Saturday Sep 05, 2020
Reopening schools as various countries around the world relax the coronavirus lockdown measures has caused many a parent a tonne of worry as kids are quite the opposite of concerned and may often fail to understand the seriousness of a pandemic.
In fact, a few weeks ago, someone on Twitter raised a concern about how children may end up swapping their favourite superhero-themed mask with their friends — something kids do with a lot of their possessions, including stationery, pencil cases, ties, etc.
It did not take long to come true. Almost three weeks later, a young woman spoke of how a former classmate was panicking "because her son came home from his first half day of school wearing a different mask than she sent him there in".
And, so, comes in a Karachi-based healthcare professional with her new book aimed at teaching children the risks that the novel coronavirus poses and how important it is to heed the precautions and standard operating procedures (SOPs) against COVID-19.
Brightly-coloured, with absolutely adorable and relatable illustrations, Maheen Dhanani's Momo Discovers Coronavirus aims to "act as a tool for parents and teachers to engage with their children and, together, cope with the various stressors of the COVID-19 pandemic".
A specialist in health services administration and graduate of the Florida International University, Dhanani tells Geo.tv that she felt it was her duty to pen a guide for parents and children to tackle the COVID-19 crisis in an exciting — and less stressful — manner.
The young professional tells Geo.tv about how a lot of social stigma, as well as a lack of resources and advocacy for mental health in Pakistan has "sidelined this very pivotal debate" — coronavirus and the impact on mental health.
Citing the World Economic Forum (WEF), she explains how "99% of the world’s children are living under some sort of movement limitations due to the pandemic". Such restrictions have, unsurprisingly, caused "children to experience feelings of stress, helplessness, and loneliness".
"This book should also allow children to further communicate their own concerns about the uncertainty and psychological challenges of this pandemic and provides a platform to address the psychological concerns that can easily be ignored," she notes.
In fact, she has had a close brush with the virus herself as many of her friends and a couple of family members ended up contracting it. "There came a point in which it wasn't a question of 'if' we would contract the virus, rather it was about 'when' we would get it," she says.
Dhanani, who also works as a project manager at DoctHers, a marketplace connecting women healthcare practitioners to millions of patients in real-time, thinks Pakistan needs more fun ways to help educate children on such important matters.
"This book takes a fun approach on a big reality we are facing today," she adds.
Interestingly, she speaks fondly of the main character, Momo, because it is based on her pet cat. "Momo is actually the name of my own cat," she says. "I thought it would be nice to incorporate him as a main character in the story.
"Momo the cat explains how children can protect themselves, their families, and their friends from coronavirus, and how to manage difficult emotions when confronted with a new and rapidly changing reality."
—Dhanani's book "Momo Discovers Coronavirus" is available on Amazon Kindle and Liberty Books