6th May 2020   •   opinion
The Coronavirus is a huge threat to desis. Here's how we plan to prepare - join us

I've been covering and writing about British Asians for nearly 20 years. And in all that time, I've never been worried more about the welfare of our communities and families than now.

The Coronavirus is ravaging the world. But for the desi diaspora it brings unique challenges and dangers. We need to prepare for what's coming next

The Coronavirus is more likely to affect people in cities and metropolitan areas, people who work in the NHS and other frontline jobs, people who have large families at home and go to packed places of worship, people with diabetes and heart disease. It is more likely to affect people like us. New research shows it is hitting people of Asian and African origin much harder .

But we have other challenges too. Our families face an avalanche of confusing news, fake cures, people trying to make money or whipping up communal tensions - from WhatsApp. It's an epidemic and at a time like this - it can cost lives.

The end of the lockdown isn’t the end of this crisis. It’s just the end of the beginning. This crisis could last years until a vaccine is found. So we need to get prepared and fight this together.

Our plan

From today Barfi Culture is relaunching with a new ‘Coronavirus’ focus. We want to show how useful, necessary and effective community - focused media can be.

We want to offer public service journalism that helps people, and isn’t just there for business interests.

We want to share all the positive stuff that is happening in our communities in response: the charity work, acts of kindness and even the funny memes. But we need to do more than that.

Here’s what we actively plan to do at Barfi Culture:

  • Tackle misinformation and myths about Coronavirus with videos and cards

  • Offer useful advice (on wellness, health, coping indoors and exercises) that people can use and apply.

  • Show how others are coping and being affected.

  • Create informational videos

We plan to do this in multiple South Asian languages so our elders can also engage with it too.

'Why should we trust you?'

I get this asked a lot and it's an important question. Journalists don't have a great reputation right now and it's important not to blindly trust anything you see on the internet.

We plan to earn trust in several ways. Firstly, we will give people more space to challenge our reporting. We believe in free speech and constructive criticism. We will also be more open with our reporting and say what we are focusing on and how we did a story. Thirdly, we plan to be as inclusive as possible in our team so we incorporate a range of views.

We recognise how important it is to gain the trust of our readers and be open and truthful in our work above all else.

We are from our communities and for our communities. Always.

Who is involved? Can others help?

Yes, you can help too! We want to do this by involving as many people as possible - by creating a platform so people can connect, share and learn from each other.

Join our Facebook Group. That is where we will come first to engage readers and crowd-source info. You can also start discussions there, ask questions and offer your ideas.

I am working with a team of people that includes journalists Minreet Kaur and Sadia Humayun, columnist Mita Mistry and many more. We are building a team of people to tackle this emergency. This includes many of the old Barfi Culture admins too. We have regular Slack discussion channel for journalists too. If you want to join us, email me.

You could also help by:

  • Alerting us to dodgy claims about the virus.

  • Translating useful information to different languages

  • Doing videos offering skills or information that may be useful to others.

  • Engaging us with ideas or helping us with articles and information

You can get in touch with us: email: news@barficulture.tv - or tweet at us @barfi_culture

I want to emphasise this again: we don’t know how the Coronavirus will change the world yet, but this won’t be over as quickly as many think. The impact could be huge and possibly devastating.

We have to prepare and community media can play a big part in that effort. If you want to play your part too then get involved.
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Sunny Hundal has been a journalist and commentator since 2004. He is editor-in-chief of Barfi Culture
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Barfi Culture is a news-magazine on people of South Asian heritage living in Europe and North America. We don't cover South Asia directly.
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