Developed and supported by global, regional and country based experts from Member Agencies of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee Reference Group on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings, and parents, caregivers, teachers and children in 104 countries, “My Hero is You” – How Kids Can Fight COVID19 is a story developed for and by children around the world, offering a way for children and parents to together think about the questions the pandemic raises, and addressing children’s mental health and psychosocial needs during the COVID-19 outbreak.
“I need a way to tell all the children in the world how to protect themselves so they can protect everyone else…” said Sara, the protagonist of this story, as she narrates and clears up doubts that children have in their minds about the Corona Virus.
The story opens with Sara talking with her mother, the best scientist in the world, about details of the Corona Virus, how it looks and how it affects people. As she goes to bed that night, she reminisces about school and her friends, and feels an urge to help children across the world be safe from the virus. In the darkness, Sara encounters Ario, a companion and a fellow warrior in battling the virus, who promises to help children everywhere.
The story unfolds as Sara climbs on to Ario’s back and meets Salem, a friend from the land of the pyramids. Their quest to find answers for the current conundrum, take them from the land of the pyramids, a small village, a camp filled with people who have no homes, to the town near snowy mountains, meeting children and friends who have unanswered questions.
These interactions touch upon conversations doing the rounds in public spaces – social distancing, hand washing and hygiene, staying home, ban on travel across borders, understanding why a parent or a family member is quarantined in a separate room … and the many things that children overhear from their families, but do not understand. The dialogues also touch upon real emotions of children who are away from their grandparents, their fears of a changing world, ways to get along with family members during days of confinement, death of loved ones due to the virus, children and families who have had the virus and survived, offering simple solutions to dealing with common problems. Referred to as ‘super powers’ – throwing a hug to someone to maintain one meter distance, calling friends and family that you miss, being patient with family members, imagining a safe happy place when feeling sad and scared, how to treat other children with the virus as equals, these life lessons sum up the turning points of the story.
This book is a simple answer to a complex problem faced by the people of the world, and it’s curious, questioning children. It asks questions that many adults rather not ask, and unties many doubts with the astuteness and innocence that only children can. It ends by leaving a potent message to all children – You are the heroes in your own lives, and can protect your families and the world, by washing your hands and staying home.