A coronavirus information and donation table organized by Chinese students at the University ran from Tuesday, Feb. 4 to Friday, Feb. 7 in the Usdan University Center. Brochures and donation links were shared to spread awareness about the virus and to provide support for those affected.
The main organizers of the event told The Argus about the ongoing process of fundraising, and the difficulties associated with trying to find donation channels that would ensure resources are delivered to the necessary locations affected by the virus.
In brainstorming ideas for potential methods of donation, they considered sending supplies from the United States directly to China. However, Huiquin Hu ’20 explained that there are legal requirements that could pose a problem.
“After you register with the Chinese Border Control, you have to register with the Wuhan Red Cross or Wuhan Charity Federation,” Hu said. “Those are the two official NGOs that are basically a part of the bureaucratic system of the Chinese government.”
Recent reports of mismanagement by journalists and doctors have prompted backlash against one of these official organizations, The Red Cross Society of Hubei. Many believe a bottleneck—a situation that causes a delay in the distribution of supplies—has been created by the government’s centralization of the donation process, leaving doctors and nurses using social media to ask for assistance.
“The desperate situation faced by doctors and nurses in Hubei became known to the Chinese public after hospitals bypassed the designated charity organisations and posted online appeals for donations for N95 masks, goggles, protective suits and gloves,” The South China Morning Post wrote.
Given the current state of affairs with The Red Cross Society of Hubei, student organizers took precautions to choose an organization to send supplies to after the donation drive.
“Everything is making us disappointed by those channels,” Hu said. “So we had to find organizations that will be able to send things directly to the hospital instead of going through the Red Cross.”
As a result, the organizers settled on the nonprofits Wuhan United and the Huazhong University of Science and Technology as primary donation recipients, along with the Wuhan University Alumni of Northern California with Direct Relief.
“Wuhan University Alumni Association has contacts within China so they can do the border control clearance, [and be in] direct contact with Wuhan Hospital,” Hu said. “So Direct Relief gave Wuhan University 2.5 tons of supplies…. Because they offended the Red Cross, you’re getting those plans domestically. But the 2.5 tons of supplies basically saved them last minute.”
Given the media coverage of the outbreak and an increased demand in necessary medical equipment, supply shortages have been an increased concern. Linus Mao ’23 primarily worked on finding potential suppliers of masks, gloves, and other necessary medical equipment for the campaign. Mao explained that many American and Chinese suppliers—including local suppliers like the Middletown CVS—were mostly out of stock or provided inopportune methods of transporting materials.
Additionally, while the University operates an official WeChat group for Chinese students, a separate WeChat group, outside of the Wesleyan-operated one, exists specifically for parents of Chinese students. The parents group has been working with organizers to receive updates on new donations and sources. The organizers tried to have the event advertised in the official Wesleyan group but ran into concerns.
“They didn’t want to set a precedent of the University official account marketing a private event that is organized by students,” Hu said.
Given this communication barrier, Shaoxuan Tian ’22 is working with University’s Program Manager for Global Initiatives Zijia Guo, to determine how students might use the University-run group to call for donations.
The campaign also focused on raising awareness about coronavirus and emphasized community and compassion given rising fears associated with the outbreak. Maria Tan ’22 and Oliver Cho ’22 researched the outbreak and published an opinion piece in The Argus discussing their findings and sharing Chinese students’ experiences of scrutiny and alienation after returning to the University for the spring semester.
“I think it’s really important to bring the awareness of how serious this situation is and more of like, stats and facts,” Tan said. “They were so over exaggerated in the social media climate. So we did a lot of research.”
Tan emphasized that the brochures distributed at the event were meant to spread a message of empathy.
“The message that we want to say is that we should all be compassionate to one another to eliminate any chance of racism and Sinophobia,” Tan said.
Hu urges the Wesleyan community to realize the scope of the coronavirus and that a serious response is necessary to deal with the growing cases.
“This is not just a Wuhan issue anymore,” Hu said. “It’s a China issue. To give you an example, my city is super small. You can imagine it as Arlington, Texas. 17 years ago, back when SARS was spreading in China, my entire province only had three confirmed cases and my city had zero. Right now, my city has 62 confirmed cases. That’s the scale of coronavirus.”
Donations are still being accepted, and instructions on how to donate can be found on the event’s page.
Jordan Saliby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.