When good friends Arya Rao and Kanav Kalucha were sent home early from Columbia University as a result of COVID-19, the computer science students knew they weren’t done putting their education to use quite yet. From their homes in Michigan and California, respectively, Rao and Kalucha noticed that many citizens in their hometowns – particularly the elderly – were already making masks to donate to frontline workers. With technology at their side, the two realized they had the skills to speed up the donation process, and just like that, the Mask Up initiative was born.

 

Co-founders Arya Rao and Kanav Kanucha

             What started as a two-person effort has now amassed over 100 volunteers to make and deliver masks to frontline workers. “There are a lot of organizations that have PPE shortages,” explains Rao, “and while this isn’t a substitute for that, we can reduce the risk for some of the people who are fighting this pandemic.” 

            Becoming a volunteer is simple. Go to the Mask Up website and enter your location, and how many masks you will be able to make. You will then be matched to the nearest healthcare organization. Additionally, essential services and organizations can request donations through the website as well. Since its inception, Mask Up has been able to provide masks to the New York National Guard, the Public Transit Unit of the North-Eastern United States, and dozens of hospitals and care homes. 

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Some of the masks that have been made and donated by volunteers. 

            Initially, it was a struggle to leverage the technological aspect. While younger generations are no strangers to social media, the majority of Mask Up volunteers are the elderly, who are less familiar with the world of technology. Rao quickly realized that while Facebook, Instagram, and a website would reach a younger demographic, the best way to spread the word is through good old-fashioned newspapers, and other local media outlets. “Lots of cold-emailing and cold-calling,” Rao recalls with a chuckle. 

            The Mask Up initiative will continue for as long as necessary. Until then, Rao explains that their only goal is “to continue to service the needs of the nation.”

            “This pandemic is really throwing all of us for a loop right now and I think the first thing we want to do is provide a little good and a little light in the world.”

 

by Mia Foster

Washington Youth for Masks is a nonprofit fundraiser that has aimed to raise $25,000 to purchase 50,000 masks for four hospitals in Washington. While many individual people and groups are raising money to provide healthcare professionals with personal protective equipment (PPE), this initiative is particularly special; it is entirely organized and executed by youth in Washington. 

     Since the initial article was written, funds have jumped from around $8,600 to over $17,500 thanks to the hard work of the board members and roughly 210 representatives. The first delivery of masks was made on April 23rd to University of Washington (UW) Medicine. The delivery included 24 boxes, equating to around 20,000 masks.

Pictures from the first delivery of masks

    In response to the donation, the CEO of UW Medicine, Paul Ramsey, wrote a personalized letter thanking Washington Youth for Masks, the group’s organizer Angelina Chin, and everyone involved in the donation. 

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Letter from CEO of UW Medicine, Paul Ramsey

     Along with the letter, Washington Youth for Masks received a heartwarming message of gratitude directly from a few healthcare heroes on the front lines. 

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A Thank You from Healthcare Workers

     This organization is directly aiding in the fight against COVID-19, and youth are the driving force behind it. For all those who have donated or volunteered so far, your engagement matters and has a tangible impact. Thank you.

For more information, refer to my initial article, “Washington Youth for Masks: Youth Uniting for Protective Equipment” or refer to one of the links below! Every donation counts: $5=10 masks!

GoFundMe: https://www.gofundme.com/f/washington-youth-for-masks-covid19-support-fund 

Website: https://wayouthformasks.wixsite.com/website 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WAYouthForMasks/