Digital photograph depicting 13-year-old Kofi Aden at home in the northern suburbs of Melbourne, Victoria, during the COVID-19 pandemic in November 2020. He is pictured sitting in his backyard writing his A4 'Gratitude Journal.' On this particular page Kofi is writing the final entry before he donated the journal to Museums Victoria. It reads:
'I am grateful that the museum has accepted my donation and will keep my Gratitude Journal, and a lot of people are gonna be able to see it and more important add things that they can improve or do in there day, from my experience. So thank you for accepting it. And now I'm going to hand my book to them.'
This is one of 18 photographs that were taken by Museums Victoria curator Catherine Forge to document the story of 13-year-old Kofi Aden's 'Gratitude Journal', which was donated to Museums Victoria in November 2020. This journal was completed during the COVID-19 pandemic in the months of July through to November 2020, when the State of Victoria was undergoing a series of staged restrictions, lockdowns, 'Stay at Home' mandates and closures of schools, businesses and non-essential services. The journal contains 66 days of handwritten entries that speak to Kofi's experience of the pandemic, including his thoughts on home-schooling, sport, healthcare, family life and the various things he felt grateful for each day during this challenging time.
Living with his family in the north-western suburbs of Melbourne, Kofi Aden had spent the first months of COVID-19 lockdowns at home with his two brothers, his father Abdi Aden (youth worker and public speaker) and his mother Angela Davies (aged care nurse). Like many children and teenagers across Melbourne, Kofi had grappled with the challenges of home-schooling, as well as missing his friends, classmates and regular social and sporting activities. Keeping a Gratitude Journal, for Kofi, became a way to stay focused: 'I am hoping to stay positive during this challenging time', he reflected, 'and I think the Gratitude Journal is a great way to do this.' Inspired by the theory that it takes 66 days to form a new habit, he decided to keep this journal for 66 days and share his entries with the general public to motivate others.
With the help of his father Abdi, Kofi uploaded his journal entries to a Facebook Group called 'The Kindness Pandemic.' This Facebook group was founded on 14 March 2020 by aged care advocate and academic Dr Catherine Barrett to support those impacted by COVID-19. The group grew to over 500,000+ thousands members in just two weeks, and became a virtual meeting place where Kofi could share his experiences with a wide online audience. From July to November 2020 his posts were reached by tens of thousands of people, sparking hundreds of conversations and inspiring many people to start writing their own journals. 'I decided to share the gratitude diary as I started to believe it would help everyone', Kofi reflected in November 2020: 'The response has been amazing; I loved reading everyone's messages, and especially their own gratitude journals.'
Beyond documenting Kofi's experience of day-to-day life during COVID-19 lockdowns, Kofi's Gratitude Journal also reflects a wider story of migration, cultural identity and community volunteerism. Kofi's daily gratitude reflections were inspired, in part, by his father Abdi Aden, who fled the Somalian civil war and sought asylum in Melbourne in 1992 at the age of 17. With no close friends or family, and limited English, Abdi worked hard to make a life for himself in Australia. His optimism and focus helped him graduate secondary school, and he went on to earn a tertiary qualification in community development. In 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic reached Australia, Abdi was working as a youth worker, community activist, motivational speaker and author, and quickly turned his energies towards supporting members of the Somali and refugee community through the challenges of lockdown. Kofi became involved in helping his father with providing mask-wearing tutorials (in both English and Somali language), food donations and relief packages to communities in need, including giving assistance to residents of the Flemington and North Melbourne towers during the hard lockdowns of nine public housing estates in Melbourne's inner-north in July 2020.
This is one of 18 digital photographs that were acquired alongside 13-year-old Kofi Aden's A4 Gratitude Journal in November 2020. This A4 journal and accompanying photographs provide a unique insight into the life of a teenager during the COVID-19 pandemic. Written in pen and pencil, and including hand-drawn illustrations, the journal covers a wide range of themes such as: home-schooling, recreation during lockdown, sport, community life, family relationships, volunteerism and participation in online communities such as Facebook.
Not only does this journal touch on issues pertaining to COVID-19; it also represents a family story of migration to Australia. Kofi's father Abdi Aden fled war-torn Somalia in the early 1990s and came to Australia as a refugee at the age of 17, where he started a new life in Melbourne, studied to become a youth worker and motivational speaker, married his wife Angela Davies and had three sons together. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Aden/Davies family turned their energies to advocating for the welfare of those in need, including refugees and members of the Somalian community. In writing his Gratitude Journal, Kofi reflected on how his father's refugee experience - as well as his mother's career as a nurse - had helped to shape his own understandings about the importance of gratitude and kindness.
Kofi Aden's A4 Gratitude Journal was acquired with the support of the Office of Suburban Development for the Museums in My Neighbourhood Project, and now forms part of the Collecting the Curve Collection. It will provide a lasting reminder of the experiences that teenagers and students went through during COVID-19, as well as representing a deeper family story of migration, cultural identity and community volunteerism.
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