If there’s one good thing arising from the coronavirus pandemic, it is increased awareness and appreciation of the integral role healthcare workers play in Pakistani society. Aware that doctors and nurses were fighting on the front-lines and risking their lives to combat coronavirus, student-led organization Aik Aik Qadam decided to offer them a small token of gratitude by sending them letters of appreciation. In addition to this, the organization is playing an active role in its primary aim of improving mental health awareness amongst the student community. Team ProperGaanda reached to Aik Aik Qadam to further understand their motivations and hopes for the future.
Aik Aik Qadam is a part of the Student Taskforce Against COVID-19 which was created in response to the current coronavirus crisis and is run by a dedicated team of student volunteers from colleges and universities all across Pakistan. In light of the current situation and the toll it has taken on people’s mental health, our project aims to help provide mental health support and promote general social well-being.
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After the huge success of our first round of letters to healthcare workers, this time we'll be sending out letters to those working in COVID isolation wards. For now, we will be distributing in Karachi and Islamabad. Dm us your letters (in either English or Urdu) and help provide our healthcare workers a welcoming respite in these trying times! Poster credits:- @fatima._.sad.af #coronaheroes #spreadpositivity #loveinthetimeofcorona #mentalhealth #covidmentalhealth #mentalhealthawareness #covidanxiety #covid #covid19 #corona #coronavirus #stayhome #staysafe
What motivated you into taking this initiative?
When COVID-19 hit our unprepared country, we, as students, felt a lot of sudden change. It left many of us stuck in different cities/countries and unable to leave their homes. All of this was very anxiety-provoking for many. Therefore, we thought this to be a good opportunity to have an organization that would address the mental health challenges being faced by everyone. Knowing that mental health is still a taboo topic to a certain degree, we felt that this would be a great way to provide a platform to acknowledge mental health, which is a very important factor amidst the pandemic. We aim to create a platform for students to learn about mental health, its resources, as well as a safe space for them to discuss their emotions and find coping mechanisms.
Aik Aik Qadam has had multiple projects running over the course of the past few months, including the following:
One of our major projects is by the name of “Pen Pals”. We wanted to do something to encourage the health care professionals and all those who are working on the front-lines against the coronavirus despite the risks. We wanted to let them know they are appreciated. We opened the floor to students and volunteers and got them to write and submit letters that were dedicated to doctors and nurses. Initially, we sent a few of these letters to doctors, who were working in hospitals even in Eid, through social media.
We later also sent letters with brownies to one of the hospitals in Karachi as a token of appreciation. Having received a ton of support, we will now be sending these letters in large numbers to healthcare professionals working in hospitals across Pakistan. As of right now, we are planning on dispatching the letters to the doctors and nurses working in a few COVID-19 centres in Karachi and Islamabad.
Secondly, a group of volunteers has been working closely with psychiatrists and psychologists in order to launch a support group for students in these trying times. The support group will be led by students who have been trained by mental health professionals, and there will be a professional present each support group as well. We look forward to creating a safe space for everyone during these difficult times. We finally opened our registrations for it earlier this week.
The third project we’ve been working on is researching and compiling together the many different mental health helplines that are present in Pakistan. We have a group of volunteers running quality checks on different helplines and organisations, collecting data and providing necessary information for all those who may require it. This is in order to create awareness about the facilities present, and to make it easy for those in need to get the help they deserve. These are put up on our platforms frequently.
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Are you a student seeking a space to share your feelings/thoughts/fears during these uncertain times? If so, consider signing up for AAQ’s support group. This online support group is open to any and every student, and offers a safe, non-judgmental space to help students cope with these stressful times. Disclaimer: The support group is not a substitute for therapy. In order to seek professional help, please look at our past posts which highlight some free/paid mental health services being offered by reputable organizations. Link in bio, register now! Poster credits:- @fatima._.sad.af @zukhruf_arshad #supportgroup #supportgroups #safespace #mentalhealthhelp #mentalhealth2020 #mentalhealth #aikaikqadam
The healthcare workers all felt truly appreciated, I think, after receiving the letters. We understand that these are trying times, and everyone deserves appreciation. We’re glad we’ve been able to provide a bridge between Pakistani citizens and the doctors and nurses, and were absolutely honored to have put a smile on their face and make them feel appreciated. It’s the least they deserve.
Being students ourselves, we understand what fellow students are experiencing during the pandemic. Therefore, the very fact that we could relate to our audience pushed us towards creating a platform where we could help them in any way we can. Just the hope that we might help make somebody’s day a little better, whether it’s through a meditation technique we posted, or connecting them to a helpline, or even providing them with a safe space to talk about their feelings, was enough motivation to keep going. Furthermore, being proud citizens of Pakistan, we believe it is our responsibility to give back to our country and its people, and we thought this would be a great way to begin, especially since mental health is not really given the attention it deserves. Everyone needs to take care of their mental health, and we wanted to let them know we are here for them.
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Self defense is an essential skill everyone should know in order to protect themselves in uncomfortable situations. Here are a few useful self defence techniques enacted by: Imtiaz Ali, who is the founder of Shah Taekwondo Academy, a certified taekwondo coach, a black belt 4 Dan and an international player and medalist, and Ali ahmed Jan (volunteer) who works as a sports consultant at Iqra University, with a masters in sports sciences. #selfdefense #selfdefenseforwomen #domesticviolenceawareness
This pandemic has most certainly affected each and every one of us. But more than anyone else, it affected importantly the frontline heroes working tirelessly day and night. Firstly, we’d like to appreciate their efforts and express our gratitude for their selfless service to the greater community in helping us all get through these tough times.
Secondly we hope and pray that they are taking care of themselves and taking some time out of their busy schedules to focus on their own emotional and physical well-being.
Lastly, we hope that they get rewarded for everything that they are doing. May God bless them and give them more courage and strength.
Just a little reminder: We are here for you, and thank you for being there for us!
Our message for our fellow Pakistanis is that no storm lasts forever and we are all in this together. It is important that each and every one of us does our part by following the guidelines offered by healthcare authorities and taking good care of yourself and those around you. We would also just like to emphasize that your mental health is just as important as your physical health, and we hope each and every one of you is being kind to yourself. Remember, this too shall pass and good days will come.
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Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting — over and over announcing your place in the family of things. Voice over:- @faizazakariaa #spokenwordpoetry #mentalhealth #maryoliverpoetry #aikaikqadam
In order to support us, we ask that you let us support you! We encourage everyone to visit our Facebook and Instagram platforms “Aik Aik Qadam”, follow, get involved in activities. Share our posts! It might help someone in need. We hope to see everyone send in their own stories regarding their mental health challenges, join the support group if need be, reach out to us and share to aware! Our inbox and email (firstname.lastname@example.org) is always open for any information or help they might need.
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