Help From All Over the World

Representatives of groups that donated and UConn Health staff/vendors with six boxes of personal protective equipment in front of the UConn Health main entrance
UConn Health accepts shipments from China of personal protective equipment following an effort organized by (from left) UConn students Chenming Zhang and Peng Gao, and (from right) Richard Zhang from Executive Real Estate and Jack Yang from Mansfield Meadowbrook Gardens Apartments. (Photo by Xiaomei Cong)

Alumni, partners, and other supporters of UConn are answering the call for donations of personal protective equipment to help keep UConn Health staff safe while working through the COVID-19 pandemic.

A fair amount has come from China, including 500 N95 respirator masks from the family of Alex Hu ’17 (CLAS) in Beijing.

Alex on the back of the Husky statue
Alex Hu ’17 (CLAS), shown here on a campus visit in 2018, is one of the alumni who orchestrated donations of personal protective equipment to UConn Health from his native China. (Photo provided by Alex Hu)

“UConn has always been my home away from home, and when the pandemic hit my second home, I had to help out,” Hu says. “I brought the idea of donating N95 masks to my parents. Growing up in a traditional Chinese merchant household, my parents were never big believers in giving back to the community.”

But the response was a pleasant surprise.

“I asked my dad what made him change his mind, he said, ‘It was the right thing to do, UConn has made you who you are as a person. It was our way to say thank you,’” Hu says.

Meantime, 500 surgical masks arrived courtesy of Dr. Zhixun Xie and colleagues at the Guangxi Veterinary Research Institute, a one of UConn’s global partners.

“From January to February this year, we went through the difficult period of time of COVID-19 in China,” Xie says. “When the U.S. went through the difficult period time of COVID-19 in March and April, we felt the same. When we received some American friends who asked us to send masks to them at beginning of April, we naturally thought of our colleagues and friends who work and study at UConn and also need protective masks.”

Another concurrent effort yielded additional donations, this from the UConn Chinese Student and Scholar Association. Through a chat group for Chinese undergraduate students and their parents, the group raised nearly 100,000 yuan (about $13,000) to purchase PPE in China and have it shipped to UConn.

An additional 200 face shields came from the parent of Zhi Wang, a rising sophomore.

“When she saw the calls for donation from the Chinese student group, she went out of her way to help,” says Min Lin, executive director of financial operations at the UConn School of Business.

The donations from China represent just a part of the overall support UConn Health has received both domestically and from overseas. Through mid June, the UConn foundation reports having received PPE donations valued at more than $216,000, in addition to cash donations totaling more than 212,000.