Coronavirus Sparks an Epidemic of People Helping People in Seattle

Ethiopian American Yadesa Bojia is a Seattle artist who was concerned about the lack of information about the coronavirus reaching the Ethiopian community, so he did a Facebook live video in Amharic over the weekend to get accurate information out to the community. (The Seattle Times)

The Seattle Times

By Naomi Ishisaka

In my last column I wrote that the novel coronavirus outbreak showed us the gaps in our social safety net and the systems that we urgently need to fix.

But what this crisis has also exposed in the past week is the way in which people, guided by their hearts, are stepping up to support each other in extraordinary ways.

People like Yadesa Bojia, who is a Seattle-based artist and University of Washington graphic designer. Bojia recently became alarmed after talking with other Ethiopian American community members in his first language, Amharic, and realizing there was a lack of solid, scientifically grounded information about the coronavirus getting out to the community. Some people he talked to thought the disease was airborne, others thought it could be cured or prevented with traditional herbal medicine or stopped with vitamin C. Bojia knew that Public Health – Seattle & King County created coronavirus fact sheets in multiple languages, but didn’t think people in his immigrant community would know where to find them.

So on March 7, Bojia decided to do something about it. Armed with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s public health guidance, he started a Facebook live video to read recommendations for the community in Amharic. To his surprise, the video has been viewed 2,000 times and counting. Getting this information out, Bojia said, is “a matter of life and death,” for not just the nearly 25% of King County that are immigrants but the entire community.

Bojia is just one of many across the region who have lent their resources to help others during this unprecedented time. This pandemic has upended every part of our daily lives and sent social, economic and political shock waves throughout our society. Fear might bring out some of our worst instincts, but crises bring out the best in humanity as well.

In the days since the Seattle area became the epicenter of the outbreak, the outpouring of support has been moving and inspiring. On an individual level, people have offered free babysitting, cooking and food delivery for harried parents and medically vulnerable older adults.

After racist coronavirus fears drove down business in Seattle’s Chinatown International District, Bill Tashima, a board member for the local Japanese American Citizens League, created a Facebook group on Sunday to share ways to support small restaurants. Within days, the group had nearly 5,000 members, sharing ideas for restaurant takeout to boost business in the struggling district and creating a virtual “tip jar” that one member was using to collect donations for restaurant workers.

The artistic community, which already experiences economic insecurity in good times due to unpredictable contract-based work, saw all public events canceled like dominoes in the past week. Seattle-area author Ijeoma Oluo quickly set up a GoFundMe on Monday to raise and distribute funds for artists. Within days, the fund raised $80,000 and distributed $10,000 and was in the process of distributing another $30,000 to artists directly impacted by loss of income due to the coronavirus. Another group of people started a live-performance streaming site on Facebook called “The Quarantine Sessions,” where artists can perform and the audience can tip the band before their performance starts.

Read more »


Related:

Screening causes massive bottlenecks at U.S. airports

List of African Countries with Coronavirus Grows as Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan Report Cases

WHO Declares Coronavirus a Pandemic

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus: The Ethiopian at the Heart of the Coronavirus Fight

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