The Washington Youth for Masks initiative started by Angelina Chin, an Issaquah High junior, is raising funds and securing personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline medical professionals in their battle against COVID-19.
Chin founded the initiative on March 29 with three of her friends, Claire Kang, Faith Lee, and Isha Rudramurthy, all belonging to Issaquah High.
In just five days, the number of teens involved grew to about 200 student representatives from all over Washington, belonging to over 20 different schools and counties. All the youth involved have a penchant for giving back to the community and a genuine interest to help. The team is suspected to continually grow in the following weeks, as they’ve also partnered with TeamUnited, a youth-led nonprofit organization dedicated to providing free educational support (such as tutoring) during the quarantines.
Chin revealed to NextShark that each representative is responsible for “starting their own local projects to benefit the cause. Many have already started, including creating small businesses, offering virtual tutoring, virtual music lessons, writing articles to spread awareness, and much more.”
As an avid supporter of health and the community, Chin is no stranger to philanthropic endeavors. Her deep involvement with the Issaquah Highlands Chinese Heritage Club is what helped secure roughly 50,000 surgical masks from the Well Klein factory and other FDA-approved factories in China. However, it requires $25,000 to deliver to Washington. The impressive feat is documented on the WA Youth for Masks GoFundMe page.
“We cannot solely rely on state and federal agencies to distribute masks, as time is critical,” the page says. “Instead, we have the ability to get these supplies to our healthcare workers within 5-7 days. “
It promises complete transparency in the technicalities of how they are sourcing the masks, ensuring every dollar donated is put towards purchasing them while including screenshots of FDA certifications and legal documentation of the PPEs’ legitimacy. The teens have also included their Facebook page where they will be posting updates including photos and receipts of the transactions and donations to which hospitals.
The page cites a King5 News article covering Washington’s current danger to healthcare workers stating, “The Washington State Nurses Association (WSNA), which represents nearly 20,000 workers, said it’s hearing from concerned members– nurses being told to reuse papers masks, being instructed to not wear masks unless there is a confirmed coronavirus case and being told to re-use face shields without guidance on proper cleaning.”
Chin and her board members acknowledge the severity of the virus and it’s because of their extended families living in China, Korea, and India, who’ve given them an understanding of the pervasive spread, and then those same friends and family members working in the hospitals shared news of PPE shortages. The page continues, “As the outbreak separates our community in a trying time, we want to encourage unity and togetherness to battle the divisions that this pandemic has caused.”
As possibly one of the first youth-led initiatives against COVID-19 in Washington, Chin expresses one of the organization’s main messages: “along with helping collect materials, is to spread awareness to other youth about the risks to their health and their key role in stopping the spread.”
So far, they have raised over $15,000 and purchased the first two shipments of roughly 20,000 masks, to be distributed around Washington. The GoFundMe’s update on April 8 added another 10,000 masks to the total. The PPEs will be distributed to Harborview Medical Center, UW Medical Center, EvergreenHealth Medical Center of Kirkland, and Swedish Hospital of Issaquah. They also vow to continue their efforts should they raise more money than their original goal of $25,000 by purchasing more masks and distributing them to other hospitals.
“Many young people remain willfully ignorant of the pandemic, refusing to sacrifice their day-to-day social interactions with the belief that the issue is not as severe for them,” Chin told NextShark. “However, this initiative is aimed against that, spreading awareness that young people should follow social distancing guidelines. This is EVERYBODY’S fight, and if we come together as a collective unity, I believe we can do our part to beat the virus.”
Chin calls for unity at a time when the virus is prevalent beyond race and ethnicity.
“We feel now is the most important time for everyone to come together and see humanity first.”
Donate to the Washington Youth for Masks initiative’s GoFundMe page and learn about all it is that this collective of teens has taken on to contribute to the lack of PPEs for frontline healthcare workers.
Images via Angelina Chin, WAYouthForMasks