Back in early March, before schools were closed for the rest of the year, before the Boston Marathon was postponed, before all non-essential businesses were closed due to coronavirus concerns, the Wellesley Chinese American Network (WECAN) organized a public meeting Titled, Protect Ourselves and Communities from COVID-19. The informational event was originally scheduled to take place at the Wellesley Free Library in the Wakelin Room. A standing-room only crowd was expected to be crammed into the 185-seat space.
As the meeting date drew closer, it became clear that such a gathering would not be in the best interest of public health. WECAN switched gears and changed the meeting to a Zoom format, something new for many people in town. The event quickly hit its attendance cap as residents signed up fast to hear what speaker Michael J. Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology and immunology and infectious diseases at the School of Public Health at Harvard had to say about COVID-19. At the meeting, the doctor spoke in detail about the highly contagious nature of coronavirus and ways in which residents could protect themselves and their families by following social distancing protocols.
Since that time WECAN, in partnership with the Wellesley Chinese Language School (WCLS), both local 501(c)(3) nonprofits, has continued to fight the pandemic through fundraising and donations of essential Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to both front-line workers and their Wellesley neighbors. The organizations are under the WeStar Alliance umbrella, a group of over 50 Chinese organizations formed to fight COVID-19.
WECAN volunteer Shengli Li said, “This terrible pandemic has been an extremely hard time for everyone. Luckily we can see the light at the end of the tunnel now, and hopefully we can come out of the dark soon.”
Before WECN focused its attention locally, group members had gained experience by helping medical workers in China.
Shengli Li noted that the group’s experiences sending aid to Wuhan during the early days of the pandemic was essential. “We realized how deadly the COVID-19 virus is through our experience in helping medical workers in Wuhan, so we acted swiftly preparing to procure PPE from China at the beginning of March when the sign of outbreak appeared in US.”
Getting hard-to-find PPE took two things: money, and connections.
To start, the group organized several fundraising events, which resulted in $12,300 in cash donations from the local Chinese American community. Of that amount, $8,000 was donated to Newton-Wellesley Hospital, and $3,000 went to the to VA Boston Healthcare System.
Through another fundraising effort, WECAN procured almost 14,000 face masks, purchased from the group’s vetted contacts in China. Those masks were donated to hospitals across greater Boston area as part of WeStar Alliance’s COVID-19 support program.
Group members even dug deep into their own medical supplies, sharing about 5,000 of their personally owned, unused face masks with local residents. In addition, they called on family and friends from China, who packaged up what they could spare and mailed what amounted to thousands of masks, gowns, gloves, and more off to the United States.
Sometimes, the Chinese community’s good deeds have not gone unpunished. Shengli Li said, “There have been numerous reports of racism, discrimination, and stigma against Asian Americans since the epidemic arrived in US. We were devastated to hear about those, but we put those aside and stepped up and worked harder to contribute our best for the betterment of society.”
She says it’s important to show that we are all in this together by keeping the focus on helping medical workers, first responders, and neighbors. “We can defeat the virus only when we support each other.”
More on the Wellesley Chinese American Network; the Wellesley Chinese Language School; and the WESTAR Alliance:
About the Wellesley Chinese American Network
Wellesley Chinese American Network (WECAN) is established on 2016, a federal registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The main mission is to promote and advance the cultural, social, political and economic well-being of Chinese Americans residing in the Town of Wellesley and its vicinity. For this coronavirus outbreak, WECAN has partnered with Weston WESTAR team in the effort of fundraising, purchasing and shipping the medical supply to Wuhan epidemic zone.
About the Wellesley Chinese Language School
The Wellesley Chinese Language School is founded on 2010, on the premise that everyone can learn Chinese, whether coming from a bilingual, “heritage” background or beginning Chinese as a monolingual adult. Our school strives to educate, challenge, and inspire Wellesley and its surrounding communities by presenting a quality curriculum incorporating Chinese language learning classes and Chinese cultural studies for both children and adults, thereby promoting cross-cultural understanding. We are an open and affirming community whose goal is to provide a positive learning experience to help students speak, read, and write. Our goal is to teach students to effectively communicate in Mandarin Chinese through learning Chinese culture.
About the WESTAR Alliance
Established at the beginning of 2020, WeStar Alliance is dedicated to fairness, justice, peace and humanity. More than 50 Chinese American associations in New England united to support fighting COVID-19. The Alliance was rapidly formed to collect donations and send the urgently needed medical supplies to the hospitals, police stations, senior homes, and other places with urgent need. The initiative also includes but not limited to watching the discriminatory situation for and offering support to the Chinese Americans, and help the Chinese American businesses survive during the pandemic. It also shares verified the pandemic related information with the community.
After the pandemic tapers off, the Alliance will help the people in need to restore their lives and businesses.
And our journey will continue.
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