19 CANDLES. BIRTHDAYS IN THE TIMES OF COVID19

35,000 feet.

That is where today – 17.06 – is always wished to be spent each year if not able to be with loved ones. Neither are an option this year.

COVID19 has turned the days of 2020 into a long blur – days turning into weeks turning into months turning into a year beyond fiction, beyond explanation, beyond imagination. Through it all, punctuation marks have appeared: question marks, exclamation marks, characters covering up letters for words growled but not to appear in print. And then there are dates in bold text: birthdays.

And so, as this date neared – my birthday – reflection began. Heading to LHR to board a long-haul flight to call in the first moments of the day up at 35k was clearly not going to happen. 17 06 2020 was to be spent in the same place as the past 100+ days of 2020 lockdown. The usual, loved pause of reflection up in the air – anonymous, uncontactable, surrounded by silence, in a bubble of time and space (with bubbles in hand) – was to be a tradition skipped in 2020.

But that did not mean that the pause was to be passed by.

Quite the contrary.

If lockdown of COVID19 has shown us anything it is that time, this time, is vital to making sure that we do not waste the opportunity to stop, centre, see all we have around us, and whisper a word of thanks. Never again (probably, hopefully) will we be asked, demanded, to suspend our daily existence, staying apart, even if it means our livelihoods, economies, communities and future certainties falling apart. Something bigger mattered. COVID19, with its invisibility, and its terrifying ability to take life with evert droplet, mattered more than anything before.

As the world entered lockdown, geography after geography, month after month, together or apart, ready or not, the world stopped. Suddenly coping mechanisms took over – one’s wiring working to make sense of days without routine, without regular access, without a real sense of timing of ‘for how long?’. The ‘new normal’ was in fact a ‘now normal’ until the ‘next normal’ came along. Facts vs fears. Connection vs isolation. COVID19 vs the world.

100+ days on, slooooowwwwly the world is starting to open up, restrictions easing, living the ‘next normal’ getting easier as rules, regulations and routines are more familiar. Comfort in the discomfort zone.

But wait. Not so fast.

As much as we are focusing our fearful yet hopeful hearts and minds on leaving these times behind us, let’s not rush out just yet. Why? Because there will be moments in these times that, unquestionably, we will miss. Moments of stillness, of newness, of awareness, we will miss. And critically, moments for which we must always remain grateful.

For this reason, not wanting to let this birthday pass in a blur, a pause took place to think: from these 100+ COVID19 days, what are my 19 moments/memories/milestones of pure, unedited, undeniable appreciation.

What will I forever remember this time by?

These, without hesitation and filter, are my 19 COVID19 birthday candles:

  1. Heroes, first and foremost, standing on the front line taking care of what is most important: our health, our safety, our stability
  2. Health….mine still strong, still safe…and that of family, both family by blood and family by choice
  3. Satellites, keeping us connected, every second, every day, every conversation, every virtual hug
  4. AM2AM, every a.m. to p.m.
  5. My gorgeous AM&A Girls – Jessica & Grace
  6. My Clients, acronyms so adored across the world, across the alphabet, across an array of challenges and emotions we never thought we would share
  7. Springtime – its rhythm, its hope, its softness & freshness
  8. Foxes spotted running through central London, because they can
  9. Swans, squirrels and other feathery and fluffy sweeties
  10. Fresh milk and fresh flowers, throughout
  11. Ideation inspired through crisis, now absolute labours of love: RISE – http://www.rise-weekly.com / & HospitalityTomorrow – https://www.hospitalitytomorrow.com
  12. Hearing a new calling, working non-stop with no desire to stop
  13. Her Majesty
  14. Bubbles! Groups, girlfriends, shared clinks, quiet solo toasts
  15. Alice in Wonderland
  16. Amazon / Nike / M&S / F&M – lockdown essentials just one click away
  17. In-home studio lights / mics / virtual magic!
  18. SW1W 0AJ
  19. These 100 days

And a bonus #20: British VOGUE, no question about it. https://www.vogue.co.uk/

For these 19 (+1) am I thankful, deeply, deeply thankful.

Before any more time passes, please take the time to pause. Capture the 19 signatures of this time that a year, 5 years, 10 years from now, you will look back on with a quiet smile.

Do it now, while memories are fresh, hearts are open, before the world reopens….

Good will come from this time. It must.

May we never feel 2020’s purpose was wasted. x

 

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2020

 

 

 

“CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?” – COVID19’S CRITICAL QUESTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shhhhhh. Listen.

What do you hear? Anything? Anything at all?

That is the sound of COVID19. Breezes. Birds, Distant hum of cars,

Occasionally voices. Occasionally sirens.

Rarely horns.

Sounds of COVID19 are defined more by absence than by presence.

Can you hear me now?” These five words have become the start to our now daily routine of virtual meetings, virtual summits, virtual sundowners. An acceptable tech-check to ensure that the speaker, visible, is also audible. Prelude to something important about to be said.

Yet remarkably, as our world now passes the 150 day mark of COVID19 shutdown of 2020 with global case count crossing 6 million and lives taken 365,000, there is one voice that has not asked ‘Can you hear me now?’ It is the voice of someone known worldwide, recognised worldwide, respected worldwide….yet not heard worldwide when he had something important to say – 5 yrs ago in a TED Talk – https://www.ted.com/talks/bill_gates_the_next_outbreak_we_re_not_ready . It took 5 years for the world to stop the daily noise of life and listen, really listen, to the message he had to share – the next, greatest threat to our shared world is a pandemic.

Who is he? Bill Gates.

But we didn’t listen….until 5 yrs later.

His global warning became a link shared wildly in early 2020 as our shared world saw this new, wild virus travel, terrifyingly because of its invisibility and merciless nature. COVID19 is known yet not fully understood, it is everywhere yet unable to be seen, it is directly challenging systems and priorities of government, it is redefining words such as essential, leadership, community and responsibility

Speaking recently to CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, exploring what exactly is happening in terms of vaccine development, how many avenues are being explored, how many may deem to be successful, and how quickly and thoroughly can this be rolled out, worldwide conversation naturally leads to what did we know? What could we have done? What could the analysis have been in terms of how could we have been better prepared?

It’s an easy conversation to have, understandably because we’re at a much more comfortable place in terms of our own sense of self and sense of security, as surreal as these social distancing and WFH days may be. Now we can look at the world around us and, in our bubbles, form a point of view, to create an opinion and often to judge.

Who is to blame? Who will find a cure? Who has demonstrated leadership? Who has failed? Who is the ‘who’? And what is the responsibility of the WHO?

All of these questions, all of these debates, are examples of what is interesting about Bill Gates. He desires to share, to support, to separate news from noise. He does not demand to be heard.

Not once, not once since the 2015 pandemic TED Talk, not once since China first sounded the alarm around a dangerous wave of illness, not once since a pandemic was declared by the WHO, not once since the map was covered from East to West with confirmations of cases, not once since there has been questions around funding of global support to address this as a global issue, not once has Bill Gates stopped to say: “I told you so“.

Not once has he questioned: “Can you hear me now?”

There is something heroic about this truism, something incredibly classy about his silence when so many would seek recognition for having called it first.

This is especially true as we are seeing people becoming more comfortable in the discomfort zones of COVID19 – being stuck at home, gaining access to internet intelligence, forming opinions, finding platforms for personal positioning, voicing judgment.

These opinions can become incredibly hurtful. And hasty. We may be 150 days into 2020, but we still have many days / weeks / months to go. There may be stirs of activity visible around us new sounds starting to full our streets, there may be hope of when homes can reconnect, hugs hopefully not too far off. But we are not there yet – we are nowhere near the finish line. We still have many frontliners to support. We still have much to learn as we face risks of further spikes as restrictions ease, second waves as social exposure restarts, impact of curves, inroads of vaccine quests. We are a case study being examined in real-time.

The 20-20 hindsight assessments, assumptions and analysis can wait.

This is the greatest opportunity for us as a global community to act as a community, focusing on the solution, not fighting over the problem. This is the call to action for our generation. Why? Because unless we all win, we all lose.

Shhhhh. Keep listening. x

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2020

 

COVID19: 2020’S SPARK FOR STEP-CHANGE

 

 

 

 

The warnings were there about the platform possibly not holding.

The warnings were there about the 5000+ registered participants possibly not joining.

The warnings were there about the content not holding interest for 6+hrs.

The warnings were there about the audio dropping.

The warnings were all there. We were ready.

But no one, absolutely no one, warned us about how terrifying the excitement of going ‘live’ would be!!

Since the start of the 21st Century our shared world has been busy turning the noun ‘innovation’ into a verb, into an adjective, into a sign of success, into a badge of honour, into a form of status. However we express it – disruption, ideation, new world creation – all of the terms talk calmly about what it takes to be innovative, to create something that step-changes how we think, how we act, how we live, how we conduct business, how we connect to one another. The possibility of a dramatic shift from the now to the new has been a force of growth for industry, for humanity.

We talk about it calmly. We talk about it in classrooms. We talk about it in textbooks. We debate it. We debate it. We debate it. And then we debate some more. The analysis around innovation life cycles, investment models and human dynamics is plenty – the subject of innovation is not embedded in many an institution.

Yet interestingly, it’s only when one actually dives into it – when an idea emerges that just feels so right, and so right for right now, that the alchemy of innovation takes hold.

It is exactly as French playwrite Victor Hugo once said: “Nothing else in the world…not all the armies…is so powerful as an idea whose time has come.”

Such was the case just a handful of days ago in March 2020, as the world was settling into lock-down country by country, that an idea’s time came.

The working world was grounded. Suddenly no one is going anywhere, and yet we started to find ways to be everywhere. Meetings were zoomed and skyped and logged into. For millions worldwide, working from home became a whole new way of not just working but living. It erased boundaries – geographic, professional, social and emotional. Suddenly we were all sharing each other’s lives. There has been no way to escape what our homes look like, what our lives look like, what our personal styles look like. We are who we are, from wherever in the world we may be connecting.

But all has not been without its ache. Millions sharing this new way of life have also been bonding over shared loss – loss of momentum, loss of motivation, loss of plans to meet somewhere else, sometime soon. Somehow, in the blink of an eye and with the closure of borders, business and meeting stopped, and with that, the advancement of professional bonds, the building of future plans and setting of priorities, and the business of yesterday, today and tomorrow.

But why must it stop, especially when now more than ever people need to come together to find the collective strength to face one of the greatest professional and personal challenges of our lives? To not feel alone?

Why not create a way of staying connected, continuing to learn, continuing to build, continuing to hope? Build the future of our industry? No – it is not credible to begin that process, the spread and impact of COVID19 as a global human crisis, forget industry, is still being understood. We cannot credibly start looking at the solution. We can, however, come together as a community of leaders ready to interrogate the problem, from different geographic, technical, economic, political and personal perspectives.

And so was born less that 4wks ago (at time of writing this piece) through a conversation with Jonathan Worsley (a long-time trusted and respected colleague with whom I have been blessed to work for several years, he giving me the honours on-stage across his global portfolio of events), the idea for the world’s largest ever (over 6hrs), over 6600 participant strong (far beyond estimation), Travel, Tourism and Hospitality virtual conference: https://www.hospitalitytomorrow.com/

As soon as ‘why not?’ was accepted in mind and heart, with trust in partnership implicit, principles of conference design and debate were agreed, platforms were explored, plans were made, PR began, personal networks were contacted, programme slots were filled, and preparation briefings were conducted.

Fast forward three weeks, and the morning finally came when it was time to go ‘live’!

Suddenly one’s lounge becomes a studio,

One’s bathroom a dressing room,

One’s conference link a back-stage pass to a global stage,

One’s heartbeat is a pounding drum!

Prayers to the Tech Gods eclipsed all thoughts as the number of participants online grew wildly, 100, 300, 800, 1200, 1500, 1700, 2000, 2300…on and on the numbers climbed. “please let the platform hold, please let the platform hold…!!

We could hold no longer – it was time!! April 07th, 2020, 10:00am BST. Jonathan was ‘on’, the backstage team watching each and every second pass by with concrete weight. It was a cocktail of thrill and terror, making us all feel like giddy children trying to contain our nervous screams of excitement!!

And so the day began.

Over the course of the following 6 hours were there technology challenges? Of course there were. Were there continued intense prayers that things going wrong would go right? Absolutely. But everyone, every one of the 6000+ people participating backstage, onstage and online across the globe was with us.

We were all in this together.

What was happening was not just a moment of innovation of our global meetings and conference industry, it was a defining moment of our lives. Together.

This was the dimension of innovation, the art of the possible, that, reflecting on the experience now, seems missing from articles, books and analysis on innovation. Why? Maybe because it is just too difficult to put into words. It is an experience that leaves one speechless (and nerve-knotted!)….with only a quiet smile to reveal what had occurred.

What turns an inspired idea into an inspiring innovation? It’s not just about the idea. It‘s about the people who show up because they believe in it, however the ‘it’ is defines, and they don’t want you to be alone in the quest to create what could be a defining moment of awe.

In the case of HospitalityTomorrow, as the conference was rapidly engineered, carefully selected international leaders were called on to join us on the virtual stage not just because of their expertise and the logos on their business cards, but because they were also loved colleagues that we knew we could trust and count on to take this leap of faith with us. Together we would throw ourselves into an ocean of possibility, we would swim together.

And we did! We swam hard, we swam strong, we swam fast, we swam towards a vision that we shared (even if we didn’t know exactly the conditions of the water), somehow confident we would somehow get there together.

That is a critical, unquantifiable, unmeasurable, yet essential part of innovation. That is the of bringing people together who are not just creative intellectually, but are incredibly creative in their power of belief. They show up, they feed confidence, they fuel conviction, and they’re there just in case support is needed should we feel we are drowning in overwhelm.

That is the magic of innovation.

And that, through this COVID19 chapter of our lives, will forever be a critical reminder of the power of crisis.

Scary innovation, innovation that grabs us by the collar and shifts us forward, can, like now, require scary circumstances that push us into the ocean. COVID19 has taken so much from our shared world. Lives, livelihoods, hopes, homes and hugs – nothing is taken for granted.

At the same time COVID19 is giving us the chance, and time, to rethink a new world – one we never would have naturally co-created given the unnatural way we were ‘progressing’. Mother Nature knew our focus was faulty.

Through these defining COVID19 moments in which we will create new ideas, new innovations, new possibilities, as precious are the new bonds of trust and deep appreciation formed by now knowing with whom one can jump into the ocean, confident they will help us find the starfish!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With special appreciation and love to:

  • Jonathan Worsley, Chairman & CEO of Bench Events
  • Sally Marwaha. Event Director of Bench Events (and our technology Wizard of Oz!)
  • Hon. Minister Najib Balala, Minister of Tourism and Wildlife, Govt. of Kenya
  • Amr Al Madani, CEO of Royal Commission for AlUla
  • Puneet Chhatwal, Managing Director and  CEO of Indian Hotels Company Limited (IHCL)
  • Roger Dow, President & CEO, US Travel Association

Ever-grateful, ever-awed. x

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

The SDGs in the Coronavirus Era: Do they still matter?

What a start to 2020 it has been. When I wrote January’s post on SDG 3: Good-Health and Well Being, a mere 100 days ago, my latest article in AM&A‘s series on LIVING THE SDGs,  I never would have imagined that just three months later we’d all be dealing with the largest global crisis since World War II. COVID19 is 2020.

For AM&A, the world’s shared pandemic has magnified just why we do what we do – working with leaders around the world to help them ensure they are having a positive, meaningful impact….especially in times of crisis .

As a consultancy firm working in tourism & development, many of our clients, friends and colleagues are facing unprecedented challenges and uncertainties at the moment. Over and above the very real health crisis there is the economic crisis. Together these are unleashing fears of a mental health crisis – people frightened as they face unemployment, bankruptcy, illness, shouldering responsibilities too heavy to bear. Day in, day out, a sometimes overwhelming emotional stimulus of bad news and heartbreak. This is where AM&A has, without hesitation, stepped up to be a sponge for the anxieties of others, and a ‘behind the velvet curtain’ partner to help others find the eye of the storm, feel safe, and focus forward.

I take immense pride in the work we do at AM&A, but also in the people with whom I’m able to work. the AM&A team is compassionate, hopeful, forgiving – qualities that can be difficult to come by, particularly in times like these. The AM&A mentality keeps me grounded, focused, thankful, and prepared for whatever we need to tackle in the day ahead. It can be hard, it hurts, but we are in if the for long run. It is a duty we embrace.

For myself, life since COVID-19 has become more… complicated. My kids are out of school, my husband is working at home, and I still have a full-time job to fit in around the new daily chaos. To be honest, I feel stretched in multiple directions, all day long. Guilt and feelings of inadequacy seem to be trending words for parents at the moment, so I at least know I’m not alone. But it’s hard. I’m doing my best, but also not doing enough, and that just has to be okay right now. So many people have it much harder at the moment, and despite the growing greys on my head, I know we’ll get through this.

This post was originally planned to focus on SDG 5: Gender Equality. I had done my preliminary research and was writing the piece. But then COVID-19 hit, and really began to take a toll on the world.

While updating the team on my progress on the original article, Anita challenged me as to why I was still doing the piece. She was meaning to provoke: “With COVID19 as a global priority, do the Sustainable Development Goals still matter?”

So many people were questioning if COVID19 allowed space, logic, for the SDGs to be a priority. Every time I got a little further in my response, the crisis seemed to escalate two-fold, the impact more devastating. But in this, the answer became more and more clear.

Anita (Anita Mendiratta, the head and AM in AM&A) knew exactly why she was asking me this question. The answer had to be YES – SDGs still matter, even more now actually. But people needed to really ‘get’ why.

These are my thoughts…

Our Shared COVID19 World

The world changed overnight. Yesterday we were laughing with friends at the pub. Celebrating birthdays, weddings, meeting with colleagues and opening up our minds at the annual conference. Yesterday we were attending sports games, cheering on our favourite players, celebrating big wins and commiserating heartbreaking losses. Yesterday we were having date nights at the theatre, dining out at our favourite restaurant, and shopping at our local mall. Yesterday the kids were in school, the baby was at nursery, and we worked our 9-5 with limited distractions.

Yesterday our grandparents were well, our GP and hospitals were there when we needed them, and we didn’t worry about giving out big hugs. Yesterday we were counting down to our next holiday, jumping on the train to work, pricing flights for a last-minute weekend break. Yesterday we had job security, positive forecasts, unlimited growth. The world changed overnight, and today we live in a new reality.

Today we stay home, to keep our neighbors safe. We send emoji hugs and hearts to our friends and family facing incredibly challenging circumstances. We watch as our communities band together, motivated to help the vulnerable and lift spirits. Today we plan virtual coffee dates, game nights, and drink with friends – keeping our social needs fulfilled, regardless of physical limitations.

Today we look to those key workers, keeping our society moving and safe, with newfound admiration and respect. The teachers navigating virtual classrooms, the health care workers healing the sick, the grocery store workers keeping shelves full of food, and the police officers ensuring that our country is safe and secure.  Today may be a different world than yesterday, but it is also full of hope.

In this time of growing uncertainty, is it still imperative that we focus on sustainable development? Should we take a pause, or do we continue to do our part to achieve the SDGs by 2030?

There is no doubt that the mission today seems more difficult: inequalities, poverty, and hunger have become more visible, no matter where in the world we live. But in this, there is opportunity, perhaps more than ever. A reset button for the global society to identify, plan, and begin recovery with sustainable development at its heart.

Why the SDGs Matter NOW

Has there ever been a word as misunderstood as ‘sustainability’? I know many people who still think of recycling or green initiatives when they hear the term, probably an unintended consequence of lumping sustainability in with anything eco-positive.

But in these difficult times, I think sustainability has become more clear, more tangible, than ever. Over the last month we’ve watched as the things we take for granted have become dismantled, the effect far-reaching. Suddenly our food, health, economic, and industrial systems have been laid bare. Basic resources have become more precious. Parts of our society, people of our society, who we never took a second glance at, have become integral pieces for moving forward. For surviving. For healing.

Some of these issues have been more psychological than absolute, but if you’ve been in any area of the world affected by COVID-19, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.  A sustainable society has good health, equality across socio-economic groups and genders, no poverty, decent work and economic growth. These are all Sustainable Development Goals but they are also all major issues we are currently dealing with as a global society in ways that we weren’t yesterday.

Now that the majority of us find ourselves living in a new reality of self-isolation – the social, cultural, and economic sides of sustainability are teaching us a lesson. It is ALL important. When any piece, any SDG, is missing – our society can no longer function in a sustainable way.

We must take this time to identify the gaps, regroup, reconnect, and look at ways that when recovery comes – we are ready to lead with the Sustainable Development Goals at the helm.

COVID-19 is Highlighting the Issues

As many countries enter lock-down, or have been dealing with the new reality for weeks already, something has really struck me. Friends are discussing the latest Netflix binge on social media or asking for book recommendations,  neighbors are stocking up on enough food to realistically last them months, and I’ve been complaining (and feeling absolutely exhausted) because I need to juggle my two children at home with work and keeping the house in a livable state. I’m not discounting the real problems we have, there are many serious concerns for all people in the world at the moment, but for those of us able to work through them at home with virtual meetings, the latest salacious Netflix documentary, and all the carbs we can digest – we are truly blessed.

I’ve been listening to some fascinating stories on NPR (National Public Radio) this week covering India’s lock-down and quarantine measures throughout Africa and how it is affecting citizens in these countries. It was a lightbulb moment for me. Not because I learned something new necessarily, but because it confirmed to me why the SDGs matter even more today than they did yesterday.

For those already living in poverty, they are now faced with food shortages, unemployment, and fines or even beatings for being on the streets – a problem when you have no safe place to go to. Children who only get a meal when they go to school, are now home with parents who have no idea how they’ll feed them. Healthcare systems that were already suffering with a lack of trained professionals, unsanitary conditions, and ill-equipped facilities are now faced with a pandemic of unknown trajectory, severity and cure.

When we discussed Goal 1: No Poverty, Goal 2: Zero Hunger, Goal 3, Good Health and Well-Being and Goal 4: Quality Education, we looked at many areas of the world where these issues are literally life and death barriers. Now, we see them recognisable in our own communities, but for those who were struggling before – the situation is now dire.

The clock on reaching the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 is still ticking. We may have been put on a pause, but we need to be ready when the world opens up once again. We can’t waste time.

But for individuals, like you and me, how can we continue to change the world when we can’t even leave our homes? I decided to take a look at my own social network and see what they are doing to help.  I hope these ideas inspire you to do something similar in your community, or spark an idea for a project of your own. Technology is at our fingertips, our communities are waiting in our local Facebook groups, help is needed and we can work together for tomorrow. I hope you’ll join us.

Five Ways Individuals Can Change the World: Coronavirus Edition

1. Follow WHO and Government Guidance

If you’ve been ordered to self-isolate, if you have underlying health conditions or family members in your household who are vulnerable, stay home. Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being should be a priority for each one of us at the moment.  By following official advice, not only do you stay healthy, but you protect the health of others in your community. This is by far the most important way you can help the world at the moment. If you risk your own health, you can’t help others. First-responder 101.

(AM&A put together a handy infographic on COVID-19 and what you should know, including the most useful resources for getting up-to-date information. While so much has changed with COVID19, some basic principles remain the same. You can find the full infographic here.)

corona tips

2. Find Creative Ways to Use Your Talents

I’ve been in total awe of friends, family, and community members who have taken their talents or hobbies and put them to use in ingenious ways. From sewing masks for grocery store workers to crafting scrubs for local nurses, you may be able to make a difference in a big way using skills you already have.

Sewing is just an example, of course. I have a friend who is offering free social media audits to local businesses and a former classmate who has offered legal advice for local employers to help them retain employees through the crisis.

Not only will the recipients be extremely grateful, but it can also be a great way to pass the time if you are in an area that is requiring non-essential residents to stay home.

The masks below are a great example, made by the mother (who I adore) of a dear friend in their home state of New York.

masks covid diy

 3. Help the Vulnerable

For those of us without underlying conditions or living with vulnerable people in our household, there is a great need to get essential supplies to those unable to do so for themselves. In the UK, there was a nation-wide call for volunteers, 750,000 have already responded to help the efforts. But before the government started officially pooling together human resource, communities across the UK began creating Coronavirus response groups.

In times like these, it is amazing to see that for many the natural response is to ask, how can I help? Probability is high that if you live in an affected area, a community group has already started mobilising on Facebook. Whether you pick up groceries for an elderly neighbor, drive them to an important doctor’s appointment, or simply give someone who is feeling lonely a call to say hello – there has never been a more opportune time to see what a difference such a small act of kindness can make.

Any volunteering efforts of this nature should follow government guidelines. In the UK, helping the vulnerable is a valid reason to leave your home as long as precautions are taken. Maintain physical (social) distancing rules whenever possible, wash your hands regularly, and avoid entering anyone’s home.

If you are unable to leave your house because you are isolating or vulnerable yourself, there may be ways that you can help online or on the phone. Check with your local groups and charities to see what they require. Most organisations who are still running at the moment need all the help they can get.

The picture below was taken by Grace of AM&A. After a shop in her village closed its doors, they offered their food to vulnerable people in the area. Grace dropped off care packages to her grandparents and other elderly neighbors she knew. You can see by their smiles that such a simple act of kindness made a tremendous impact to their day.

elderly coronavirus

4. Help Food Banks

Many countries currently on lock-down or stay-at-home orders have also initiated rations on certain grocery items. Essentials like bread, milk, eggs and toilet paper are limited to one or two items per customer to ensure availability for all. While this is great in theory, many of those items haven’t returned to the shelves.

For low-income workers who aren’t able to bulk up their grocery shops to last an entire week and for those who are unemployed or homeless, the situation is especially difficult. Food banks all over the world have seen a huge increase in demand for their services, and this was before COVID-19. While we don’t yet know the full extent of damage that has been caused, it is a healthy assumption that things are not going well, particularly for those who were under or near the poverty line before the crisis hit.

Due to rations in place, food banks aren’t able to acquire the stock required to feed their local communities. For those who can, the demand and need for food from local families, is more pressing than ever.

There are two main ways you can help your local food bank so that they can keep feeding the hungry.

1. Add extra tinned/non-perishable items to your next shop. Tinned vegetables and meat, instant mashed potatoes, rice, and long-life milk are always needed. Find a drop-off point for your local organisation, these are usually locations where no face-to-face contact is necessary. (My local food bank has boxes at the grocery store where you can leave the items.)

2. Donate. Many organisations are running low on resources due to the increase in demand. Donations can help them continue to give food to those who need it, offer hot meals to the community, and provide essentials for families faced with going without. Donations do not need to be large to make a difference, five dollars can cover a box of cereal for two families. That could translate to 4 children having breakfast every morning for a week.

The image below shows an example from my community food bank on the types of food donations that are especially helpful.

food bank donations

 

5. Encourage Good Mental Health

This has been a steep learning curve for global society. Many of us no longer have the freedom to see our family on a whim, celebrate life’s big moments how we normally would, or simply grab that weekly coffee with a friend. Many of us are learning to work from home for the first time, which can be challenging on its own, but is made all the more complicated by having spouses, children, and big emotions to deal with on top of it. Many of us are scared for our health, for our jobs, for our loved ones, and for the future. THAT IS OKAY.

If there has ever been a moment to take things day by day, this is it. Be easy on yourself and prioritise your mental health. If you feel like you are in a good place, and that you have the mental capacity to do more, then reach out to others and check in.

A friend and I usually meet once a week for coffee, it is an important time for both of us to unload and reconnect, now we have moved it to Skype. While a huge hug would be preferable, the virtual connection still fills the necessary void. Texting is great, but if you are able to check in on your loved ones “face-to-face” it really can make a difference. You never know how someone is dealing with their life changing overnight, that call could be what gets them through another day.

You can also encourage good mental health in strangers. Making someone smile after a stressful day can do wonders. Thank the woman at the till who rings up your groceries. Let your delivery guy know, even if he needs to stand six feet away, that you appreciate him. Use empathy, even when it is difficult. You may think that a friend is overreacting to the state of the world, but respond in kindness, in understanding.

Many households across the world have started putting up rainbows in their windows. It is mainly targeted at children confined to short walks around the neighborhood, a kind of rainbow treasure hunt, but I can guarantee people of all ages can’t help but light up at such a simple, but beautiful, gesture.

The photo below shows off the amazing efforts of Grace’s nieces and nephews.

rainbows-windows-corona

Encouraging good mental health in ourselves and others may seem an odd suggestion for changing the world. But we will be unable to meet the Global Goals, we will be unable to proactively take those small steps to create big change, if we are not taking care of our emotional health, and of those closest to us. Ask for help if you need it and reach out to those around you, even the ones who seem strong.

 I need to find the good. I need to do something. I need goals to reach towards. I knew that the SDGs still mattered in the Coronavirus era, just as Anita did when she posed the question. However, the why evolved from the SDGs ‘are still important’ to ‘they have never been more important’.

There is much sadness and fear in the world right now, but we must also look at the gift we’ve been given. While today looks nothing like yesterday, we can learn from today to build a better tomorrow. The SDGs matter more than ever. We must use the framework going forward, not as a tick box exercise, but as a defining, strengthened architectural plan for building a more sustainable world in the post-Corona chapter. 

All of us at AM&A wish you and your loved ones good health, in all the ways that matter. Stay in, stay safe, stay hopeful. The road in front of us may seem uncertain, but together we will navigate through, stronger than ever. I’m so grateful you are on this journey with me. Stay safe.

 

I’d like to invite you to take this journey with me, and AM&A, as I explore the 17 sustainable development goals. Each month we’ll focus on one goal and explore actionable ways that we as individuals can change the world.  You can find out more about the SDGs here.

Let’s #MakeTravelMatter

BE GENTLE: COVID-19 IS ALSO OUR SHARED GLOBAL MENTAL HEALTH CHALLENGE

#COVID-19: 2020’s great, global lock-down.

As this invisible, inconceivable threat spreads swiftly and mercilessly across the globe, it has put us all into a completely different state of mind. An unnerved, uncertain, one.

Our shared world is finding itself in a position of never experienced before isolation. It is shutting off its borders. It is grounding our ability to travel and be with loved ones. It is closing down sports and entertainment activity and interaction. It is turning social places into areas of risk. It is turning grocery stores into empty scenes of earlier hysterical buying activity. And it is turning homes into home-offices, home-schools and mini-gyms.

COVID-19 is turning our world upside down and inside out. It is turning our shared world into a brave new world where we must live with something we are not able to see and do not yet understand, for a period of time we are not yet not quite sure about, severely restricting our funds and fun, severely threatening our way of life and lifestyle, alone…even if we are still in contact with others.

Critically, we are finding ourselves unable to turn to loved ones for a hug, for an exhale, for a safe space to escape fears, to find a sign of comfort that all will be ok.

As a result, the health crisis that is COVID-19 is not just a health crisis physically. For millions, worldwide, it is a mental health crisis.

As expressed by the World Health Organisation (WHO):

Most people affected by emergencies will experience distress (e.g. feelings of anxiety and sadness, hopelessness, difficulty sleeping, fatigue, irritability or anger and/or aches and pains). This is normal and will for most people improve over time. However, the prevalence of common mental disorders such as depression and anxiety is expected to more than double in a humanitarian crisis.”

And this is, by definition, a humanitarian crisis.

 

THIS IS A HUMANITARIAN CRISIS

This is the first time our shared world has actually had to face an invisible threat to our health, our safety, our wellbeing individually and collectively. Our greatest risk can easily be, in our mind’s eye, everywhere.

This is not like terrorism we have sadly become familiar with. This is not like a natural disaster. This is not like an economic crisis where we can see tangible proof of what is happening, and we are able to understand how we can establish some sense of control before we can move on. The event happens, the fall-out is clear, the light is visible even if the tunnel looks long and dark.

COVID-19, the invisible curse that is taking over the world, is forcing millions upon millions to re-evaluate how we are to survive when under threat, not just economically (which is frightening enough), but as human beings, as a global community. The insecurity provoked by COVID-19 has become, in some places, primal. There is no need to go into the stats and analysis around shopping aisle scuffles for products such as rolls of toilet paper, bottles of sanitiser, pasta, bottles of wine, cleaning products – the shopping list is growing longer, supplies are growing thinner – especially, sadly, supplies needed by medical personnel on the frontline, ever day.

At times, seeing the panic and even prejudice rising, a lack of control and a loss of hope leads to a feeling of emotional paralysis. Fear for health – physical, financial and now mental, poses a triple threat to our global community’s ability to move forward when the time comes when we can open our doors, open our offices, and open our arms once more.

We must, therefore, recognise that COVID-19 has unleashed a health crisis that is going to last much longer than the physical crisis. Return to normal life is not just about getting the go-ahead from governments to unlock the lock-downs, getting the economy moving again.

Now, this time, is one of high risk of a mental crisis. We need to embrace it. We need to accept it. And we need to act gently with others, and with ourselves, to manage it.

Our world is going through a profound recalibration. Starting from Asia and now moving to the Americas, we are all seeing vividly that we are all one vulnerable community. No one is immune from the risks that exist from COVID-19. This virus is completely and utterly democratic. It has no prejudice re. geography, economy, culture, colour, religion, and as we are finding in some cases, age. It doesn’t care. It moves freely. It moves invisibly. It moves silently, and it moves swiftly. Our freedoms have been taken: our freedom to move around, our freedom to look someone in the eye, our freedom to shake hands, to hug, to trust. This is a challenge of humanity like no other.

Through social distancing, through home working and schooling, through isolation, through lock-downs, we are realising how dearly we need each other. We need the talk. We need the touch. We need the time together to share, to learn, to laugh, to love, to live a healthy life.

Even once it is deemed safe to open up borders, open stores, open restaurants, open a bottle of wine, it’s going to take time before people feel safe, secure and steady walking into those restaurants, walking into those shops, walking into those bars.

The rate of recovery of momentum of hope, of faith and of confidence is going to be our greatest test – it will define how long it will take for our economy to get back on its feet, and for our society to get back into the light.

This is Mother Nature teaching us a hard lesson, rebooting civilisation to be more civilised. Why did she feel the need to reboot? There are hundreds of answers to that question, but now is not the time.

Now is the time to relook the value we have for our health – our physical health, our financial health, and our mental health.

 

TRAVEL & TOURISM’S VALUE, AND VALUES, AS A VEHICLE FOR GLOBAL RECOVERY

Interestingly, this is a crisis that has unlocked the value of Travel and Tourism.

With the:

  • closing of borders,
  • grounding of airlines and cruise ships,
  • closure of hotels & resorts, museums, trade shows
  • dropping the curtain on entertainment,
  • cancellation of events, both business and leisure,
  • transfer of meetings to e-meetings, and
  • limiting of groups to double-digits in any social space,

the value of Travel & Tourism has been exposed not just at an economic level through the critical value chains that the sector activated across products and services, but also, as importantly, the growing need for Travel & Tourism as a basis for personal health and wellbeing.

The value of the sector is now understood to go far past its impact as an employer (1 in 10 jobs worldwide), as a GDP driver (9% global GDP), as a source of investment attraction, as a SME stimulator, as a basis for national identity and competitiveness. The values of Travel & Tourism are also now shining through: understanding, respect, compassion, protection of culture, community and environment.

https://edition.cnn.com/videos/business/2020/03/13/recession-coronavirus-explainer-orig.cnn-business

Travel & Tourism will be central to global community having the opportunity to exhale again, to celebrate again, to laugh again, and to heal – to cry, to feel that we have our freedoms back.

As stated by the HE Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary General of the UNWTO,:

“The tourism value chain touches upon every part of society. This makes tourism uniquely placed to promote solidarity, collaboration and concrete action across borders in these challenging times and also ideally positioned to once again drive future recovery.”

Until then, and for the moment, we must keep calm, keep simple, keep safe:

  1. FACTS FIRST: Check sources carefully. Untruths are unhelpful.
  2. FOLLOW WHO GUIDANCE: https://www.who.int/
  3. PRACTICE GOOD HYGIENE: Stay home – stay safe.
  4. SHOW COMPASSION: We are all in this together.
  5. TRAVEL WISELY: Essential only.

Please see: https://anitamendiratta.com/2020/03/18/covid-19-coronavirus-infographic/

 

MOTHER NATURE’S LESSONS WILL ULTIMATELY BE UNDERSTOOD

Recognising that when all of our freedoms are taken away, whether we are citizens, migrants, wherever we are in the world, we are all feeling vulnerable. How do we move that spirit forward? How do we take it forward to really find solutions that allow us to genuinely become a sustainable global community.

We are learning the hard way, but we learning the lessons Mother Nature wanted to reveal.

Good can and must come from this, eventually.

  • Medical infrastructure will be stronger,
  • Community structures will be stronger,
  • Appreciation for some of the previously under-appreciated roles – nurses, educators, retail & delivery labourers – will be stronger,
  • Family bonds will be stronger,
  • Personal care will be stronger,
  • Finally, the definition of SUSTAINABILITY is recognised as relating to Economic, Cultural, Social and Spiritual sustainability….not just Environmental,
  • Value for Aviation will be restored, flight shaming decreasing as investment in emission-reducing, sustainable aviation innovation increases,

And hopefully, hopefully,

  • Our value and protection of our shared world will be stronger.

For the moment, signs of hope – as tiny as they may be – are critical to keep spirits strong. They may be warmer temperatures bringing sunshine and new Spring flowers visible from our windows. They may be new routines of video-chats with loved ones, making connecting more frequent than ever before. They may be simply a text message to say “I’m thinking of you. Stay safe.”

Stay home, stay safe, stay calm.

And as they say here in the UK: KEEP CALM, AND CARRY ON.

We have a whole new world to look forward to, together. x

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2020

 

 

 

 

 

Goal 4: Quality Education

SDG #4 is all about quality education. At AM&A it is a goal that touches us in different ways, and is deeply important to each of us.

Anita Mendiratta, the head of AM&A, has a deep affection for children, particularly those who are missing out on an education simply because of circumstances – poverty and/or crisis robbing them of food to eat, a safe place to call home, or a permanent community. On the occasion of her 50th Birthday a couple of years back her partner founded The Anita Mendiratta Foundation, which has supporting children after crisis as a key objective.

Grace is a teacher by training, having spent the decade before joining AM&A shaping young minds through physical education. She continues to advocate for education through sport as a way to bridge differences and reach the unreachable. 

As for myself,  I didn’t know anyone when I was growing up who had a higher education, at least within my immediate circle. From the moment I was born, whispers of a college education filled my ears. My parents knew it would mean a different life for me than they had, and I was encouraged constantly growing up that I could get a college degree and reach all my dreams if I worked hard enough.

When I graduated from University, it wasn’t just a momentous day in my life, it was an accomplishment for everyone who encouraged me, supported me, and believed in me leading up to that day. A diploma didn’t give me instant success and make me extremely wealthy, sorry mom, but it did provide a stepping stone to experiencing the world, broadening my horizons, and most importantly – providing access to opportunities that I otherwise would’ve never had. 

Now, as a mother, my focus is on the importance of education in the early years. I see on a daily basis how important that foundation is for a child to thrive. While my oldest has never had any issues academically, my son requires adjustment and an education system that caters to all abilities and learning styles. Thankfully that privilege, in the UK, is a right guaranteed by law. 

Education is the cornerstone of society. It breaks cyclical poverty, improves economies, strengthens communities, and reduces inequality. Yet, there are currently 265 million children not in school. 22% of those are primary aged. 

I grew up in a country where a quality education was in my reach. My kids are growing up in a country where they’ll never even need to think about it. It is so easy to take this for granted.

But with over 600 million children worldwide who lack basic proficiency in reading and math – we are all getting a failing grade.

WHY DOES SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOAL 4: QUALITY EDUCATION MATTER?

For millions of children around the world, quality education is out of reach. A lack of trained teachers, poor living conditions at home and at school, and huge inequalities in rural communities, and increasingly human displacement,  all contribute to the problem. 

Goal 4, Quality Education, aims to ensure ‘inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong opportunities for all’. 

While primary and secondary school children are obviously a focus, Goal 4 also aims to make vocational, technical, and higher education accessible for all women and men. This includes increasing the number of scholarships available to low-income prospective students, training more teachers, and improving infrastructure so that everyone has a safe place to learn. 

For children and adults alike, females and the disabled are at a greater risk of not having access to a quality education. Ensuring gender equality, and accessibility, is paramount for achieving goal 4. 

When everyone has access to a quality education, their community benefits, their country benefits, the world benefits.

Education is a proven tool for sustainable development.

With an improved quality of life, a decrease in families living in poverty, and securing a successful future for generations to come, education is the key to positive change. It is undoubtedly one of the most powerful ways we can change the world for the better – for everyone.

How can Goal 4: Quality Education be reached?

Significant progress has been made since 2000. The enrolment rate in developing nations is now at 91 percent, the number of children out of school has dropped by half, and more girls than ever in history are in school. However, poverty and armed conflict continue to be an enormous barrier –  and children in the poorest households are four times more likely to be out of school. 

In Sub-Saharan Africa, a region where poverty affects a large percentage of the population, primary school enrolment has increased from 52% in 1990 to 78% in 2012. While we should celebrate the progress, 22% of children in the region are still being left behind. 

If we take a look at the targets set for SDG4, there are clear ways that we can achieve inclusive and equitable quality education for all. 

  • Free primary and secondary education.
  • Equal access to pre-primary education.
  • Equal access to vocational, technical, and higher education.
  • Increase the number of people with relevant skills for financial success.
  • Eliminate all discrimination in education.
  • Universal literacy and numeracy.
  • Build and upgrade inclusive and safe schools.
  • Increase the supply of qualified teachers in developing countries. 

If everyone has access to quality education, we all benefit. SDG4 is also directly tied with many of the other Sustainable Development Goals such as Goal 1: No Poverty, Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being, and Goal 5: Gender Equality. By achieving SDG4, we would be well on our way to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals as a whole.

5 Ways we can Contribute to SDG 4 as Individuals

While some of the goals can feel too big to tackle all on our own, education is something that each of us can quite easily make a difference with – no matter where we live. Whether through advocacy, policy, or direct involvement, there are so many ways that you can contribute to SDG4 in your local community.

Here are five ideas for individuals who want to contribute to Quality Education in their own community.

1. BECOME A TUTOR

Whether you live in New York City or Mumbai, there are children who don’t have the support they need to succeed. Due to unstable home environments, living in an underfunded area, or simply not having access to additional support outside of the classroom, tutoring can help bridge the gap for those who need some extra help. Research has shown that tutoring, whether solely academic or in a more mentoring capacity, can make a huge impact on confidence, aspirations, and academic engagement.

In the UK, Action Tutoring is a charity that connects tutors with disadvantaged pupils to further their education, employment or training.  If you are located elsewhere, there are similar programs waiting for people who are willing to dedicate some of their time to make a big difference in the lives of students.

2. SKILLSHARE

Skillsharing is the latest growing movement in the peer-to-peer marketplace. There are now thousands of community groups, dedicated websites, and apps that connect learners and enable them to ‘trade’ skills for free. 

For example: If you are a fluent French speaker, but have always wanted to learn how to knit, a skillsharing platform would connect you with a knitter who wants to learn French. This is a terrific way not only to further your own education, but help somebody else in your community with theirs as well. 

The peer-to-peer lessons could make a bigger difference than you think. Teaching someone how to change the oil in their car or providing basic English grammar lessons can free up limited funds or even help somebody get a job. What skills do you have that could help someone else succeed? 

 3. VOLUNTEER (OR SPONSOR A CHILD) IN AFTER-SCHOOL PROGRAMS

As children get to the later years of primary school, and into secondary school, safe-guarding and child protection becomes a bigger issue. When parents are working, and young people are left on their own after school, the impact of a lack of structure and exposure to negative influences can be detrimental to their future. 

After-school programs provide a secure, safe place for young people to learn new skills, meet new friends, improve confidence, and establish trusted relationships with adults. Importantly, they also help keep kids focused on school and stay out of trouble. 

A research study in the US found that after-school programs improved academic performance, behaviour in the classroom, reduced drug use and criminal behaviour, and saved parents 8 days of work a year that they otherwise would’ve missed. 

For disadvantaged youth in particular, after-school programs can be financially out-of-reach. This provides an opportunity for individuals to consider sponsoring spaces for students in your local area. Many neighborhoods have youth clubs that would be happy to connect with you – either in a volunteering or donor capacity. 

4. CAMPAIGN FOR NUTRITIONAL PROGRAMS

One thing we don’t often think about when it comes to a quality education is quality nutrition. But if you go back and read SDG2: Zero Hunger, we learned that kids who go to school hungry aren’t able to effectively learn or retain information in the classroom. 

A shocking 1.8 million kids in the UK alone are at risk of hunger. While the numbers in developing countries are higher, it is important to realise that children in your own community could also use your help. 

There are organisations already working to make sure that every child has the fuel they need to succeed. Magic Breakfast is a fantastic UK charity that currently feeds over 48,000 children breakfast before school. Due to the increased hunger during school holidays, the charity has also started a  ‘holiday hunger’ scheme called Magic Breakfast 365 for some of London’s most disadvantaged youth. 

You can get involved in these kinds of initiatives in a variety of ways. Encourage your workplace to invest through corporate sponsorship, write to your local representatives about the importance of nutrition for your country’s schoolchildren, or fundraise for a charity for your birthday or special event. 

No child should go to school hungry. By ensuring that quality nutrition is available for all – quality education will have a much higher chance of success. 

 5. TACKLE LITERACY

Children in the UK from the poorest backgrounds typically start school 19 months behind their peers – this amounts to 175,000 five-year olds in the UK every year.  Those children are five times more likely to fail their exams at age 11, four times more likely to struggle with reading as adults, and twice as likely to be unemployed by 34. 

It seems unacceptable that we can identify the students who begin school behind their peers, yet seem unable to close the gap before they become adults. Literacy is the solution, but if schools don’t have the resources to support these students, and parents don’t have the time or skills, we need to tackle literacy another way. 

The National Literacy Trust and The Children’s Literacy Charity are two organisations in the UK who work to close the literacy gap for disadvantaged children.  They need tutors and volunteers to spend time reading with and supporting kids around the country.

Many students who have been identified in their early years have gone on to higher education and successful careers. We must never forget: Literacy can be a magic wand and make all the difference in providing children with a quality education. 

SDG4, Quality Education, is one to which we all can easily contribute to. Whether through a local organisation or school, or simply spending some extra time with children you already know, small acts can easily make a big difference in their lives and future.

As one of our global community’s great leaders once said, with conviction and compassion:

 

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.

Nelson Mandela

I’d like to invite you to take this journey with me, and AM&A, as I explore the 17 sustainable development goals. Each month we’ll focus on one goal and explore actionable ways that we as individuals can change the world.  You can find out more about the SDGs here.

Let’s #MakeTravelMatter

CALMING THE CONTAGION OF FEAR

 

 

 

 

Red.

Every day we are seeing more red:

Red patches across global maps,

Red letters on airport boards as flights are cancelled,

Red ink across global market charts,

Red numbers rising on temperature readings,

Red faces as fevers rise,

All alongside red decorations and highly anticipated red envelopes swept aside in massive stacks, still untouched since cancellation of Chinese New Year weeks back.

The colour of COVID19 is red.

As each new day begins, we wake to new numbers – numbers of new countries and new cases, of those now affected by the Coronavirus, COVID19….and those lives lost.

With each new day fears rise. Fears of the spread. Fears of the severity of where now. Fears of the probability of where next.

The number of those ‘affected’ is reaching in the millions.

Millions.

But how, when the official statistics indicate, as of time of writing:

  • just under 89,000 cases reported
  • across 62 countries,

and

  • taking 3,043 lives?

Source: https://experience.arcgis.com/experience/685d0ace521648f8a5beeeee1b9125cd

Where is the ‘millions’ number coming from?

Simple – those affected are not only those fearing for their physical health. It includes those fearing for the financial, social and emotional health. It is those affected by the impact of the contagion of fear, fear that is spreading even more rapidly than the virus itself as:

  • cities lockdown, shutting down manufacturing lines,
  • supply chains are stopping scheduling,
  • airlines cancel routes,
  • hotels close their doors,
  • major global events close their registration,
  • iconic attractions block off museum and theatre entry lines,
  • celebrated theme parks turn off their rides,
  • conference centres and meeting halls are hollowing out,
  • casinos switch off their lights,
  • local festivals, churches, sporting venues and entertainment complexes turn away their communities,
  • schools call off their classes,

and ultimately, not yet fully understanding what is going on, and not sure what else to do, fear that is seeing the global community starts to close its heart.

The contagion of fear is reaching three main areas, its damage reaching literally millions, without geographic limits.

First, as we know, there is the raw, relentless fear of the virus. We see the coverage of the COVID19 maps stretching daily. Importantly, we know from where the facts must come – critical, qualified entities making sure updates are managed carefully, holistically, in the most globally coordinated effort as possible to monitor, measure and message around the must-knows. At the heart of this quest of guarding global health is the World Health Organisation (WHO – https://www.who.int/)

Sadly, however, as also know of the fiction – messaging that is either passing on false information, or seeking to create fear in its own right. It is a reflection of how social media has become antisocial media. The damage being done has resulted in the WHO declaring an ‘infodemic’, the Secretary General of the UN making an early appeal to the global community to stop the false information, to stop the flames of fear.

As stated by the UN Agency:

The 2019-nCoV outbreak and response has been accompanied by a massive ‘infodemic’ – an over-abundance of information – some accurate and some not – that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it.

Due to the high demand for timely and trustworthy information about 2019-nCoV, WHO technical risk communication and social media teams have been working closely to track and respond to myths and rumours. Through its headquarters in Geneva, its six regional offices and its partners, the Organization is working 24 hours a day to identify the most prevalent rumours that can potentially harm the public’s health, such as false prevention measures or cures.”

The fact that global bodies seeking to control and find a cure for the COVID19 challenge must also apply resources into managing false, fear-generating messaging is shameful. Our global community is better than this.

That is one dimension of the contagion of fear.

A second: global fears being generated at social and economic levels as millions fear the profound hardship that is being created around the world around job security, even if COVID has not entered their world. Millions upon millions are seeing the central source of their income being stopped, unexpectedly, indefinitely as central systems of global commerce come to a grinding halt.

In the travel and tourism industry – an essential sector required for not only global economic growth and development with its:

  • over 1.5 billion international travellers per annum (5x the number domestically),
  • 10% contribution to global GDP,
  • 1 in 10 jobs worldwide,

as well as being:

  • a critical role as a source of global unity,
  • a basis for national identity and competitiveness,
  • a vital basis for inward investment in core infrastructure (hard and soft),
  • a platform for cultural and environmental protection and promotion,
  • a powerful vehicle for fulfilment of the UN SDGs,

tens of millions of people are becoming fearful not just for their physical health, but for their financial health and as a result, the health of their families, the health of their societies, the health of their future.

It is hard to believe that it was less than 100 days ago that 2020 felt like the turning of the corner – the global community uniting around a new decade. Suddenly, unity is taking place through fear for one’s job, one’s business, one’s livelihood. Decision makers across the world are having to test their leadership minds and muscles like never before. Do we stop or do we go? Do we say ‘yes’ or do we say ‘no’? Government leaders and business leaders are frequently locking horns as cancellations and cautionary actions are debated. What is the right decision? What is the measure of right response. Bottom lines vs voting lines? 

Will we ever really know?

What we do know is that global travel and tourism is grounded at a level unseen since the 2008/9 economic downturn.

Importantly, the contagion of fear here is based on the fact that, even when airlines are ready to take to the skies once more and hotels opening their doors to host the world, will the world feel comfortable venturing out? Will they have the personal financial health to get back to the travel they love following a period of fear for the financial wellbeing for they and their loved ones?

What will it take to travel the journey from fear of heart to freedom of mind?

This fear should not be overlooked, should not be judged, should not be seen as secondary. It is real, and it will form the root of our future challenge to push past this chapter in the story of our generation to a place of recovery, returning to hope and unity.

Finally, the third fear we face: the sad reality of a panic and prejudice that has been sparked from the early days of the fear against the people of China.

Those of Chinese descent, of Chinese visible identity, of any Chinese affinity, even if not living in or linked to mainland China, are being looked at with fear. With this, doors and hearts across the globe are being closed to a population people needing compassion.

We must not forget for a moment that the nation of China is a victim of what has happened. While the Chinese people are being looked at with fear, they themselves are fearful of what this is going to mean for themselves, their families, their futures. Their value is far, far greater than the fact that their country represents the highest number of outbound travellers worldwide (close to 170 million in 2019), with the highest spend. They are human, they are hurting, they need our help.

Now more than ever, we as a global community need to stand together. We might stand a little bit more apart than we did three months ago. Still, the fact remains that the only way our world is going to recover from this virus is going to have to require that we as a global community come together.

As the great minds of medicine are coming together and find a way to identify and resolve how we break through COVID19, the great hearts of the world need to come together to find a way of making sure that we as a global community can look one other in the eye once more, with compassion and with conviction, to get our world moving forward for all.

Once again, as is proven whenever a crisis hits, our world needs travel and tourism. Our world needs to keep connecting.

So, what therefore is the best strategy for all nations to take on COVID19 and accelerate recovery?  

Simple: HUMANITY, supported by a full-strength prescription of calm, caution & compassion. x

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2020

 

 

 

 

DIPLOMACY – THE ART OF THE HOW

It was just over 10 days ago that breaking news unleashed a royal frenzy of global discussion and debate around a subject, a couple, that continue to inspire media madness like no other across the globe today: HRHs the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. This time it was serious.

Through their personal website they had expressed desire to step away from royal duties. They wish for a financially, logistically and emotionally independent life for their family, away from the UK (part of the year) and away from the heat of the royal spotlight. https://sussexroyal.com/about/ The news very soon gave birth to a new social media hashtag with a loudly beating heart: #MEGXIT

And then came the damning discussions and debates around the Royals’ wish, and right, to make such a move. Across the globe comments, critiques, questions and general craziness turned the story into a top trending area of focus, often eclipsing the fact that the US and Iran were risking a dangerous face-off, Australians were facing Mother Nature’s fiery fury like never before, a beyond fiction escape had taken place in Japan by a corporate automotive industry leader once celebrated and now sought out for criminal activity, a passenger airline was shot down by a missile, and one of our world’s most trusted aviation manufacturers has seen its credibility and confidence come crashing down.

How could they do this?
How can they do this?
Should they?
Why not?
Why now?
What now?

Her Majesty the Queen was clear – a clear plan of action was to be agreed, swiftly and smoothly. As different options are explored by the immediate family, different nationalities, societies and cultures are openly sharing diverse opinions on how this royal crisis should be resolved. Different perspectives, with different contexts and linkages to the Commonwealth and generations of Royalists, are weighing in.

For all of the frenzy, and differing opinions and offered solutions out there, these perspectives need to be respected.

That said, keeping this in perspective is critical if peaceful resolution is to happen.

First and foremost, this was not a constitutional crisis nor challenge of the Monarchy, it was a family crisis. HRH Prince Harry was 6th in line for the throne. It was highly unlikely he would ever wear the crown. Expectations of him were profoundly different to those of his brother. As too are the wounds of his childhood loss, and the way these now impact his peace of mind and heart as a husband, and as a father.

Still, crisis was unfolding within the Palace. Why all of the public fury?

Central to the crisis was not the WHAT and the WHY – the desire fo the Duke and Duchess to have a separate, independent, out of the Royal spotlight life with their young son, is completely understandable.

The crisis was in the HOW – the declared shock of the Palace as the desires of the Duke and Duchess were announced publicly, without pre-discussion, pre-agreement and pre-consideration for Her Majesty the Queen – HRH’s grandmother. Taking even the Palace by surprise by the method and haste of the Sussex’s public announcement with presumptive new, hybrid ways of working as a Royal, shockwaves were felt, especially in the UK by literally millions who are innately protective of their Queen and actively exposed to royal ways of working.

Again, it was not the WHAT and WHY that caused such shock, it is the HOW – the HOW that broke bonds, and broke hearts.

This, the HOW, is the essence of diplomacy: the art of succeeding in achieving a desired outcome, especially in times of conflict, while taking great care to ensure no loss of face, and no loss of faith.

It is about discreetly assessing a situation, identifying its key roleplayers, and establishing a way of mobilising desired change in attitudes, actions, whatever the case may be. It is about recognising sensitivities in time, place, people, that must be worked around to ensure no (unintentional) crossing of wires or stepping on toes that may risk momentum or even end goal. It is about appreciating the power of optics – including invisibility. And it is about recognising likely response, carefully managing process to ensure optimum reaction to outcome when the time comes. It is about ensuring all parties come out of a situation feeling stronger, more secure and more respected for their participation. What is not desired to be exposed is simply not seen, not known, by those not at work behind the velvet curtain.

Often, so often, diplomacy is looked at as a wasteful exercise, that which is seen seemingly ineffective, its practices of protocol deemed pointless. One must say what they want to say, do what they want to do, whether others like it or not.

Not.

Across the world, across political structures, across cultures, across generations, protocol is pervasive. And must be respected. That includes royal protocol – centuries old traditions of upholding a nation’s identity and values to itself. Crossing international borders and ideologies, royal systems may not make sense, centuries old traditions may test relevance today. Its role, however, is critical – a system of communication and conduct that has, for many centuries and many reason, been in effect to enable the effectiveness. Part of this effectiveness is the way in which monarchies work for the people of nations over which they lead.

As writing, a final agreement has now been reached, breaking news from the Palace revealing that HRHs are ‘HRH’ in title  no longer, their roles as working Royals no more, a firm position taken by The Firm that there is no hybrid role that will be acceptable. HRH Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge will, in the main, take on many of the Sussex’s responsibilities. They must adjust, stay calm and carry on. Silence says it all.

Speed. Solidity. Sadness. These are the words that will always be ascribed to Her Majesty’s approach to addressing this family crisis, and ultimate evolution of Royal structure. While these ten days have been unprecedented in their events and outcomes, still, and sadly, this time marks a profound shift in how a Grandmother will look at her Grandson, how a Brother will look at his Brother, how the Commonwealth will look at their young Prince, how the world will look at the institution of the British Monarchy.

It has been a powerful lesson in diplomacy – the impact of disrespecting the HOW, even if the WHAT and WHY of one’s actions are understood.

Time will pass. Roles will be redefined. History and legacy will be rewritten. And hopefully, hopefully, brotherly bonds will be restored.

x

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2020

Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being

Welcome to 2020: a new decade, a new year, and the perfect starting point for Goal 3. It’s time for New Year’s Resolutions.

Across the globe, approximately 55% of admitted new years resolutions will be health related: Lose weight. Eat more green things. Exercise more – We all want to be healthier because quite simply, good health often translates to a better (and longer) future.

Here at AM&A we are back in ‘the office’, goals and new motivation in tow. Anita is working to establish a well-being routine when ongoing travels across geo- and time-zones allow for no food & exercise routine. Swimming factors strongly. Grace is aiming to run 450 miles in 2020, an enthusiastic goal to beat last year’s incredible 400. As a business, we want to look at how we can better contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals. As we all work remotely, energy and consumption are already at a minimum so we’ll look at the way we approach projects and advise clients, as well as dedicating time specifically towards lifting up others in ways that contribute to the SDGs.

After a heavy 2019, my 2020 goal is simply to be kinder to myself – mentally and physically.

Thinking of this time of year, a time when wellness commitments are pledged more firmly than any other time of the year, all are in some way related to SDG #3: Good Health and Well-being. Yet at a universal level it is not something all can fulfill.  If I need a health professional, I have access to one of the world’s best healthcare systems for any tests, medicine, or mental care I need. (All at no cost or highly subsidised I should add. )  If I need to exercise, I have access and the means to attend a local gym. If I need more healthy food, I can just go and fill up my online cart and have it delivered by tomorrow. Even in health, something the healthy always take for granted, I can see that I am incredibly lucky for the life circumstances I was born into. My good fortune is not, however, the fortune of all.

Good health and well-being is a universal human need – and right. Unfortunately, we are failing to sufficiently provide it to people all over the globe – some in our own backyards. Encompassing everything from disease prevention to reproductive health to road safety, Goal 3 covers a wide range of issues. While the broadness of Good Health and Well-Being can seem overwhelming, it also provides us as individuals a plethora of opportunities to contribute to a healthier and more positive world. And to recognise our ability to have what we have to do so.

Let’s get started!

Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being: What is it?

The main purpose of Goal 3 is to ensure proper good health for ALL people worldwide by 2030. This includes reducing maternal mortality, ending the preventable deaths of children under 5, ending outbreaks of common diseases such as Tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and Malaria, reducing deaths and injuries from road accidents, and increasing access to sexual and mental health care. 

Half of the world currently has no access to essential health services. 1 out of 2. I don’t know about you, but that one got me. 800 million people spend over 10% of their incomes on health care, and 100 million of those have been pushed into extreme poverty due to health care expenses. (World Health Organisation) We need good health to survive, ensuring that health shouldn’t be a detriment to anyone’s life. 

“Without health care, how can children reach their full potential? And without a healthy, productive population, how can societies realize their aspirations? Universal health coverage can help level the playing field for children today, in turn helping them break intergenerational cycles of poverty and poor health tomorrow.” 

UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake

 

Just as we discovered in Goal 1: No Poverty and Goal 2: No Hunger, global inequalities are one of the biggest issues when it comes to the progress of not only Goal 3 but the Sustainable Development Goals as a whole. There are massive disparities when it comes to accessing basic health care, treating easily curable and noncommunicable diseases, and maternal health between the Global North and Global South. (The North-South divide is a socio-economic division between the world’s higher income countries such as the United States, Canada, member states of the EU and Australia and the lower income countries found across Africa, South America, and developing Asia.)  As an example, every year more than 6 million children die before their 5th birthday. 4 out of 5 of them live in sub-Saharan Africa or Asia. 

The inequalities happen within the Global North as well, particularly within low-income areas resided in by people of colour and/or disadvantaged backgrounds. When it comes to infant mortality for example, Canadians have an average rate of 5 out of 1,000 live births. However, in Nunavut, a largely indigenous populated region of Canada, that number jumps to 16 – over three times the amount of infant deaths due to lack of accessible maternal healthcare. 

Goal 3, Good Health and Well-Being, aims to target and eliminate some of the world’s most pressing healthcare issues such as:

  • Diseases
    • AIDS causes the second most deaths to teens, and is particularly a concern for women. HIV is the leading cause of death for women of reproductive age worldwide. HIV is a preventable disease. While it is not yet curable, two-thirds of new infections could be eliminated through access to HIV prevention strategies and treatments. 
    • Of the 36.9 million people living with AIDS, Tuberculosis is responsible for one in three AIDS-related deaths. Tuberculosis is both curable and preventable with access to the vaccine. 
  • Maternal Health
    • Mothers in developed regions are 14 times more likely to survive childbirth than those living in developing regions. 
    • There are currently not enough programmes to deal with the demand for family planning and sexual education in developing regions.
    • Only half of women are receiving the care they need when pregnant in developing countries. 

Ensuring that people are healthy is integral for a society to function. In poor and rich countries alike, health emergencies can destroy lives financially. For every $1 billion invested in immunization coverage, one million children are saved.  We still have so far to go, but the goal to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being, for all ages, for all people – is achievable. We’ve made huge strides over the last few decades, and the numbers show that we can win this fight. 

Progress of Goal 3 in the World Today

The good news? People are healthier and living longer than ever, all over the world. Since 1990, child mortality has been cut in half.  Life expectancy had increased dramatically. There have been huge gains with HIV and deaths from Malaria have halved. The Millenium Development Goals had a huge focus on health, and it was undoubtedly their greatest success and legacy. 

Measles is a terrific example of the progress the global community has made on health. For children under five, particularly those who are impoverished, measles is deadly. In 1980, over 2.6 million people died from measles. By 2014, the number of deaths had dropped to 76,000. Measles is one of the top vaccine-preventable deaths in the world, and the rise of global vaccination programs has made a tremendous impact. Still, the disease affects over 200 million people every year – almost all live within developing countries in Africa and Asia. The vaccine requires two doses, and global coverage for both is only at 67%. Goal 3 has a target to end epidemics of preventable diseases, and while progress is incredible, 76,000 people dying every year is still way too high. 

In the spirit of working in partnerships for the goals (Goal 17), progress isn’t just coming from international organisations like UNICEF and WHO. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is a shining example of how philanthropy can change the world. The foundation works under the belief that every life has equal value. By working to improve people’s health, eliminate hunger, and get out of extreme poverty – The Gates Foundation has helped by providing vaccines, starting women’s health programmes and set-up nutritional programmes for children. The foundation has awarded over $50.1 Billion in grants since 2006 and has changed countless lives across 138 countries. 

You, me, every individual on the planet can also do our part to contribute to Goal 3. Here are five ideas to help improve health and well-being in your community and the world. 

5 Ways we can Contribute to SDG 3 as Individuals

1. Be An Example To Others

Start with the children in your life: your own, your nieces, nephews, godchildren. Show them what it means to live a healthy life, through your own actions. Eating healthy, exercising and staying active – these things can be learned by example. Next time you are hanging out with a small person for the day, choose an activity outside instead of in. Go for fresh fruit smoothies instead of fast food. Healthy doesn’t equal boring. The youngest generation is looking up to the adults in their lives, watching and taking notes. You can do your part to add positive influence, if even for a day. 

Work is another place where you can be a positive example, particularly if you work in a traditional 9-5 environment. Start exercise classes after-work (or convince the boss to bring someone in), schedule weekly or monthly themed lunches around healthy themes, find ways to incorporate team activities that force you to get active. Not only are these ideas all great for team health, they’ll provide a wonderful opportunity to relax and get to know the people you work with better. 

2. Go Green

Local parks and green space are so important for community health. Children having access to playgrounds and sports fields, pathways where neighbors can walk their dogs, pond-side benches for retired people in the community to enjoy fresh air. Take advantage of these places in your community. 

Most community run green spaces allow locals to volunteer with gardening, cleaning up trash, or hosting events. Get involved and help guarantee the future of these important spaces. We have a small community garden next door to our home. Every flower, every hole dug, every new hopscotch addition is contributed by someone living in the community. It makes me happy, I assume it makes others happy too. Happiness is contagious.

If your community is lacking in green space and desirable parks, see point 3 below.

3. Get (Politically) Active

We can only do so much as individuals to affect things at a higher government level. The good news is that those in government, in most countries, work for you. If you don’t have a local park in your community, ask for one. Chances are that other families would love the opportunity to join with you. If the nearest Emergency Room is 30 minutes away, nobody is going to build one until enough people stand up and ask for it. Start a petition, people make them because when done effectively, they can work. Be the voice, and help create a healthier community using it. 

Another way to contribute to SDG3 is to find out how your country is contributing to The Global Fund. The Global Fund is an international organisation working to end AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria as epidemics. Programs are run in over 100 countries, and they invest over 4 Billion USD a year in partnership with governments, companies, and even individuals. Since only 2000, these investments have saved over 32 million lives and climbing. The money invested by governments, in particular, is extremely important moving forward. Find out how much money your country contributes on The Global Fund website, and encourage your representatives to increase that number in the next giving cycle. 

4. Buy (RED)

Did you know that a pill that stops a mother from passing HIV to her baby only costs 20 cents? Still, 400 babies are born every single day with HIV, totally preventable. (RED) is a division of ONE, an organisation co-founded by Bono and other activists to end extreme poverty and preventable disease by 2030. (RED) aims to end AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria through partnering with iconic world brands and companies. 100% of the money generated by the partners for (RED) goes to on-the-ground work – such as providing those pills to pregnant mothers with HIV.

You can get involved by choosing (RED) products, particularly if it is something you were going to buy anyway. Everything from Apple iPhones to Moleskine Notebooks to Durex Condoms can be purchased in the (RED) variety – and you’ll know that part of your purchase will go towards saving lives around the world. Take a look at the (RED) products available here.

5. Make New Friends – Seriously

One of the best things you can do for your mental health, and for the mental health of others, is to make connections. Research has actually proven that having a strong social network is just as important as getting sleep, eating well, and not smoking. When you have a supportive network around you, your stress decreases which affects your immune system, coronary arteries, and even gut function and it increases all those happy hormones. (Harvard Medical School) 

You don’t have to become best friends with everyone in your community to spread the magic either. Simple interactions like talking to your Uber driver, the woman at the grocery store checkout, the handyman – can all have a positive affect on yourself and those around you.

Consider volunteering as a mentor or ‘friend’ for disadvantaged youth, the elderly, or new arrivals to your area. There are many local organisations all over the world who match individuals to spend time together. You could have an enormous impact on someone’s mental health, and you may just find that they improve yours as well. 

To end, something I’ve been thinking about as I watched the latest news out of Australia, completely heartbroken.

How do we keep focus on goals such as Health and Well-Being, when we feel the heaviness and prioritisation on pressing matters like Climate Change (Goal 13: Climate Action)?

I’ve mentioned it previously, but the Sustainable Development Goals were designed to work together and SDG3 is interrelated with so many other goals. No Poverty and Reducing Inequality, for example, can never be realised without Good Health and Well-Being. Some argue that unless we prioritise issues like Climate Change, there will be no people left to improve health for.

I came to the conclusion that the biggest reason  we must focus on all of the Sustainable Development Goals, not just those that seem more important at any given time, is that all progress would be lost. The decreasing numbers of deaths, the rising number of available vaccines, all of that positive change – would start to go the other direction. I’d rather have a world of people alive, and healthy, to fight for. Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. 

I’d like to invite you to take this journey with me, and AM&A, as I explore the 17 sustainable development goals. Each month we’ll focus on one goal and explore actionable ways that we as individuals can change the world. 

Let’s #MakeTravelMatter

It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.

Mahatma Gandhi