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Lessons Learned While Doing Good in Trying Times

by | Apr 21, 2021 | Character Qualities, Continuing Work in Pandemic, Guest Post, Project Tips

Throughout the past year, our Barron Prize young heroes have remained committed to the good work they’re doing to help other people and the planet. They’ve responded to challenges with such creativity, resilience, and positivity. They’ve also demonstrated so much compassion, strength of spirit, and perseverance. We’ve found it all hugely inspiring.

We recently asked several winners and honorees to reflect on the past year and offer any lessons learned and insights gained as they’ve adapted their work during the pandemic. Here are the wise words they shared.

The past year presented countless unforeseen obstacles for volunteer work. Nevertheless, with perseverance and positivity I have been able to learn several lessons from my experiences.

My nonprofit Ball4Good had to be modified to suit remote audiences. Using live streaming, online mailing lists, GoFundMe, and more, we have thankfully been able to maintain supporter engagement. Through this experience I have solidified my understanding of the importance of communication. Without open communication lines, our supporters likely would have been in the dark and unaware of Ball4Good happenings. I also learned the importance of maintaining positive morale, which is what allowed us to spread joy in uncertain times.

Additionally, with the divisive racial climate, I was able to use my platform to speak out for justice. As a result, Ball4Good was able to support the funding of a Black Lives Matter mural in downtown Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Overall, I am thankful for the opportunities to learn over the past year.

Adom Appiah

2019 Winner, Ball4Good

Obviously, this past year hasn’t gone as hoped, but there have still been a lot of successes and great things that have happened. For example, I held my first virtual Gorilla Gala that included people from all over the world, and I got to speak on the Barron Prize Youth Summit back in July! Through it all, I have learned that some things can get in the way of a goal, but you can’t let that stop you and you have to make the best of it. I plan on continuing my work throughout 2021 and am glad that I have had these experiences to learn from.
Addy Barrett

2019 Winner, Gorilla Heroes

The antidote to uncertainty is trust. When I didn’t know whether there would be food available for Fresh Hub, I trusted that the nonprofit I was collaborating with would keep me informed. When I didn’t know if it was safe to meet, I trusted that following the official health guidelines would keep everyone protected from COVID-19. When I didn’t know if volunteers would show up, I trusted that the community I had spent the past couple of years fostering would pull through.

This past year taught me that trust is the foundation of healthy relationships, which make up any successful service work. These hard times have revealed to me the strength of my community, and I have been blown away by what we can accomplish working together.

Annie Zhu

2020 Winner, Fresh Hub

There is no doubt that this pandemic has been challenging for all of us, but I would say one of the biggest challenges that EEqual has been trying to tackle is continuing to invest in our team. Making sure that your team feels valued and connected to your mission is so incredibly important. And, let’s be honest, trying to connect yourself to a changemaker vision through a screen isn’t the easiest! While the situation is not preferred, I have been working with my team and building our connection as leaders as well as to the people we are trying to support.

I spend almost 15 hours a week on Zoom, but I try and maximize the time my team spends. Sometimes we are getting down to business and other times we are having some fun, throwing dance parties, and just sharing about our personal lives! Making an impact starts on the individual level, and though we are all waiting to get back in person, there is so much we can all do to keep pushing everyone forward!

Matine Khalighi

2020 Winner, EEqual

As a fundraiser for kids with cancer and someone who speaks about the importance of youth in philanthropy, I’ve faced significant challenges during the pandemic. But early on, I decided that I would try to make the most of the time I had and the opportunities I could create.

While I would never want to repeat a year of Zoom school, I’ve learned the importance of pivoting and creating new paths for my pursuits, even when doing so might require a little extra creativity, effort, and perseverance. Embracing opportunities rather than lamenting losses is a great way to forge forward!

In a weird way, thanks to technology, many opportunities have actually expanded in the COVID landscape. Like so many others, I’ve been inspired to see how people of all ages have stepped up over the past year, through social justice work, healthcare advocacy, political engagement, charitable donations, and more. There’s been an outpouring of human compassion and outreach. I’d like to think it’s a silver lining of what has otherwise been a very difficult time for so many of us.

Hollis Belger

2020 Honoree, Juggling for Jude