By J. Norwell Coquillard
In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, members of Washington state’s Chinese community have rallied to raise funds and collect medical supplies for local hospitals throughout the Puget Sound region. While leaders at the federal level continually blame China for the virus, this community is stepping up in defiance of these racist attacks, committing resources, time and energy to support those who are most in need of help.
In February many local Chinese groups collected supplies and arranged to transport them to China to help stop the outbreak there. Julia and William Sun of Bellevue, owners of a fish processing business which buys Alaskan products and ships them to China for cleaning and packaging, have seen their business badly hurt by the U.S.-China trade war. Despite these difficulties the couple quickly used their business sourcing skills to buy personal protective equipment (PPEs) and arrange to have them transported to hospitals in China to help fight COVID-19. When the crisis came to the U.S. they began to donate their remaining inventory to Evergreen Health in Kirkland, the initial epicenter of the outbreak in the U.S.
Many other members of Washington’s Chinese community have taken similar actions. As COVID-19 began to spread rapidly throughout Western Washington, the United Chinese Americans of Washington State (UCAWA) quickly organized to raise funds and originate goods to donate to local hospitals. Under the motto “United We Stand”, this association has acted as the lead organization for over 65 local Chinese organizations. Hong Qi Wagner of Bellevue, who is directing the organization’s efforts, led an initial fund drive which resulted in a $140,000 donation to the Evergreen Hospital Foundation to help with the purchase of medical supplies. In addition to raising money, this organization has collected masks, gowns and goggles, which it has donated to over 45 hospitals, clinics and health centers in the Greater Seattle region.
The Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Washington (CCCWA), an association of Chinese companies that have operations in the state, initially pitched in to raise over $80,000 to purchase medical supplies for donation to local institutions. Starting on March 30, the CCCWA launched a program called “Food with Love” with 15 local restaurants that has provided over 11,000 meals delivered to frontline healthcare workers and first responders at over 20 hospitals, police stations and mobile testing sites. The program, which is scheduled to run until the end of June, plans to eventually raise $400,000 to support the delivery of over 17,500 meals.
The Guardians of Angeles, a foundation with Chinese American leadership, has recently imported 1.2 million masks to donate to medical facilities all around the country. The Foundation recently gifted 50,000 masks to the UW Medical Center.
Our organization, the Washington State China Relations Council, a non-profit organization founded in 1979 to promote economic, cultural and educations ties between the state and China, is working with its members and the Chinese community to coordinate efforts. We have been in frequent contact with the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai to identify reliable medical equipment suppliers in China and outline export procedures to move these products to Washington. Our charitable arm, the Washington State China Relations Fund, has acted as the importer for a donation of masks from the City of Hangzhou and the City of Shenzhen in China to the City of Seattle and is in discussions with other organizations to expedite the imports of PPEs into the region.
Many of the Council’s members have been active in the fight against the coronavirus. Member companies such as Microsoft, Boeing, Starbucks and Himalayan Capital have contributed to fundraising efforts in Seattle to support the local community. Microsoft has and continues to find ways to source masks from overseas and to bring them in the area.
After acting quickly to source and ship products to China to fight COVID-19 just two months ago, the Chinese community in Washington rapidly shifted its focus to defeat the virus here at home. Recognizing the seriousness of the situation, often after hearing from friends and loved ones, the Chinese community has demonstrated its support and solidarity with the wider community in the effort to defeat Covid-19.
J. Norwell Coquillard is executive director of the Washington State China Relations Council.