Hero Diaries: Makayla

Makayla and Hannah's podcast

Makayla is a Peace First grantee and the founder Revolution Now: a multimedia organization that strives to increase youth political involvement. She applied for a Rapid Response grant after she saw the opportunity for COVID-19 submissions on social media. Makayla’s project was created for young people around the world who are struggling to continue fighting for the causes they care about during this time. After losing her grandfather to COVID-19, She believes that staying informed and connected is the key to staying safe and saving lives. This is Makayla’s story.

“I learned about COVID-19 for the first time during french class, while my teacher played the daily news en français. Like many, I underestimated it at the time. I was more troubled by the spread of racism towards asian individuals than the spread of the actual illness. About a month or two later, I was in Disney World to attend the Disney Dreamer Academy, when the severity of the situation truly hit home. It was our first day at Disney, and they brought all 100 Dreamers into a room to tell us that they had been forced to cancel the program! Originally, we were all very upset, but within the next few days, schools across the country began closing. The closures made us all quickly realize that the problem was so much bigger than having our program cancelled. 

Coming home from Orlando, the airport felt apocalyptic. Everyone was wearing masks and soaking everything they touched in sanitizer. By the time we landed, my school was cancelled for the ‘unforeseeable future’ and my sister was on her way home from college. At that point, I turned away from self-pity and started thinking about what I could do to help others during this time.

This virus has undoubtedly changed my life, as my grandfather passed away from COVID-19. He was only seventy-two and the picture of health, so it came as a complete shock to my entire family. He lived in London, so having the virus take his life across the world was a surreal experience. We ended up having a virtual memorial, and many of my relatives came on to tell stories about my grandfather and our heritage. It was after this experience that I wanted to become more vocal in my community; imploring people to listen to government guidelines and keep each other safe. I do believe that losing my grandfather to the coronavirus taught me a great deal about empathy. 

The idea for “Staying Connected During COVID” came to me because it was something I needed myself. I am the founder of Revolution Now: a multimedia organization that strives to increase youth political involvement by providing teenagers with the tools and resources they need to take action in politics and activism. This year, we had plans to launch a video extension of the digital magazine called RevNow Videos. We were supposed to start producing three video series for the launch in March, but when COVID-19 hit those plans were foiled. I myself was looking for guidance on how to pivot, and I knew many of my change-maker friends were dealing with similar struggles. A podcast seemed like the perfect way to pivot my video production plans, continue connecting inspirational youths from around the world, and also create a valuable resource for teens like me! I have always wanted to create a RevNow Original Podcast, and I decided to use our current situation as an opportunity to fulfill that dream! The Peace First mini-grant took care of all our monetary needs.

I have learned that I am capable of accomplishing great things during the hardest of times. I have also realized the importance of rising up to the challenge when faced with obstacles. Not only was the RevNow staff quick to help me make this idea a reality, but Peace First swooped in at a time where I needed additional support and they provided it! I honestly don’t know if this podcast would have been possible without Peace First. Not only has the organization provided me with funding, but I have always felt supported by the community at Peace First. My experience receiving this mini grant has taught me that there will always be people willing to support you in hard times, and that the worst experiences can bring about great opportunities if you look for them. 

My whole project is about empowering young people to change the world, so I think it goes without saying that I have complete faith in my generation’s ability to create a positive impact! I have been so inspired by the work of my generation, from youth business leaders, nonprofit organizers, and science researchers, to young poets, artists, and creators. I encourage all of my peers to start taking action on the issues they care about today, because there are so many ways to make an impact before becoming an adult. In fact, I believe being young is one of our assets when it comes to addressing everyday issues in new, more productive ways. I know that all young adults are capable of helping the world; it is just about finding what makes you special, channeling that into a passion project, and then finding the people willing to help you along the way."

- Makayla G., peacemaker