Visions to Combat COVID-19

Karim Khan Afridi Welfare Foundation promotes youth engagement
through innovative art competition in Pakistan

As we observe the International Youth Day 2020 on August 12th in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is a stark reminder to the global community and to us in Pakistan to better understand the devastating consequences on the vulnerable young population in the country – an estimated 130 million.

It is in this backdrop that the Karim Khan Afridi Welfare Foundation – KKAWF, a civil society organization committed to youth empowerment through drug use prevention education engaged with youth through an online national art competition “Visions to combat Covid-19 through the eyes of Pakistani Youth”. This art competition held in April-May, 2020 in partnership with public and private educational institutions attracted the participation of students enrolled in schools nationwide between the ages of 12 to 23 years. The goal was to highlight the talent of Pakistani youth with an opportunity to express their visions and impart their message on how they see the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, and in doing so enable their positive collaboration.

Through this approach KKAWF successfully engaged with and generated a healthy activity for the Pakistani youth who were facing the multiple challenges and uncertainties of a new way of life with school closures, living at home with social isolation measures amongst other constraints during the pandemic. In these difficult times, the risk of youth turning to drug use to cope with the higher stress levels of living in isolation and a lack of activity to channel their positive energy was of concern in designing this youth art contest.

This painting and computer graphic competition supported the young students with a recreation focused activity. It also served as a preventive activity to keep students away from risky behaviours and facilitated positive family and school environments that promote and support healthy decision-making by youth.

The competition also provided a platform for youth to share their experiences, ideas and creativity, and to get support for sharing their visions on life during the pandemic. The art expressions also gave the youth an opportunity to convey their messages to stakeholders including policy makers and connect with other youth on social media. The winning and all other paintings and computer graphics were promoted on KKAWF social media outlets and the participating schools also showcased on their websites.

Students’ paintings were judged in three age groups 12-14, 15-17 and 18-23, whereas the computer graphics category was in the age group of 18-23 year. Three winners from each category and a consolation prize were selected by a panel of two leading Pakistan artists and KKAWF chairperson Cristina von Sperling Afridi. Winning students received medals and all participants received certificates sent to them by mail and electronically.

This competition successfully empowered the youth by creating better knowledge and understanding of the Covid-19 pandemic. It was hailed as a best practice for engaging youth in Pakistan.

KKAWF is working since 2015 to create evidenced-based knowledge and awareness on the adverse effects of drug use among the youth and help break the taboos that exist around it. It empowers youth with life skills and helps them to identify, understand and manage emotions, to stay away from drugs and to realize their full potential of a healthy and productive life.

Despite the great harm that drug use causes to the physical & mental health of the at risk youth population, it continues to be a strategy on the rise among youths to cope with various socioeconomic & psychological problems. KKAWF highlights the importance of focusing on prevention, as much more concerted action is needed to address this menace worldwide.

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