Volunteers are humble heroes in the fight against COVID-19

Volunteers step in to arm community members with knowledge – and dispel damaging myths – about COVID-19

UNICEF
Volunteerism by Muhammadiyah
UNICEF/2020/Arimacs Wilander
03 July 2020

Wash your hands with soap … wear a mask in public ... keep your distance from other people. These now-familiar measures to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 sound simple enough – but in reality, these actions did not come naturally to most people before the pandemic.

The declaration of a global pandemic in early 2020 demanded that most people in Indonesia – and the world – change their behaviour to contain the spread of the virus. But for many communities, not knowing what to believe and where to go, or who to trust for guidance, made the outbreak of COVID-19 a frightening and confusing time. This is why UNICEF partnered with the largest Islamic organizations in Indonesia,  so that faith-based organisations were empowered with accurate information – and their volunteers could be mobilized to reach citizens directly.

UNICEF/2020
A video of Ramadhana and other volunteer from Muhammadiyah.

Ramadhana is a one of these volunteers. He focuses on raising awareness and sharing information within communities on how best to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“First, we try to find out the level of understanding of COVID-19 in the community. Then we share information on how to minimize transmission by washing hands, physical distancing, staying at home and wearing masks,” Ramadhana explained.

During their community outreach activities, Ramadhana and his fellow volunteers visit houses, hand out flyers and talk to people about how to protect themselves.

Volunteerism by Muhammadiyah
UNICEF/2020/Arimacs Wilander
Ramadhana (in yellow shirt), a volunteer with Muhammadiyah, provides information to residents about the importance of wearing masks, washing hands and physical distancing to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 in Bekasi, West Java province, Indonesia.

“I feel the community has not yet understood the danger of COVID and what clean and healthy living actually is,” said Ridha, another volunteer. “Even before COVID, we should have been living a clean and healthy life as recommended by our religion.”

Would you partner with UNICEF, through your kind gift, to help keep up the fight against COVID-19?

Volunteerism by Muhammadiyah
UNICEF/2020/Arimacs Wilander
Volunteers with Muhammadiyah hold a briefing before going out to provide local residents with information about COVID-19 and to clean up places of worship in Bekasi, West Java province, Indonesia.

Unlike Ramadhan, Ridha doesn’t often visit communities. But she is involved in coordinating dialogues with religious leaders and putting up posters and banners in mosques and public spaces. When we met, her team was about to clean and disinfect two Muhammadiyah-affiliated mosques. The 30-year-old is no stranger to chemicals as she works as a chemist in the Environmental Department at the Water and Air Environment Laboratory.

Ramadhana also has a good understanding of and compassion for public health: During the day, he works as a nurse at the Islam Pondok Kopi Hospital.

Volunteerism by Muhammadiyah
UNICEF/2020/Arimacs Wilander
Ridha, a volunteer for Muhammadiyah, cleaned a mosque with disinfectant in Bekasi, West Java, to avoid the spread of COVID-19.

“Since the beginning, because my background is in health and I’m a volunteer, I’ve been very interested in educating the community about the coronavirus,” explained Ramadhana. “There is still stigma in the community; there are those who see the coronavirus as a conspiracy theory or a hoax.

Ramadhana also has a good understanding of and compassion for public health. He’s a nurse and works at a hospital.

“There is still stigma in the community; there are those who see the coronavirus as a conspiracy theory or a hoax,” explained Ramadhana.

“The biggest challenge is the risk of exposure because I go directly to the community,” he said. “We can’t tell if someone is asymptomatic.”

Commitment, compassion and bravery continue to underline Ramadhana’s and all volunteers’ outreach during the pandemic. Please will you consider a donation, made online here, as a symbol of your support?

Volunteerism by Muhammadiyah
UNICEF/2020/Arimacs Wilander
A boy washes his hands at a hand washing station in his village in Bekasi, West Java province, Indonesia. UNICEF is working with Muhammadiyah, the second-largest Islamic organization in the country, to establish hand washing stations in villages to prevent the transmission of COVID-19.

As a father of six, Ramadhana has to be careful. Not only does he risk exposure to the virus from his work as a nurse, he also visits different communities each time he volunteers.

"I have six children, and the oldest is in the 4th grade,” he added. “I always try to safeguard our interactions. I make sure to observe the safety protocols when I go home and we interact.” This includes showering and changing his clothes before he sees his family, and wearing protective equipment while working at the hospital and limiting face-to-face interactions with patients.

Despite these risks, Ramadhana and Ridha have taught people how they can stay safe.

Volunteerism by Muhammadiyah
UNICEF/2020/Arimacs Wilander
Samsul Bahri, a volunteer with Muhammadiyah conducted a socialization about COVID-19 with loudspeakers in Bekasi, West Java on 14 June, 2020.

Endah, a pregnant mother, is one of many people who has benefitted from the volunteers’ efforts. “I learned how to wash my hands correctly, stay healthy and get enough rest,” she says, holding her three-year-old daughter, Fatima on her lap.

People like Endah and Fatimah are the reason that community outreach is crucial – and UNICEF is committed to ensuring that the most vulnerable people have access to accurate information. Knowing what to do to prevent infection is just as important as knowing what to do if infected. Through your support today, you can help keep Indonesia’s mothers and children safe ­– because when it comes to COVID-19, knowledge saves lives.

Volunteerism by Muhammadiyah
UNICEF/2020/Arimacs Wilander
A volunteer with Muhammadiyah hangs a poster displaying guidance on self-isolating in a residential area during the COVID-19 outbreak in Bekasi, West Java province, Indonesia.