On Saturday, advocacy organization Global Citizen had one simple request for the world: stay at home. Stay at home so that we can recognize the efforts of frontline workers — health professionals, grocery store employees, delivery workers — who currently do not have the same luxury. Stay at home, Global Citizen said, and we’ll make it worth your while by throwing an epic online and broadcast event with A-list stars, interviews with health professionals, and touching footage of people coming together around the world to make daily life under COVID-19 a little bit easier.
The event, “One World: Together at Home,” was curated by Lady Gaga, who gathered a stellar line-up of celebrities and performers, describing her vision as a “love letter to the world.” The idea was to show a global audience exactly how healthcare workers at the frontlines of the pandemic are faring, and how the World Health Organization (WHO) is leading the global response to combat the virus. While Global Citizen was insistent that Saturday’s event was not a “telethon,” celebrities and others gently urged viewers to support the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for WHO throughout the program, and to advocate for health workers throughout the world.
“COVID-19 has taken so much from us, but it has also given us a unique opportunity to put aside our differences, to break down barriers, to see and seek the best in each other, and to lift our voices for health for all,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO.
The event was broken down into an initial six-hour online segment streamed on major platforms including Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Amazon Prime, and a two-hour evening special on major networks NBC, ABC, and CBS, hosted by Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, and Jimmy Fallon. There was something for everyone: fans of the timeless greats could tune in to classics from Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones jamming together in a Zoom concert, or Elton John on his outdoor piano. Others were raring for Billie Eilish’s soulful cover of Bobby Hebb’s “Sunny;” Beyoncé’s message about the impact of COVID-19 on African-American communities; and Lizzo’s uplifting take on Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come.” (We hope so too, Lizzo.)
While viewers might’ve tuned in for the entertainment, they stayed for the stories of kindness. There are the elementary school teachers surprising their students with house calls just to say ‘hello;’ celebrities like Tyler Perry who paid off the grocery store bills of senior citizens; and retired doctors like Judy Salerno who went back to work to fill the shortage in healthcare workers.
These random acts of kindness can be mood boosters, according to psychiatrist Dr. Sue Varma, who alongside actress Kerry Washington, spoke about the importance of mental health and emotional well-being during the crisis.
“Don’t forget to laugh, express gratitude, and offer someone help,” said Dr. Varma. “We’re in this together and we will get through this together.”
Because of strict social distancing and quarantine rules, nurses and doctors often have to fill in for family members. Mount Sinai doctor Sanam Ahmed said, “If you can’t hold your mom’s hand, I’m there to hold her hand. We’re all there for them.”
Comfort, advice, and celebrity messages were blended with musical performances that were suitably global that included Hussain Al Jassmi from the United Arab Emirates, Juanes from Colombia, Burna Boy from Nigeria, and boy band SuperM from South Korea.
Comedian Jack Black reminded us that it’s also important during these times to flatten another curve, pointing to his belly. He demonstrated a couple of quick push-ups, some “whatever you call these” (properly known as bicycle crunches), jumped a few times on the trampoline, dove into the swimming pool, and then went straight for the pint of ice cream in his fridge, showing us the true meaning of moderate exercise.
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We remain grateful to our friends at Global Citizen, with whom we have been working for several weeks to secure commitments to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for WHO of approximately $55m. In addition, Global Citizen raised approximately $72m for local relief efforts. That’s what solidarity looks like!
At the end of the night, the show closed with a rendition of “The Prayer,” featuring Celine Dion, Andrea Bocelli, Lady Gaga, Lang Lang, and John Legend. Together, they sang the wishes of many:
“Lead us to a place
Guide us with your grace
To a place where we’ll be safe.”
Every donation makes a difference. Support WHO’s life-saving efforts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic by giving to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund. Donations made via Facebook will be matched up to $10,000,000. Through June 30, 2020, for every $1 you donate here, Google.org will donate $2, up to $5,000,000.