Student’s perseverance uncovers potential supply of masks

Alen Niu has launched his first-ever GoFundMe campaign in order to bring much-needed medical protective gear to North York General Hospital (NYGH).
Alen, a Year 11 student, worked as a volunteer in the hospital gift shop on Saturdays until recently, when NYGH’s rules about volunteering changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. During his weekly shifts, he found that many of the same doctors and nurses would stop by the gift shop during their breaks. He loved to converse with them and hear their perspectives, which recently began to focus on the need for Ontario hospitals to be fully supplied with the necessary equipment to treat COVID-19 patients.
“They were running low on masks and gloves,” Alen says.
While isolated at home, Alen started looking at masks and gloves online and discovered that they were either sold out in North American markets or not up to hospital standards, so he turned to other markets. One of those he investigated was China, since he knew a lot of manufacturing was based there.

“I sent cold emails to hospitals and manufacturers,” he says. “I got some robot replies, but at one hospital in the Beijing area, the administrator replied personally, saying they had an excess of masks, gowns and gloves since their COVID-19 caseloads were decreasing. They said they would be able to sell them to me cheaply for NYGH.”
Now, the only obstacle was money. Luckily, one of Alen’s skills is computer coding (he’s already built a website to help students access school-related information and he launched a club, Cloudmates, to manage the site). He’s now used his talents to create a GoFundMe page to raise the $5,000 he needs to bring the supplies to Canada. Alen spread the word among friends, family and neighbours, and has now taken to social media to promote his efforts. He also has an upcoming meeting with NYGH administrators to discuss the logistics of distributing the supplies.
“My ultimate goal is to get sufficient amounts of medical supplies as quickly as possible, but I also want to raise awareness of the shortages hospitals face,” says Alen.
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