CHICAGO — These are children of the pandemic.
In the far-north Canadian town of Iqaluit, one boy has been glued to the news to learn everything he can about the coronavirus. A girl in Australia sees a vibrant future, tinged with sadness for the lives lost. A Rwandan boy is afraid the military will violently crack down on its citizens when his country lifts the lockdown.
There is melancholy and boredom, and a lot of worrying, especially about parents working amid the disease, grandparents suddenly cut off from weekend visits, friends seen only on a video screen.
Some children feel safe and protected. Others are scared. And yet, many also find joy in play, and even silliness.
Associated Press reporters around the world asked kids about living with the virus and to use art to show us what they believe the future might hold. Some sketched or painted, while others sang, danced ballet, built with LEGOs. A few just wanted to talk.
In the remote forests of northern California, one boy, a Karuk Indian, wrote a rap song to express his worries about how his tribe of just 5,000 will survive the pandemic.
Their worries are matched in many places by resilience and hope, for a life beyond the virus.This is life under lockdown, through the eyes of children.
Hudson Drutchas, 12, United States
Hudson Drutchas waited and worried as his mom and sister recovered from coronavirus, quarantined in their rooms. Just a few weeks earlier, he was a busy sixth-grader at Lasalle II, a public elementary school in Chicago. Then the governor issued a stay-at-home order.
Now, the soft-spoken 12-year-old receives school assignments by computer and looks to dog Ty and cat Teddy for comfort.
“Since I don’t get to see my friends a lot, they’re kind of my closest friends,” he says. He giggles when Teddy, now 9, snarls. “He sometimes gets really grumpy because he’s an old man. But we still love him a lot.”
When not doing schoolwork, Hudson jumps and flips on his trampoline and lifts himself around a doorframe outfitted so he can practice climbing, something he usually does competitively.
He knows he’s fortunate, with a good home and family to keep him safe, but it’s difficult to be patient. “It makes me feel sad that I am missing out on a part of my childhood,” he says.
When he draws his version of the future, Hudson makes a detailed pencil sketch showing life before the coronavirus and after.
The world before looks stark and full of pollution in the drawing. In the future, the city is lush with clear skies and more wildlife and trees.
“I think the environment might kind of, like, replenish itself or maybe grow back,” Hudson says.Still, he feels uncertain: “I’m worried about just how life will be after this. Like, will life change that much?”
Elena Moretti, 11, Italy
For Elena Moretti, the pandemic is not some faraway threat. Italy was the first European country to be hit by COVID-19, and her mother is a doctor in the public health system that has seen 27,500 personnel infected and more than 160 doctors dead nationwide.
Elena, 11, is afraid of the coronavirus. Whenever a package arrives in the mail, she brings it out onto the terrace and disinfects it with a spray-bottle soap solution she made herself.It’s a bottle, too, in Elena’s drawing, capturing the virus inside.
“The virus wanted to attack us, so instead of bringing us down, we counterattack and imprison it,” she said of her drawing.
That fighting spirit has helped Elena get through more than two months of lockdown. After an initial spell of sleeping late because her teachers hadn’t transitioned to remote learning, Elena now does schoolwork, karate and hip-hop lessons online.
Sometimes the internet connection goes out. But she’s still managed to keep in touch with friends, with some video chats lasting for hours. She’s also discovered a new hobby, baking sweets — apple tort, cupcakes and cream-filled pastry.
Now that Italy’s lockdown has begun to ease, Elena is starting to go out again, but the fear remains.
“I’m afraid it might spread even more and take all of us,” she said.
Lilitha Jiphethu, 11, South Africa
Lilitha Jiphethu has made a ball out of discarded plastic grocery bags to keep her amused during the lockdown. She and her four siblings play with that makeshift ball almost every day in a small scrub of ground that they’ve fenced off outside their home.
The 11-year-old screams as her brothers throw the ball at her. Then she laughs, picks up the ball and throws it back at them. This happens again and again.
Lilitha’s house is like hundreds of others in this informal settlement of families just outside Johannesburg, South Africa’s biggest city. It’s made of sheets of scrap metal nailed to wooden beams.
Like many children under lockdown, she misses her friends and her teachers and especially misses playing her favorite game, netball. But she understands why school is closed and why they are being kept at home.
“I feel bad because I don’t know if my family (can catch) this coronavirus,” Lilitha says. “I don’t like it, this corona.”
She prefers singing to drawing and chooses to sing a church song in her first language, Xhosa, as her way of describing the future after the pandemic. She misses her choir but takes comfort in the song’s lyrics.
She smiles as she begins. Her sweet voice drifts through the one-room home.
“I have a friend in Jesus,” she sings. “He is loving and he’s not like any other friend.
“He is not deceitful. He is not ashamed of us.
“He is truthful, and he is love.”
—Bram Janssen and Gerald Imray
Alexandra Kustova, 12, Russia
Hard times can have a silver lining. Alexandra Kustova has come to understand this during this pandemic.
Now that all her studies are conducted online, she has more time for her two favorite hobbies -- ballet and jigsaw puzzles. The 12-year-old also able to spend more time with her family and help her grandmother, who lives in the same building, two floors down at their apartment in Yekaterinburg, a city in the Urals, a mountain range that partly divides Europe and Asia
Together, they take time to water tomato plants and enjoy one another’s company. Time has slowed down.
“Before that I would have breakfast with them, rush out to school, come back, have dinner, go to ballet classes, come back -- and it would already be time to go to bed,” Alexandra says.
Ballet has been her passion since she was 8. Now she does classes at home and sends videos of her drills to the trainer, who gives her feedback.
The dance she shows for an AP reporter begins slowly and finishes with leaps in the air.
Just like the pandemic, Alexandra says, it is “sad in the beginning and then it becomes joyful.””I believe the end is joyful because we must keep on living, keep on growing,” she says.
Tresor Ndizihiwe, 12, Rwanda
No school. No playing with friends. Soldiers everywhere. That’s life during the coronavirus pandemic for Tresor Ndizihiwe, a 12-year-old boy who lives in Rwanda, one of seven brothers and sisters.
Their mother, Jacqueline Mukantwari is paid $50 a month as a schoolteacher, but she used to earn extra money giving private lessons. That business has dried up, and the family gets food parcels from the government twice a month.
The only regular outside time Tresor has is in a small courtyard next to his home.
“The day becomes long,” he says in his native tongue, Kinyarwanda. “(You) can’t go out there” — he indicates the world outside his house — “and it makes me feel really uncomfortable.”
Tresor draws a picture of the future that shows soldiers shooting civilians who are protesting, he says. He adds dabs of red paint next to one of those who has fallen.
“There is blood,” he says, “and some are crying, as you can see.”
It’s a stark image for a boy to produce. Rwanda was the first country in Africa to enforce a total lockdown because of the virus. It’s also a place where the security forces meant to be helping keep people safe have been accused of serious abuses of power.
Yet he wants to be a soldier.
Jacqueline says her son is a good student — “so intelligent.” She struggles to reconcile his own desire to join the military with the picture he has drawn.
—Daniel Sabiiti and Gerald Imray
Niki Jolene Berghamre-Davis, 11, Australia
When she doesn’t move enough, she doesn’t sleep well. So, Niki Jolene Berghamre-Davis tries to go hiking in the forest whenever possible during this global pandemic. Even in the best of times, that’s where the 11-year-old from Port Melbourne, Australia, feels most at home.
“She is our nature girl,” says her mother, Anna Berghamre.
Her mom wasn’t surprised when Niki Jolene drew a self-portrait of herself facing a grove of trees. Within the drawing, there are signs of caution.
“I have a face mask in my hand,” she says holding up the drawing, “because, well, I’ve just kind of taken it off, and I’m still aware.”
She says that falling leaves she included in the sketch symbolize the lives that have been lost in this pandemic.
Yet the roots of the trees — wide and prominent like those of the flowering red gum trees near her family’s townhome — represent “possibilities,” says the bubbly girl, known as “Snickers” to some of her friends. She smiles often, showing a full set of braces on her teeth.
“After this corona pandemic, after this will end, I think it will be much more full of life,” she says, throwing her arms up for emphasis. She hopes, for instance, that people will walk more and drive less because she’s noticed how people in her neighborhood have often done without their cars during the shutdown.
“I think people won’t take things for granted anymore.”