Written by CAPA JRC Reporter Rachel Wang
On the evening of April 10, CAPA-JRC reporter Rachel Wang interviewed Mr. Liang Zhao, head organizer of the CASH (Chinese Americans Support Hospitals) organization.
CASH was originally created to provide for the shortage of medical supplies. Based on global coronavirus news, Mr. Zhao believed that frontline medical workers did not receive enough virus protection. Thus, he and a few other community members set up CASH in order to support frontline medical staff.
On March 17, Vice President Mike Pence called on companies to donate industrial N95 masks to medical staff in the United States. Since then, CASH has established a GoFundMe account and used Facebook, Twitter, and various other media platforms to raise funds for the whole society. CASH raised a total of more than $110,000 in the first three weeks with over 1,000 participants.
After funds were collected, CASH searched for a factory that could produce high-quality PPE (personal protective equipment) masks. Using the collected funds from GoFundMe, CASH purchased 115,000 medical surgical masks, 3,500 N95 masks, 300 pieces of protective clothing and 350 goggles that met the standards of American hospitals. After receiving the supplies and signing hospital liability waivers, CASH delivered the items to twelve hospitals in the Greater Washington district.
During the donation process, the main problem that CASH faced was determining mask quality. In mid-March, many Chinese suppliers were promoting their mask products via WeChat, all of them pushing CASH to purchase their own goods. As there were so many available supply options, how could CASH distinguish between a trusted and an untrusted seller? "It was really a discombobulating experience," said Mr. Zhao.
Ultimately, CASH decided to only accept products approved by the FDA or the CDC. To confirm each product’s legitimacy, CASH closely examined each product’s specifications. Each product could only be purchased after CASH verified each product with the FDA or CDC database.
“Although this was a very tedious task with many complicated legal procedures, I was very proud to be able to help the community in such an urgent situation,” said Mr. Zhao.
During the hospital deliveries, Mr. Zhao was interviewed by Fox 5 news on behalf of CASH. Afterwards, CASH received a plethora of emotional community reactions. Some people were even moved to tears while watching the news feature. “The virus is interracial, so this epidemic can reveal that we are all in this together as a single united whole, regardless of our backgrounds. This is actually a good thing,” said Mr. Zhao.
Mr. Zhao believes that he has gained many touching experiences and met many enthusiastic people while organizing CASH. On one occasion, a package of supplies shipped from China required transit from New York. Mr. Zhao was planning on having a logistics company send the goods from New York, but the thought of personally traveling to New York for pickup never crossed his mind.
Upon hearing the news, a single woman instantly volunteered. “As soon as the supplies arrive in New York, I’ll drive to New York to pick up the goods,” she said. After hearing the woman’s unhesitant reply, Mr. Zhao was deeply moved. “Think about it, a young woman volunteering to drive such a big car for such a long period of time, having to load and unload so many supplies on her own... If you witnessed how this woman volunteered with such certainty, you could picture how courageous and charitable she is,” said Mr. Zhao.
The CASH organization is mainly composed of scientific professionals. Mr. Zhao explained that because the purpose of CASH's work has been completed -- with money having been donated and supplies all having been bought -- CASH members will also begin to return to their personal majors. “We can use our area of expertise to fight this virus from a scientific perspective,” said Mr. Zhao.
During this time of crisis, Mr. Zhao believes that although Chinese Americans must be vigilant, they do not need to be afraid. On the contrary, he believes that the community should use its knowledge and courage to eliminate racial discrimination in its infancy.
"That's one of the reasons why we are doing this now," said Mr. Zhao. "We actively collect donations to support the frontline medical staff. This is also to let people know that the Chinese community consistently radiates positive energy."
Mr. Zhao believes that while facing disaster, the Asian community does not complain nor attempt to avoid the problems. Instead, the community takes proactive actions to help solve the problems and support American society.
Through these collective relief efforts, Mr. Zhao believes that different ethnic groups will be able to understand one another better. "In the process of cooperation and support, people will begin to understand that we Asians think the same as they think, feel the same as they feel, face the same difficulties as they face," said Mr. Zhao.
"In this way, the entire American society will promote more mutual understanding. Different ethnic groups will become friends, and slowly become a more tolerant and more unified group of people."
This article was provided by Chinese American Parents Association Junior Reporter Club (CAPA JRC) with members who interviewed, audio recorded, wrote, translated, and video recorded. CAPA JRC has 19 Montgomery County middle to high school students. They have created a bilingual platform delivering news and serving the community.