On Thursday, the world will recognize National COVID-19 Day, marking the one-year anniversary that the pandemic was officially declared by the World Health Organization.
This new day of mourning and remembrance of those who have died from the virus in the United States, was co-founded by Jamie Aten and Kent Annan, two faculty members who help lead Wheaton College’s Humanitarian Disaster Institute in Illinois.
“With the United States recently surpassing 500,000 COVID-19 related deaths, our country needs ways to come together virtually and safely to remind us that we are not alone and that we will eventually overcome this pandemic,” said Aten, Blanchard Chair of Humanitarian Disaster Leadership, Executive Director of Humanitarian Disaster Institute and associate professor.
To that end, Wheaton’s Humanitarian Disaster Institute – which is the first faith-based academic disaster research center in the country – has been collaborating with volunteer management platform VOMO, humanitarian organization World Vision, the National Association of Social Workers, other nonprofits and corporate partners on National COVID-19 Day.
The partners have created a website that acts as gathering place “to observe shared grief, come together virtually, or volunteer with proper safety protocols to recognize others in our communities and country making a difference and provide support from caring listeners.” Its purpose: not only to remember the lives lost but help those who have struggled to heal over the past year.
“This global experience has resulted in deep suffering and loss for people around the world, and the common experience of social distancing has created intense feelings of isolation, helplessness and loss,” said Annan, Director of Humanitarian and Disaster Leadership at the Institute, which is part of Wheaton’s Graduate School that offers an M.A. in Humanitarian & Disaster Leadership and Trauma Certificate. “By recognizing our shared experience, we can begin to move together toward deeper healing and hope.”
For those who have sustained family losses, jobs or income, or having simply been affected in other ways, there is help through the site. And there are also ways to help. The group says people can participate in the cause by volunteering to assist organizations responding to the crisis across the U.S. – the World Vision Warehouse, the American Red Cross, Feeding America, the Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity or simply by thanking frontline workers, recognizing educators or making students smile.
“We are all going through COVID-19 together,” said Rob Peabody, co-founder and CEO of VOMO. “We may be processing it differently and have had different experiences throughout the pandemic, but as a whole, it is something that the entire world is grappling with collectively. It has given us the opportunity to process together, empathize together, and now make a difference together.”
The partners plan to make honoring National COVID-19 Day, now recognized by the National Day Archives, an annual event and a place to find assistance throughout the year.