Weiman Kow: Spreading Covid-19 Info Through Comics

For the founder of Comics for Good, the medium can help both young and old better understand complex social advocacy topics.

Weiman Kow: Spreading Covid-19 Info Through Comics

Full-time UX designer and part-time illustrator Weiman Kow started sharing her comics to help spread information regarding Covid-19 through Comics for Good in January. Entirely self-funded and supported by volunteer translators and artists from the world over, Comics for Good makes available Kow’s works — that are based on interviews with doctors and Ministry of Health guidelines — free to use for educational purposes. Her comics have been translated into 43 languages, such as Korean, Vietnamese, Mexican and Portuguese. Support Comics for Good with a donation here.   

How did you come to start Comics for Good?
I had the idea for Comics for Good in 2015, when the MERS epidemic happened. It was meant as a series of comics for the public to get them educated on infectious diseases such as Ebola and bird and swine flu. I created the Facebook page and had begun on a draft but never finished it.

Now, together with a team, we can collect and curate social advocacy comics on Comics for Good and turn it into a one-stop spot for people who seek to understand complex social topics. We’re also planning workshops to explain these topics and, with enough funding, hire comic artists from around the region to create explainer info comics on social issues exacerbated by Covid-19.

Your comics present information about the coronavirus in an easy and friendly format that suits readers of all ages.
I thought if I made the comics fun and simple enough for kids to understand the information easily, then it would be for everyone too. Most of us are already stressed out trying to navigate our lives amid the pandemic and have little time or energy to evaluate all the information out there.

I’ve had great responses from readers the world over, including one from Turkey whose 78-year-old grandmother found it useful. One parent shared how it was difficult to find the right resources to help talk to her kids about the pandemic, but the comics made it much easier because the illustrations were bright, delightful and friendly. The comics even got kids excited about washing their hands, according to a teacher who sent me a video of her students at it while singing Happy Birthday after reading my comic. I was so touched, I cried.  

How has Covid-19 accelerated the evolution of Comics for Good?
I’ve been reading, creating and collecting explainer comics on pertinent social issues for many years, but wasn’t confident that it was useful or interesting enough to the general public to share it under Comics for Good. The response of readers from different parts of the globe help bring the purpose of what I do into sharp focus for me. Hospitals, governments, schools, offices and NGOs the world over were requesting to use my comics in their physical locations, training materials and social media sites.

I’m pleased that there is increasing recognition of the power of the comics medium to make serious topics engaging and appealing. Interestingly, I also stumbled on research on the effectiveness of comics for public health communication. Between this and my own experience, I am now convinced that Comics for Good has a need to serve.

Your most important takeaway from 2020?
To live a meaningful life, starting by maintaining my health. I’ve always pushed myself in work, causes and personal projects, but was forced to rethink my priorities when I became sick in early 2020. I now focus on not just getting back to where I was in terms of health, but also to become stronger by taking time out for exercise. I’m learning to work towards my goals in a sustainable way.

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