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Newton’s Chinese community donates masks to the city

The Newton Chinese Language School donated 4,800 masks to the city of Newton on April 9.
The Newton Chinese Language School donated 4,800 masks to the city of Newton on April 9.Helen Cao

In late February, Newton’s Chinese community was fund-raising to ship medical supplies from the United States to Wuhan, China. Now, the tide has turned and the United States has become the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Newton Chinese Language School launched a new fund-raiser to ship more than 10,000 FDA-approved surgical masks from China to Newton.

Nan Liang, the board chair of the Newton Chinese Language School, said the school wishes to equip the workers who are protecting Newton with a supply of masks. She said the school donated the masks to Mayor Ruthanne Fuller’s office “so they can distribute the masks to the heroes who are fighting on various front lines.”

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On April 9, an official from the mayor’s office picked up 4,800 masks from the school.

“Doctors, nurses, police officers, and other front-line workers are in desperate need of masks,” Liang said.

The Newton Chinese Language School, a nonprofit education organization, organized two major coronavirus fund-raising events in February, according to school principal Fengfei Hu. With the support of the Chinese communities in Newton and other parts of Massachusetts, the school raised more than $10,000 to purchase medical supplies for Wuhan University Hospital.

As the coronavirus broke out in Newton, the Newton Chinese Language School switched its focus from supporting Wuhan to helping the escalating situation in Newton.

Hu said the school immediately purchased 100 N95 masks and 400 surgical masks before organizing the online fund-raiser. After sending out the newsletters and starting a social media campaign, the school raised approximately $800 in four hours and $5,000 in three weeks. With the funds, the school ordered a second batch of 4,800 masks and a third batch of 5,300 masks from China.

The process of ordering masks that meet the professional standard is not an easy one, according to Hu. To ship the masks from China to the United States, the factory must provide a certificate to show that the masks are FDA approved. She said some parents who used to work in the medical field in China helped to contact various Chinese factories.

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The first batch of 100 N95 masks and 400 surgical masks arrived in Boston on March 29, and the second batch of 4,800 surgical masks arrived on April 1. Hu said the masks passed the customs clearance in a week, and an official from Fuller’s office picked up the masks on April 9.

The donors are not only the parents from the Newton Chinese Language School but also parents in Newton’s Chinese community, according to Liang. She said many Chinese parents and residents in Newton have reached out to the school about ways to help during the coronavirus outbreak.

Hua Fang, a Chinese immigrant and a father of two students at the Newton Chinese Language School, donated to the fund-raiser right after the school sent out the newsletter. He also took his two children to volunteer at the Walk for Wuhan march in February.

Fang’s children were born in the United States. He said active participation in coronavirus fund-raising events is a way for him to educate his children about the importance of responsibility.

“I told my children that they have two homes. One is China and another one is the United States,” he said. “When our homes are in danger, we need to take the responsibility to help our homes.”

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The Newton Chinese Language School is not the only Chinese organization in New England that is donating personal protective equipment (PPE) to the front-line workers. WeStar Alliance, a group of more than 50 Chinese organizations in New England, formed in 2020 to collect coronavirus donations and provide charitable PPE for hospitals, senior homes, and police stations in China and New England. Liang said that the Chinese communities across New England are now working in the same direction to fight against the coronavirus.

“In this coronavirus battle, China fights the first half and the world fights the second half. The overseas Chinese fights the whole battle,” Liang said. “We need to bring out the best of us. This crisis is not only a test for our generosity and kindness but also a test for our capacity and persistence.”

Seven Wu can be reached at newtonreport@globe.com.