For James Papy Kwabo Jr., who lost both his parents by the age of 16, nothing came easily.
Taking odd jobs in the Zorzor District of Lofa County, Liberia, including selling water, to pay his tuition fees, James struggled each day with a single goal in mind: to be a journalist.
“I always wanted to be a professional reporter, an advocate, a change agent,” James says.
James, a 2019 Mandela Washington Fellow and founder of Alternative Youth Radio, Liberia’s first youth radio station, is using his platform to educate young adults across the state about the dangers of the COVID-19 pandemic and the steps they can take to protect themselves.
One myth about the virus James and his colleagues heard repeatedly was that the COVID-19 pandemic was a government hoax.
To counter this, James and his peers began including segments from Mandela Washington Fellows across Liberia. They explained how the COVID-19 pandemic was playing out in their communities.
“With the inclusion of different voices speaking out about the reality of the virus and how it has affected them, it has improved the understanding of community members,” James says.
“It’s encouraged young adults to adopt new perspectives and help contain the spread of the virus.”
James supplements these reports with those of health authorities to offer his listeners a comprehensive picture of the progression of the pandemic.
For James, it’s up to young adults to slow the spread of COVID-19 in and beyond their communities.
“I would advise others to take little steps to make the world a better place,” James says. “Yes, misinformation exists, but by listening to health experts and sharing trusted sources, we can challenge that misinformation.”
Waiting to make a large, lasting change in society is the wrong approach, James explains. Instead, he urges young adults to look at their daily lives and see the small changes they can make to keep themselves and others safe, such as washing their hands often and keeping their distance from others.
“A leader is someone who is able and willing to make other leaders,” James says. “It’s not about age. You’re never too young to lead.”
This blog post is part of a series developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about slowing the spread of the coronavirus here and visit our YALIChecks page to find out more about stopping the spread of misinformation.
The views and opinions expressed here belong to the author or interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of the YALI Network or the U.S. government.