen, and no one knows when it will end. This remark seems to be a light at the end of our tunnel of uncertainty, and other times it’s a helpless reach for normalcy. As of today, there have been over 15 million confirmed cases of the Coronavirus globally: the unemployment rate is its highest since the Great Depression, and the humanitarian crises have emerged in foreign countries such as Yemen and Palestine.

Hearing one breaking news story after the other, where do we stand in the midst of this chaos? In the beginning, I decided to shut out the news and daily catastrophes, the numbers that steadily climbed higher and higher. I was in the final semester of my senior year of high school. College decisions had just been released, and I was ready to enjoy the remainder of my high school experience. After receiving an email from the principal that school was to be discontinued due to COVID-19, I thought we would be back before the end of the school year. After countless zoom meetings and online classes, I came to the heart-wrenching realization that this would never happen.

Waking up every morning was the hardest part. Hours of online classes followed hours of procrastination and homework. The lack of routine and physical interaction had affected me both mentally and physically. I grew more tired every day and could not retain the majority of the material I was taught. “When this is all over” turned into “Please let this be over” rather quickly.

My self-inflicted ignorance of what was going on in the world and the privilege that I had in the safety and comfort of my own home barred me from realizing that this was not only my problem. This was an issue faced by millions who were less fortunate than me. To imagine that people without jobs, homes, or food were facing yet another obstacle that challenged their very existence made me furious.

Once again, I asked myself, “Where do I stand in the midst of this chaos?” This time, I chose not to be ignorant. I refuse to let the privilege I have been blessed with work as an excuse, allowing me to ignore other people’s plights in grappling with the devastating effects of COVID-19. So, I began by educating myself. I consumed news articles, YouTube videos, books, and professional opinions. From this, I learned that one of the main problems faced was an exacerbation of preexisting poverty and suffering. This rang true especially for small businesses in third-world countries.

The data shows that more than 99% of organizations being affected are small businesses, which employ about half of the US workforce. In developing countries, small businesses represent about 70% of jobs. In our current situation, millions of these small organizations worldwide will be forced to shut down in the coming months. In light of the pandemic, and my willingness to step out of the bubble that is my privilege, I have founded The Bracelet and Bangle Boutique (https://braceletbangles.com/). While my website sells wristwear accessories, at its core, I want to spread awareness about the dire needs of our small business owners and workers across the world. In hopes of doing so, I have contacted and partnered with several small businesses in India to provide support for their stores. My mission is to stimulate sustainable growth for underrepresented small businesses whose sole source of revenue relies upon in-person sales and may not have the resources to sell their products online. I believe this is an important step to actively contribute to local welfare and the reduction of poverty.

Together, we must reach a state of normalcy and urge ourselves to pop our bubbles of privilege. I have become this person, and when this “pandemic” is over, I urge you to join me.