REGION – A community of Chinese Americans in San Diego is making its mission to protect healthcare workers from the threat of COVID-19, distributing thousands of articles of personal protective equipment across the county.
Based in San Diego, the American Chinese Culture and Education Foundation (ACCEF) has so far donated about 5,000 N95 masks and 8,000 FDA Class II surgical masks to San Diego hospitals – with many more on the way.
In partnership with other local organizations, the nonprofit distributed this equipment to Sharp, Palomar Health, Scripps Health, Kaiser, UCSD, Alliance Health Clinic, Father Joe’s Village and more. Now the group is setting its sights on helping lower-income communities, as well as other cities across the country struggling to keep up with the spread of the virus.
Jing Cai, an ACCEF board member and San Diego resident, said the organization typically focuses on helping underprivileged students in China get access to educational opportunities. But when COVID-19 began to spread in China in January, the board decided to redirect its efforts.
Through four rounds of fundraising, the nonprofit raised enough to deliver portable ventilators and personal protective equipment to more than 20 hospitals in China’s Hubei province. Wuhan, the capital of Hubei, was where the first case of COVID-19 was identified in late 2019.
“At that time, the situation was extremely bad in Wuhan, so a lot of Chinese Americans took the initiative to do what we could to help healthcare workers and patients,” Cai said.
Once the situation became increasingly grave in the United States, ACCEF decided to switch courses once again.
“More than one month ago we started to see how we could help the health workers in the United States,” she said. “This is our community, this is where we live … what we are doing is protecting our own community.”
Cai said the nonprofit’s efforts have been made possible due to a wide network of generous donors throughout the country. The organization has used WeChat – a popular app within the Chinese American community – to circulate information and generate support for its work.
Harnessing this network, ACCEF raised approximately $50,000 to purchase the much-needed equipment from a variety of vendors.
In addition to its local efforts, the organization is hoping to distribute masks to hospitals in Massachusetts, the Bay Area, and New York – one of the epicenters of COVID-19 cases.
“We know New York is a really hard-hit area,” Cai said. “It’s sad to see the doctors and nurses in New York – they are experiencing what the healthcare workers experienced in Wuhan.”
As it increases its distribution, ACCEF continues to collaborate with organizations – such as the San Diego United Leo Club and Chengdu No. 7 High School Alumni Association – to see how they can help both healthcare workers and underserved populations confronted by this crisis.
“We are doing this for the whole community,” Cai said. “We encourage people to take responsibility for the community, and do what the government suggests and what the (Center for Disease Control) suggests … we should be united to fight this.”