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DP grads take action against COVID-19

In a special podcast double feature, we followed up with Diploma Programme (DP) graduates and friends Aaron Goh Qi Yang and Klaus Tan who share a new initiative they created to combat the spread of misinformation about COVID-19 (Coronavirus).

DP grads take action against COVID-19

Aaron Goh Qi Yang and Klaus Tan are Diploma Programme (DP) graduates of Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) and have been friends and mentors to each other since their DP days. Since our first conversation, Aaron and Klaus started a project to work against the mounds of misinformation about COVID-19, called More Viral Than the Virus. The duo gathered volunteers from over 100 countries to craft their mission statement, which speaks to young people around the world with the goal of educating and informing the public about the current crisis.

Listen to the full interview on the IB Voices podcast

“We are leaders commissioned to create change”

Tell us a bit about More Viral Than the Virus.

Aaron: More Viral Than the Virus or MVTTV started off with Klaus and another friend of ours. Essentially, it’s an international campaign and right now we’ve got volunteers from over 100 countries! We really started with a letter that was written by medical students and our message was quite simple then. It was really just encouraging everybody to stay home and to follow the advice of the governments and of the World Health Organization (WHO). Gradually as time went by and the project advanced, I think we started taking on more projects and then involved to combating misinformation. So far, I would like to think that we’ve been quite successful in our outreach. We’ve been featured in the press in Singapore, Indonesia and Mexico. I think our biggest one we found was the Deutsche Press-Agentur (DPA) in Germany. I think estimated from all our social media outlets and our news outreaches, we’ve probably had at least seven million impressions throughout all these channels.

Aaron: I think that we really had two main goals when we were coming out with this project and the first one was to correct perceptions, especially among young people, about the seriousness of this pandemic. A lot of them weren’t taking the pandemic very seriously; I recall this video where I saw where a lot of youngsters were on a beach and they were celebrating their spring break and they were saying things like, “Oh, the coronavirus isn’t going to stop my spring break, I’ve worked really, really hard for this break”. I guess to an extent we do empathize with them, with the struggles of being a student, but at the same time, we also realized then the greater importance of considering public health and being socially responsible. The second thing that we wanted to do was really to combat misinformation. Again, as the pandemic evolves from week to week, so much changes and rather quickly. What was true yesterday may not necessarily be true the next week. We want to present the information that we have in a way that is readily understood, and we want it to stay relevant, especially to young people and youths who are active on social media. We feel that this is a message that needs to be heard by everyone, all around the world.

Klaus: There’s currently an overload of information in the media space, but what’s essential and important to stop the pandemic is lost amidst all this clutter. As youths ourselves, we felt that others were not respecting the regulations from government or the global authorities on this matter. On some level, there is a disconnect between the reality of the virus and the youths wanting to live their own lifestyles and normal circumstances.

Simple preventative measures to protect against COVID-19

Washing your hands frequently with soap for 20 seconds or hand sanitizer gel.

Wearing personal protective equipment or a homemade mask when running your essential errands.

Maintaining a distance of at least 6 ft or 2 m in public places to keep germs away.

Klaus: Most of our participants that contribute to this project are medical students themselves, given the expertise in understanding issues in the medical field a bit of creativity is needed and is at the heart of this project. We believe that this global involvement of representatives from more than 100 countries, including about 50 medical students from 50 countries, can provide diverse perspectives and reach this target market to inform them and better educate them on what they should do in such an uncertain time. There are two essential ways in which an individual can contribute to this situation and make it better. First way is by protecting themselves from getting infected and the second would be to prevent themselves from infecting others with the virus. Throughout this whole initiative, we urge people to be more reflective of their actions, and we make real the risks involved in simple things, like personal interests. For example, if they would want to go out in such a time like this, we advise them strongly against because it presents a risk to themselves and a risk to those around themselves.

Klaus: Also, we tried to encourage care and empathy because in a climate of isolation and lockdown, compassion has never been more necessary. We find that with all these isolation measures, human connection is gradually tapering off and many people find themselves lonely. So, extending a platform like this, which is helpful and advising them on how to go about daily issues and yet encouraging them to practice this essential human element of responsibility, would just make a better place to live in.

What skills have you learned in the IB helped you with this campaign?

Aaron: On my part, I think the two biggest skills from the IB learner profile, would probably be open-mindedness and communication. For open-mindedness, I think when you have a project on such a large scale involving so many people and everybody has their own incredible story to tell, based on the background, country, the school that they went to, everyone is going to have a different opinion

Aaron: I think for myself it’s really been so necessary to keep a broad perspective, to keep my mind open and be accepting of the different perspectives that people bring to the table. Bearing in mind that everybody really is trying to contribute to the overall good and the success of this project. And the second one being communication. I think quite naturally with big projects, it’s also very easy to get lost in such a big organization. But I think being mature young adults, we need to take that into account as well, and we need to do our very best to try and mitigate communication issues even before they crop up.

Klaus: For myself, I think the IB learner profile traits that really helped me was being knowledgeable, because when we are doing such a project, which involves the spreading of information rather than disinformation, we have to be really careful about what we’re disseminating and ensuring that our attempts to bust myths don’t create more myths instead. It definitely helps to read up lots on this new topic of the coronavirus and see how we can package those really complex ideas, the scientific workings behind it, and distill them down into simple actions to communicate to our target audience.

What’s next for MVTTV?

Aaron: I think one of the biggest things for our campaign right now is that we’ve just started a fundraiser to bring our volunteers from all around the world and the communities that we’ve reached out to together. We want to fundraise for the WHO at a time when this pandemic is really so far-reaching, and every country is affected. The need for multi-lateral international cooperation has never been more necessary. You can contribute and get involved by helping out our fundraiser here.

Aaron: The last thing that we’re doing is launching local movements. We’ve had some success launching a local chapter of More Viral Than the Virus in Mexico. Right now, the page is coming up to a thousand likes and over 4000 shares on one post alone. We are also always on the lookout for more volunteers can contribute their own special gifts, talents and skills and you know to switch things up with our project. If you like to get involved you can definitely reach out to us Instagram, Facebook or email. We’d definitely would be most happy to see how you could help out in what capacity!

What advice do you have for individuals pursuing their own passion project?

Klaus: Advancing this project to become something with global reach took lots of faith from my perspective. It involved setting an ambitious goal and putting in all efforts to achieving it, regardless of whatever comes your way that says that you might not be able to accomplish it. You still have to fix your eyes on the goal and stand firm in your conviction and, in the end, you will be able to get there. We are leaders commissioned to create change. So whatever strengths you have, use it to develop your project. And when you have exhausted all these strengths, find more people with different diverse strengths to get on board. They will compliment your skills and together you will be able to build something big that you are truly proud of.

Aaron: I think the first thing that’s important is that you need to know the why. Why are you doing this? This issue should get you so fired up and passionate about wanting to start something. I feel that once you have the conviction and the passion for that issue, the rest of it should come naturally. The commitment to drive the project forward even when it seems like you guys are going nowhere, because difficulties are inevitable in every project. The second thing is taking each opportunity that comes your way and work at it to the best of your ability. Sometimes you really don’t know where the opportunity is going to end up, but you won’t know if you don’t try.

aarongoh headshot

Aaron Goh Qi Yang graduated from the IB DP at Anglo-Chinese School (Independent), Singapore, in 2015. He reads Medicine at the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, Singapore. An accomplished medical student, his team emerged world champions at the inaugural Elsevier ClinicalKey Global Challenge in 2019, and his research has been presented in conferences both locally and overseas. You can connect with him here and @aarongohqy.

Klaus Tan is a graduate of the Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) institution in Singapore. He’s not your typical perfect scorer who’s only about academics—he’s also an established photographer, having worked with hospitality brands including Marriott and Hyatt while studying and holds a billion views on the photographs he takes. Passionate about leadership, he’ll choose to interact with people of all backgrounds anytime.


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