Read the healing and heartbreaking stories at Image Credit: Supplied

The year 2020 will always be associated with the year of the pandemic, says Dubai resident Bettina Tauro. "But the virus is not the centre of our lives, it’s how we responded to that threat – rationally and emotionally. That is what needs to be documented, shared and revisited." Tauro talks about her online self-publishing initiative Humans of 2020 and how it has helped her heal and cope with personal loss. "I hope the stories continue to inspire us in different ways," she says.

Business Bay-resident Bettina Tauro with her family Image Credit: Supplied

What made you launch the Humans of 2020 initiative?

In July 2020, I lost my mother to Covid-19 while she was in India. Unable to travel, we watched the funeral via video from Dubai. As it happened, I felt deep sorrow that I could not be with my mum during her final days. We held a service for her online, our friends and family from across the world joined us to celebrate her life. Many shared their memories and stories. It filled my heart with joy to know how much mum was loved, the many lives she touched and the incredible legacy she leaves behind. There was collective healing for all to tell and share stories as we came together during an unusual time.

In late September, as the lockdown was lifted, I met a small group of friends over dinner. A friend emphatically said, “I’ve written 2020 off.” That struck a nerve. I knew at that time that if we were to ignore 2020, we’d be losing out on a huge opportunity to record an extraordinary time in our lives. That’s how was born: A platform to share one’s experiences, learnings and stories from 2020.

What has been the effect of the pandemic on you?

The pandemic unfolded an unfamiliar world, and each of us had to find a way to navigate through a disruptive time. I think it changed something within us all. There was so much happening beyond our control. The only thing I could control was my reaction to the chaos around, and I focused on that. It was not easy but what I realised was that there is freedom in accepting the things one cannot change and power in doing what one can and it’s important to be in the present. Anxieties and expectations all dissipate when one is in the present – the ‘now’ is a beautiful oasis that everyone has unrestricted access to.

What kind of stories have been posted on this platform?

There are so many beautiful stories on the platform. Every story is unique and yet connected by the incredible human spirit shining through. Each of these stories inspire, comfort and remind us that we’re all in this together. The truth is, 2020 cannot be a single story of the pandemic because there are billions of stories of hope, courage, innovation, and perseverance. It is the triumph of the human spirit that we don’t want to miss out on. Every story shared is a chance for one to feel less alone. We hope that this is the last pandemic we see in a long time to come but should there be one now or later, we hope humansof2020 can be the place to come to when you need to navigate an unknown world. Each story shared on this platform inspires us in so many ways. There have been people who have made a new beginning, pursued their passion and reinvented themselves, and those who have dealt with so much grief - it is deeply inspiring.

What kind of feedback have you had from people?

People have confessed that writing about their experiences has been therapeutic and even cathartic. Putting down an experience in words is a way to articulate a lot of emotions, and that helped a lot of people. The interesting thing is, some people even found that in the process of writing their past, they were able to get a clearer vision of the future. For some, the reason to write was to own their experience and share the lessons learnt. For others, it was about creating a memory capsule that they (or their children) could visit several years later. For a few, it’s a place where they can lighten the burden of carry a story. In all cases, those who have shared their stories have come away feeling they’ve given back and are humbled by the love they’ve received from those who’ve read their experience. In just a few weeks, the number of unique visits to the website have grown exponentially, and I’m frankly amazed by the number of visitors on the platform!