The Cry and Smile of 2020

2020 year have being a lesson for all.

Londa Green Newball*

On December 31st, 2019 Jason and myself attended an Agape feast at the Kingston Seventh Day Adventist Church to end the year in fellowship with our church family. This was the last event we attended in 2019. We were excited to receive the year 2020, after a delightful ending of 2019, with a lovefeast celebration and the traditional falling of the ball at Times Square New York City. Also, I was excited to call, text and post on social media the New Year’s best wishes to family and friends. 

The year 2020 represents the beginning of a new decade and a special year because it represents a twin year with the same double digits. We were all looking forward to a fresh new and successful year with new goals. Unfortunately, 2020 started with a rough beginning due to the world pandemic of the corona virus, known as Covid-19. The situation in the United States got worse during mid-March. The country went into a state of shock and lockdown. Corporations, schools, universities, churches, offices, and many other sectors of the nation were mandated to operate from their homes, to avoid the spread of covid-19. The cry of the nation was devastating. People getting ill, dying from the pandemic, and others losing their jobs. The economy was in a state of recession and the population was on standstill and in a state of uncertainty of what the future holds.

The stock market crashed and the file for unemployment skyrocketed in the millions. The environment was and is still tense. It felt like God was silent, but he was not; He was surely listening to the many crying prayers. For sure, the year 2020 represents a new wave of segregation due to social distancing and the banning of large gathering. I truly believe that this entire situation has made us human beings more robotics and dependable on technology. Sadly, it leads to more control and deprivation of our liberty.

The year 2020 has shown her face and power to the world. The world has and is still crying for the hurts that this new decade has installed on us. As a believer in God as a spiritual being, I know that this pandemic represents one of the signs of the end and it is just the beginning of the end. Therefore, I have chosen to live by faith and not by fear. I have learned to trust God holistically and rely that he is in control of everything. I strongly believe that this pandemic has shaken the world to its cores, just as a friendly reminder that God was, is, and always will be in control of our lives.

I name my writing, The Cry and Smile of 2020, with the purpose of making a tie of the global pandemic situation and my personal life. I can testify that I served an awesome God, and that in the midst of a storm, there can still be a smile. My personal story of 2020 has so far put a smile on my brown face. I just want to share a short synopsis of my story. 

Toward the end of January 2020, I started my last semester of my graduate program at SUNY New Paltz. The first two months my classes were on campus, but with the outbreak of the corona virus my classes went online for the rest of the Spring semester, 2020. It was not an easy change, but I learned to adopt quickly. Definitely, the transition from classes on campus to online learning was a completely different dynamic. I kept my strong believe in one of my favorite Bible verses: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. (Philippians 4:13). By the grace of God, and with my discipline, I wrapped up my semester in May. I had reached a milestone and it felt like a burden had fallen off my back.

I smiled, cried, and leaped with joy when I handed in my last paper on May 14th. I graduated with a master’s degree in professional studies Humanistic Multicultural Education. My virtual commencement ceremony was on May 22, 2020. This was the first virtual ceremony conducted by SUNY New Paltz. Therefore, the President of SUNY New Paltz, Donald P. Christian, stated in his commencement speech, that we will always be remembered as the graduates of the corona virus. In my opinion, each 2020 graduate’s name has become a historical commodity of our Alma mater. Our warrior spirit will prevail forever. 

Photo by Albany Capture on Unsplash

Another part of my 2020 story is the fact that during mid-March the schools were closed due to the pandemic. All school districts adopted the distance learning model from home. As a substitute teacher, I did not have a job for the rest of the school year. Therefore, I began to feel an anxiety as to where I’m going to obtain funding to pay my expenses. The economy was in a lockdown state and there were no available jobs. I prayed, and I immediately proceeded to apply for unemployment. My unemployment insurance was approved, and I began to claim my weekly benefits. With the funding provided, I was able to pay my monthly expenses and even have the opportunity to save some money. By God providing for me in times of needs, I can testify that we serve a powerful and almighty Provider who cares and loves us. 

The blessings of God were still putting a smile on my face in the midst of a pandemic. On July 4th, 2020, I got engaged with my wonderful fiancé Jason Wyant, in a hot air balloon over the Canandaigua Lake in the Finger Lakes region of New York. It will be one of the most memorable moments of my life. I can testify that Jehovah is a God of love and he brought two loving hearts together in the midst of a storm. I will share more details of my engagement weekend in my next writing. In the same manner, on October 7th I received a mail from the NY Department of Education containing my Professional Certification Certificate. I had an initial certification prior to acquiring my professional certification. 

In conclusion, my suggestion is to keep your positive attitude and trust in God.  He will deliver you from whatever situation you may find yourself in. What He has done for me He can also do for you.  I can say that life was not all perfect for me, I, too, cried and felt the pain of the pandemic and the fast-dynamic changes in our social and economic environment. But, I have learned to overcome it and remind myself that there is light and hope in the midst of a storm. We can stop our tears and still put a smile on the faces God has given us. 

To be continue….


Covid-19 and Women in News Coverage

They are at the frontline but almost invisible in the news.

In many countries, lifestyle drastically changed in March after the novel virus expanded over the globe. I remember being at work when I heard the first press conference of the Finnish government about the crisis. Days after, on the 16th of March, they declared a state of emergency. 

Besides talking with relatives and friends who live in different countries about the pandemic, I also followed the media as one of my sources. But it was healthy not to be influenced all day by the news. 

During these months of the crisis, a lot of people are working to give us the services that we need. Many women are among health professionals, public workers, social workers, scientists, and others. However, in many of the reportages, female expert’s voices and women, being the protagonists of the stories have an under-representation in news media. 

Back in April Forbes magazine listed Jacinda Arden,the Primer Minister of New Zealand;  Tsai -Ing -wen, the first female president in Taiwan; Mette Frederiksen, the Danish Prime Minister; Katrí­n Jakobsdóttir, Iceland’s Prime Minister; Sanna Marin, the Prime Minister of Finland; Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany;  and Erna Solberg, Norway´s Prime Minister, as leaders who had the best outperformance in the fight against the virus, in contrast to the male heads of state. This was news for days; it would have been great to have such coverage constantly. 

The study, The Missing Perspectives of Women in COVID-19 newswas conducted in India, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, the UK, and the US, by the international audience strategy consultancy, AKAS. In one of the chapters, they analyzed three groups of women coverage in news: as experts, sources of news, and story protagonist.

The first finding of the study is that women expert’s voices were substantially smaller than that of men in all countries. “In the UK, 25% of people quoted in COVID-19/ coronavirus articles were women. This was followed by Kenya and the US, where women were quoted a fifth of the time (20% and 19%, respectively), then by South Africa, Nigeria and India where women’s share of voice in Covid-19/coronavirus stories was 17%, 17% and 16% respectively”.

The second fact is that women were less used as sources of authoritative expertise than men, but they were more likely to be used as a source of subjective personal views. In Akas’s portrayal analysis “half of the people quoted in the news were experts and commentators while only 6% were sources. Women constituted only 19% of all experts but 53% of sources”.

And the third finding is that between the 1st March 2020, and 15th, of April 2020, women had low visibility as the story’s protagonists in the six countries. In the US 14%, South Africa 15%, Nigeria 15%, Kenya 15%, 19% in India, and 26% in the UK. 

Framing the news is very vital to how the audience will be perceived, thus protagonists, expert voices, and sources must be from the people that know about the story to cover. But it’s  also important to write about local stories and the relationships they have with other wider topics. For example, where to get assistance in case of gender-based violence, or by providing tips for parents to entertain their child(ren) during Covid-19. 

Many countries are in the second wave of the pandemic, so less hope this time women can have a higher percentage of lead in the news coverage. 

Do you know a woman in your community who is leading the fight of Covid-19? Share the story with us.

My new life

This is the story of my new life.

I am on my 50th, day of isolation in Finland, the north of Europe.

Autumn and winter were long, dark, gray, gloomy, and odd. Finally, it is spring. We have sunny and longer days with a strong desire to be outside enjoying them. But, unfortunately, that is not the scenario since we need to be indoors and take care of ourselves because of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, which is a worldwide pandemic.

The virus that broke out in Wuhan, China, last December, has expanded to many countries on the globe. I remember being at work when I heard the first press conference of the Finnish government about the crisis. Days after, on the 16th of March, they declared a state of emergency. We started our lockdown.

Our life changed. We all started to live as  in  movies such as I am LegendThe Blind, Armageddon, Cast Away, Contagion, Outbreak, 93 days, Oblivion, etc.

The movie “COVID-19” is being filmed in many corners of the world and I am one of the millions of characters. My movie’s first scene took place at the supermarket. After work, I went to buy milk and yogurt, since I had forgotten to buy them on my regular grocery- shopping day.

When I walked into the supermarket, I was shocked by the number of people buying, and by seeing so  many empty shelves. I thought this was crazy and selfish. People were in panic, anxiousness, and overbuying things they didn’t need without thinking about others such as the elders. However, I got my products and went home. 

The following week while being at home and  sitting in my home-office, I called to seeabout my job (as a babysitter). I was told that my contract will be cancelled because of the crisis, so I became unemployed. I was not surprised by the news because I knew I couldn’t do anything due to the pandemic situation. This scene wasn’t only shot in my home, it was also filmed at thousands of workplaces and other houses.

Many governments took measurements to combat the crisis, for example, working remotely from home to avoid the spreading of the virus. For a lot of employees, it was a challenge since it was their first time in this new setting. Many faced a lack of concentration because the entire family was at home; others found it hard not being able to socialize with coworkers, especially if they live alone.

A friend of mine  has two children (11 and 8 years old)  studying online, and so is her husband working from home with a lot of videoconferences. She said: ” to manage each one of  our schedules, I wrote them  on the blackboard, so this made it easier to interact at home”.

But this part of the movie is not the same for everyone; there are many other shots: 

Scene 1: A family that has more than two children or a smaller one.

Scene 2: The space at home is reduced.

Scene 3: They are single parents.

Scene 4: They don’t have control over the situation at home. 

On the other hand, for me working from home as a freelance is not new since I have over 10 years doing it. I admit that I like it because I work with a timetable. Moreover, it gives me better concentration, and it allows me  to even take a break for running, walking or meditating. 

On the storyboard of my movie, many humans are alone because they are practicing social distance and isolation. Overnight, we were banned to have human contact. For me, perhaps, this is the most difficult challenge in this new way of living, because I am a person who loves to laugh, hug, and touch, I think they are essential elements for human well-being. Not having human contact or feeling makes me uncomfortable.

I have met Friends with whom  to take a walk, talk, and bicycle; of course, practicing distance measurement. I was happy to see them, but it was very hard not to hug them.

Yes, our life has changed drastically over the past months. As I mentioned above, we have lovely days. When I wake up and see the sun, my feeling and desire are to go to the beach and have a picnic, but it is not possible because I have a role to play by staying at home. My days are scheduled, I go every other day to run or walk for an hour, and one time per week to the grocery shop.

I like social media and talking on the phone with families and friends. But now, it is overwhelming since the outbreak of the coronavirus. I have downloaded other applications for  communications which I have used to hold meetings, workshops, birthdays, happy hours, and hangouts. This is the trend in my life.

Previous to this crisis, the locations of my life were many: commuting to work – Helsinki-Espoo-Helsinki, visiting friends in Vantaa, museums, disco, libraries, coffees, restaurant, movie hall, discussions panel etc. Now the locations are three: home, parks, and grocery shop.

In many movies of worldwide crisis, the heroes find the vaccine before the fatal time for their  family, the government works together, there is a happy ending, etc. In my movie and yours, we still have a lot of unknown shots and characters.

According to expertise, our life probably will come back to “normal” in late summer. But this would not be the same for all countries since it will  be “based on factors like political stability, corporate governance, risk environment and supply chain logistics, and transparency. Pairing these rankings with their countries initial response to the virus, we identified the nations across the globe that have a high likelihood of maintaining stability and resilience through the crisis”.

So when and how does this movie end? It is uncertain. But it is clear that we are going to have a post-pandemic world crisis. There will be a severe impact on business, sports, culture, education, climate, and human being behaviour; for example, greeting with a kiss or shaking hands probably will be banned. These bigger scenarios will have other implications in our society that probably we do not even imagine.

Yes, I have had bumpy days during isolation, which I faced and overcame. But also, I think that this confinement is teaching me a lot of new things, how to embrace what I have, slow down, and live day by day. I read that with a crisis like this our mental health, balance, and well-being can face 3 stages: fear, learning and growing. I want to continue growing.

I can hear the director’s voice and see the clapperboard that says: productionOur life in CONVID-19, scene20 , take: 50, but, THE END is not yet written. So, for sure my isolation days will increase, my desire to hug friends will continue, and I will sit and write another story of this cycle of my life. 

How do you think this film will end? Who will be the heroines and heroes?