A 15-year-old teen in Addison, Texas donated 11,000 masks to a local hospital using money she raised from crowdfunding and hopes the gesture helps dispel the bias against Asian Americans due to COVID-19.
After noticing the shortage of personal protective equipment in hospitals, Valerie Xu, a Greenhill School student, sprung into action by launching a crowdfunding campaign called Masks Matter on March 20.
Teen Donates 11K Masks to Hospital, Hopes to Dispel Bias Against Asian Americans amid Pandemic https://t.co/XgQEMICG28
— People (@people) April 28, 2020
“Especially in a first world country like the U.S., these things should not be happening and I think as people in this country, we have a civic duty to try and help these [first responders] any way possible,” Xu told People.
The need for more PPEs hit Xu in March after learning that a family friend who is an ER doctor had to reuse the same mask for weeks. It turns out that other doctors also had to reuse masks while treating patients.
“In order for a community to fight this virus, medical workers need to be safely protected,” she said.
A few weeks after launching the GoFundMe campaign, Xu was able to raise a total of $7,500. A partnered Asian American-run business in Dallas matched the campaign’s $3,130 earnings by adding another $3,130, and the remaining $1,240 was from her personal savings.
Xu was able to purchase 10,000 surgical masks and 1,200 FFP2 masks from a vendor in China. She enlisted the help of her mother and their family connections.
The teen admitted that she did not expect the campaign to become this big.
“Our goal was to at least have 5,000 masks, but when we slowly saw it climb… [we decided to] increase the number of masks. It was definitely a surprise, but I’m just so thankful to everyone who helped spread the message and contributed to my campaign,” she said.
On April 24, Xu personally went to UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas to deliver the masks.
“It means a lot to me because I want to try and inspire a lot of other Asian American women like me,” Xu said. “I just want to make a difference. I want to show others that Asian Americans are standing alongside health workers [and] are willing to help contribute.”
“Everyone in these hospitals — in this entire system — has been working day to night, and I’m just so thankful for all their work and I’m more than happy to do this.”
Xu said her efforts will continue and plans to donate masks to “whoever needs it.”
She also hopes that helping the front line workers will help quell the racism faced by Asian Americans in the U.S. amid the pandemic.
“I was in my neighborhood, just walking outside and I wasn’t even coughing or anything,” Xu recalls. “This lady was walking a few feet away from me, and when she saw me, she immediately covered her entire mouth and pinched her nose.”
“It was a shocker to me, especially since I’ve grown up in the U.S. It just made me realize that no matter how much I try to prove myself as an American, my skin color will always define me… [this] motivated me to speak out for my race and my community.”
The teen also wants everyone to know that any kind of help, no matter how big or small, can still make a difference.
“If there’s a need in your community, go for it,” she said. “I think a lot of people, especially my age, feel like young people cannot make a difference [but] I feel like no matter how small a contribution, it still makes a difference and means something.”
“Even if it is only giving ten doctors masks… it symbolizes something to your community, and it still makes a difference in the hearts of essential workers. Just go ahead and do it because these small actions add up to a large action that can help our community as a whole.”
Xu’s GoFundMe campaign has reached $3,735 out of its $5,000 goal.
Xu is one of many teens hoping to dispel bias against Asian Americans by contributing masks to struggling hospitals and healthcare workers.