“For better or worse, we are always here”

Alberto Volunteered to disinfect streets with his tractor after the onset of COVID-19 Spain, Laguna de Negrillos, León

Alberto has always worked in the best interest of his community. For him as an organic farmer, it essentially meant bringing quality food to the citizens of Laguna de Negrillos (León) and beyond. COVID-19 didn’t change much to his daily routine. Except maybe for one thing: He started working also on Sundays, causing his constant efforts to be put under the spotlight and even be noticed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). “We essentially kept working in the same way, but other farmers and myself came up with the idea of helping authorities disinfect streets and other possible public sources of contagions,” Alberto explains. “We presented this idea, and the government gave us the necessary guidelines.” Alberto soon gathered a team of volunteers. A single message was enough to convince them: "If we can collaborate and save or protect our elders from a possible infection, then let’s go ahead." Volunteers used their tractors where they could while doing the rest on foot, proving the strength of their commitment to supporting their community.

“Wholesale markets guaranteed a wide range of products despite the difficulties related to transportation and logistics”

Centro Agroalimentare Roma Ensured that all Romans had access to nutritious food during the lockdown Italy, Rome

The onset of COVID-19 took a toll on most things we once took for granted. Grocery shopping was perhaps the most blatant example: How do you get your daily food when you’re on lockdown and most shops are closed? In Roma, citizens could count on Centro Agroalimentare Roma. “We witnessed an increase in the demand for fruit and vegetables,” a consortium members says. “Our neighbourhood markets never stopped working and we could provide basic, regional commodities to those who stayed at home.” The consortium even took a step further. Seeing how part of the population lacked the resources to buy enough nutritious food, they partnered with local groups and services to donate as many as 2 million portions of food in March and April 2020 alone. Their efforts were coordinated online under the hashtag #TogetherWeWillDoThis and were recently highlighted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

“Migrant children need our support now more than ever”

Younes and Brooks Adapted his work as educational assistant to help vulnerable families throughout the crisis. Morocco, Oriental and Tanger-Tétouan areas

Younes welcomes children in need of educational guidance, supports them and helps them find a school. His day-to-day work, funded under the the “Hijra Wa Himaya” project, was always essential. But COVID-19 made it even more challenging than it already was. Brooks benefitted from the project’s help. He is 10 and started benefitting from Younes’ help in February. Despite the lockdown, he got to learn French during the summer. "I received a tablet with an Internet connection. I could do my homework just like my friends, and Younes even helped me study," he rejoices. This crisis only makes our work more important,” Younes notes. “We took urgent measures to provide direct assistance, online and phone support for children, as well psycho-social support by phone." Besides this project, the EU and UNICEF also reoriented another programme to improve single mothers’ rights and autonomy. The EU-funded programme via the Institut National de Solidarité now supports 250 single mothers impacted by the crisis, some of them with babies.

“We have so many talents, so let’s use them now and here”

RolliGang group: Alexander, Benny, Johannes, Orazio and Sarah Wrote and composed a song encouraging heroes across Germany to step up Germany, Munich

We’ve all felt down at some point during this crisis. Being on lockdown, losing a job, cancelling the plans of a lifetime or – worst of all – losing close friends or family members to the virus, there are so many reasons to give in to despair. But there is one thing we can never forget: Some of us have had to live through such difficulties way before COVID-19. In Germany, Alexander, Benny, Johannes, Orazio and Sarah know a thing or two about crises. They spent their lives struggling with disability. In these uncertain times, they decided to join forces and help the rest of us cheering up with a new song of their group “RolliGang”. “It’s all about humanity, it is the only way. Those who care for others are the heroes of the day,” the song goes. It’s a moving ode to kindness, hope, justice and unity, one that resonates with the efforts of countless heroes across Europe. The song, called “Wir schaffen diese Krise” (“We will overcome”), is available on Youtube.

“I needed to show the good that came out of this very difficult period”

Danijela Directed a movie showing the work of three women who volunteered during the crisis Croatia, Zagreb

Residents of Zagreb had a very tough time in March. Not only did COVID-19 strike unexpectedly with the consequences we’ve all experienced, but the city was also the epicentre of an earthquake that left only devastation in its wake. Old buildings were completely destroyed, public transports were stopped, and people were left without a roof over their heads. Danijela saw this situation and thought it was time to show something positive. “There are women in this country who selflessly share their knowledge and time, volunteering in social engagement initiatives. My movie ’Women can do it!’ is about them. It follows three women helping society during the coronavirus outbreak, from 24 April to 10 May. It shows how citizens acted and provided assistance to those in need in this unbelievably difficult period," she explains. The 22-minute movie is available on Youtube.

“I hope we are now on the steady path to recovery”

Viri Saw in the lockdown an opportunity to make her restaurant even better Spain, San Román de Candamo, Asturias

For restaurant owners across Europe, COVID-19 was kind of an emotional rollercoaster. Viri, who was forced to close her restaurant “El Llar de Viri” as the lockdown became effective in Spain, knows this all too well. “The decision to close all restaurants caught us completely off guard, we just couldn’t believe it. We went through many different phases. The first was uncertainty, followed by bewilderment. Then there is this phase where you’re unable to stand still anymore and just want to do something,” she explains. Viri made the most of this new mindset. She began preparing food packages for clients and kick-started a vegetable garden. “We’re now 0 minutes away from our ingredients,” she enthuses. After a successful reopening, Viri has never been so happy to see the friendly faces of her most loyal customers. She’s still wary of the future, but will surely enjoy every little moment spent with them like never before.

“We all want to help to the best of our ability”

Marc, Patrick and Nader Created essential tools to prevent the virus from spreading. Malta, Ireland and Italy

Europe needed all its bright minds in these troubled times, and seeing how promptly they came up with great ideas is astonishing. The University of Malta for instance, devised a prototype unit to disinfect respirators. “The machines are relatively simple to build, low-cost and can be quickly built in large numbers,” Marc explains.

In a suffering Italy, hospitals received much appreciated help from Nader and his 3D-printing start-up. The team turned snorkelling masks into PAP masks and delivered these, along with face shields, across the country.

Help also came in Ireland, where Patrick had been distilling whiskey and gin. “When we learned that sanitizers were out of stock in the Northwest of Ireland, we shifted our production. We supplied sanitizers to pharmacies, medics, shops and charities,” he recalls.

Thanks to all these efforts, the EU can focus on the production of vaccines and preparedness for future outbreaks, to which it has dedicated a total of EUR 314 million.

“I'm doing this for my mother and all mothers who've been scared and isolated over this time”

Melanie, Daniel, Anni and Marios Went over and above the call of duty to help fellow doctors and patients during the crisis Malta, Finland, Cyprus

COVID-19 showed us how doctors across Europe would do anything to help in these difficult times. The first thing they could offer was their knowledge. In Malta, Melanie produced a series of videos explaining concepts constantly discussed in the news but rarely explained in detail. In one of her videos, the specialist cardiologist explains terms such as “flattening the curve” in understandable terms for everyone. In Finland, Anni used Instagram to answer people’s questions and she quickly amassed 25 000 followers. Meanwhile, Daniel (Gozo) and Marios (Cyprus) took meaningful actions to help fellow workers on the front line. Daniel used his Facebook account to thank everyone who donated food and supported frontliners including him as a nurse. Marios took to Facebook to announce he was coming out of retirement to resume his medical career and his heartfelt reasons for doing so. He’s not the only one who did so: many Members of the European Parliament did the same thing for the duration of the outbreak.

“It is time to show solidarity between citizens”

Yasmina Provides free meals to people who most need it The Netherlands, Rotterdam

Yasmina and her friends initiated the Freshtable venture in January 2020. The concept: preparing healthy, organic and sustainable meals to customers and getting them ready for pick-up at a defined time and place. Little did they now then that COVID-19 would reinforce the need for similar initiatives. During the outbreak, Freshtable provided work opportunities to refugees and even started delivering free meals to older people most hit by the crisis. “We sought various ways to support vulnerable people,” Yasmina explains. “In May, we ran the 'Share A Meal' campaign which donated meal packages to those in need. We primarily targeted the likes of women shelters and vulnerable large families in Rotterdam. Our intention is to keep helping whoever we can, and our customers can even purchase a meal for someone in need.” Freshtable received EU funding under the European Solidarity Corps initiative, which creates opportunities for young people to volunteer or work in solidarity projects.

“Our AI-based chatbot has screened millions of citizens for COVID-19 symptoms”

Jama Provides millions of people worldwide with AI-based COVID-19 screening through his company Symptoma Austria, Attersee

The Austrian start-up Symptoma has invested 14 years of research into their digital health assistant, and is demonstrating just how valuable this certified medical device can be during COVID-19. Just go to symptoma.com, enter your symptoms, answer a few questions, and you'll receive a score. The higher the score, the likelier the responder is to have contracted the virus. “Symptoma.com is probably the first and only AI-based chatbot to screen citizens for COVID-19 risk,” says Jama. “The chatbot is available in over 36 languages and identified COVID-19 risk with 96.32% accuracy.” The test is available for free and is fully anonymous. Doctors can confidently use it to prioritise resources on the most urgent cases, while health authorities and researchers can gain insights into the disease and respond accordingly. Symptoma.com has received funding by the European Commission, under Horizon 2020’s SME Instrument. You can read more about their study, currently under peer-review, at symptoma.com/covid-19.

“My business received help thanks to the EU”

Isabel Kept her business alive thanks to EU help Spain, Cabo de Palos

On 13 March the Spanish region of Murcia closed its borders to try and contain the spread of coronavirus. With that very necessary step came a complete and sudden halt to the tourist industry on which the area thrives. As the owner of a diving centre, Isabel Laguardia was particularly hard hit. She had to close the centre and put on hold all her plans to employ staff for the usually busy Easter holiday and summer season. The EU acted quickly to help protect small businesses like Isabel’s. New legislation made the rules on state aid more flexible. The Spanish government can now offer businesses financial support more quickly so they can avoid laying off staff during the coronavirus outbreak. Such rules enable Member States to take swift and effective action to support citizens and companies, in particular small businesses, facing economic difficulties due to COVID-19. All Member States will be able to set up schemes to grant up to EUR 800 000 to a company to address its urgent needs.

“We help entrepreneurs whose operations have been fundamentally disrupted by the COVID-19 health crisis”

Claudine Launched the #JobSwitch platform with her colleagues at the Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce Luxembourg, Luxembourg

While some companies had to close down due to COVID-19, others were overwhelmed by demand. To balance these needs, Claudine and her colleagues at the Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce launched the #JobSwitch platform. “We had a dedicated hotline for businesses. We answered their concerns, provided them with information in real time, and provided a tool that enabled staff from a workplace that had closed to take on employment with another business that was short of staff,” Claudine explains. Running until the end of April, the platform was a great success. Some 1 400 candidates applied, and over 500 people found new jobs. Besides #JobSwitch, the Chamber of Commerce also launched a support programme for entrepreneurs, along with a bank guarantee for businesses in financial difficulty.