France’s COVID vaccine rollout was off to a rocky start, so twenty-five tech-savvy teenage leaders of Chabad’s CTeen network stepped up. The teens are helping seniors book vaccine appointments, earning high praise from the national Ministry of Youth.
By Mussi Sharfstein – Lubavitch.com
France launched its COVID vaccine to a rocky start. Shortages and delivery issues, the suspension of AstraZeneca shots, and mandatory pre-vaccination consultations contributed to a slow, frustrating rollout. Seniors wanting to be vaccinated must book an appointment on an online portal, where the limited number of slots are taken the minute they become available. The complex process leaves many people struggling to find and secure appointments.
So twenty-five tech-savvy teenage leaders of Chabad’s CTeen network stepped up. The organization has been assisting seniors and homebound throughout the pandemic, and now they’re helping those who want to get the vaccine, book appointments.
“We opened a call hotline for seniors country-wide,” says Rabbi Mendel Mottal, director of CTeen France. “And we trained the teens to navigate the national vaccine website. They learned the most effective times to sign up, how to find the best clinics in each city, and what information they’d need to collect from the callers. They have the patience to keep refreshing the page and inputting the information until they secure an appointment.”
Since the hotline opened a little over a month ago, the phone hasn’t stopped ringing. Mottal says they’ve helped over 700 people book appointments all over the country. “Even doctors are sending their patients to us so we can help them reserve a slot.”
Orel Azoulay,a high school senior in Paris, directs the volunteer Whatsapp group. “When someone leaves a message on our hotline with their information, it’s posted on the group and then one of us volunteers will be assigned to book that appointment.”
The feedback is consistently positive. “The people we help are so thankful, it’s heartwarming to hear. It makes you feel good,” says Orel. The initiative has been widely reported by Jewish news outlets around the country and the group even received recognition from the national Ministry of Youth. “We are delighted that your initiatives continue to advance, with the energy of all the young people in your movement,” wrote Benoît Coquille, the ministry’s policy advisor.
Like the vaccine effort, most of the initiatives and programs offered by France’s CTeen network are run by the teens themselves. Orel manages the organization’s Instagram account. Lucie Goldberg, 15, another vaccine volunteer from Gif-sur-Yvette, writes and collects content for their blog and magazine. She joined CTeen a year ago and is now one of the driving forces behind their programming. “CTeen was an eye-opener for me,” she says. “This group allows me to take more interest in Judaism, to give to others, and gives me so much positive energy.”
Orel says he’s honored to have a part in enabling families to reunite with their parents and grandparents after distancing so long. “Protecting our elders is a great mitzvah and I believe it is important for young people to be involved in our community—especially now, when people feel so isolated.”
Reprinted with permission from Lubavitch.com