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5 meaningful projects to support virtually this summer

If you have an extra hour while physical-distancing or simply want to take your mind off the new coronavirus, check out these few documentaries, initiatives and books.

As we practice physical-distancing and work from home to curb the spread of COVID-19, many of us have a few extra hours on our hands. Whether you’re looking for inspirational documentaries, insightful books or virtual ways to volunteer, we hope these ideas make your day a little more meaningful:

Read about the notorious wildlife trade that led to COVID-19

Studies have pointed to bats as the likely origin of the new coronavirus, while other types of animals, such as pangolins, are thought to be potential hosts. The link to wildlife has highlighted a perennial problem – consuming wild animals for food and medicine, as well as other purposes, such as jewellery.  

After a nearly decade-long investigation, journalist Rachel Nuwer demonstrates how the insatiable demand for animals is fueling the worldwide poaching epidemic in Poached: Inside the Dark World of Wildlife Trafficking. 

Published in 2018, the book uncovers the underground of global wildlife trafficking through interviews with poachers, traders, and restaurant owners, as well as buyers from Vietnam, China and other places involved in illegal wildlife trade. 

It’s now up to individuals to curb the demand. In addition to reading about the issue, check out local wildlife conservation groups such as WildAid Hong Kong and Hong Kong for Pangolins to find out how you can help.

Watch empowering films

If you’re looking for films that balance excellent storytelling with important social justice issues, browse the free film archive on Women’s Voices Now (WVN), an American non-profit organisation advocating for women’s rights. Driven by deeply personal stories and insightful interviews, these documentaries ensure the voices of women and girls don’t go unheard.  

Among the many films available, we’d recommend ‘Coerced—The Wisconsin Sex Trafficking Epidemic’, a 40-minute documentary about how child and sex traffickers manipulate victims in Wisconsin, which the highest recovery of trafficked adolescents in the US. 

Meanwhile in ‘Breaking Silence’, three Muslim women share stories of sexual assault, confront victim-blaming, and challenge stigmas that have long suppressed the voices of survivors.

Credit: Dario Valenzuela on Unsplash
Credit: Dario Valenzuela on Unsplash

Take a free Stanford course on human rights 

To deepen your knowledge and understanding of social justice affairs across the globe, sign up for Stanford University’s free online course, International Women’s Health and Human Rights, available on Coursera. The class syllabus covers a wide range of issues, from women’s health to female genital mutilation, domestic violence, women in conflict zones, refugees, and economic empowerment. 

Should the course motivate you to learn more, Coursera has a suite of classes on social justice issues, such as Children’s Human Rights, Human Rights for Open Societies, Understanding Violence, An Introduction to Global Health, What is Corruption: Anti-Corruption and Compliance, and Inequality and Democracy. 

Since the programmes are online, expect classes to be conducted in the form of peer-reviewed assignments, video lectures, and community discussion forums. And when you complete a course, you can download an electronic Course Certificate for a fee. 

Check on Australia’s recovering koalas   

Videos and photos of injured koalas during Australia’s bushfire crisis between November 2019 and January 2020 saddened and alarmed animal lovers around the globe. According to the country’s Environment Minister, up to 30 per cent of the total koala population (estimated between 15,000 to 28,000) in the most-affected region of New South Wales may have been killed during the crisis. 

Thanks to the caring staff and volunteers at local wildlife sanctuaries – including Lone Pine Koala Park, the Healesville Sanctuary and Port Macquarie Koala Hospital – many koalas have survived the fires and are now on the path to recovery. 

Take a virtual visit to see how the koalas are doing via dedicated Koala Cams, which have been set up at various sanctuaries around the country. There are also many ways to help, including donations, adoptions and planting a ‘koala food tree’ – essentially trees with leaves that koalas like to eat, such as Tallowood, Swamp Mahogany and Forest Red Gum trees. 

Credit: Graham Holtshausen on Unsplash
Credit: Graham Holtshausen on Unsplash

Become a volunteer researcher for issues close to your heart

On Zooniverse, the world’s largest people-powered research platform, you can directly contribute to the social and environmental issues facing our planet. Browse the site to learn about all kinds of ongoing research projects across the fields of astrophysics, ecology, the humanities and biomedical sciences. 

When a project piques your interest, you can get involved by signing up to be a research volunteer. On the platform, which was founded by University of Oxford astrophysicist Professor Chris Lintott, the initiatives range from classifying over 1.7 million galaxies to track the movement of thousands of animals migrating, transcribing historical documents on slavery and studying how plants respond to human activities.