Chinese organizations in the UK donate medical supplies to the University of Cambridge on April 10 (COURTESY PHOTO)
In March, Li Yijing, a lecturer at King's College London, received an SOS saying two hospitals for novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patients in London, Guy's and St Thomas', were facing a lack of essential supplies. Li, who knew a COVID-19 test kit manufacturer in east China, began to think what she could do.
She asked a former colleague, Guy Liu, head of the UK campus of the Peking University HSBC Business School, for help. With the consent of the school's committee, they launched a campaign to raise funds for buying 10,000 test kits. In less than 24 hours, they had collected nearly 50,000 pounds ($62,890).
Many members of the Peking University Alumni Association in the UK volunteered to help and roped in other organizations, including the British Chinese Community and other Chinese or British university alumni associations. The volunteers finally collected 500,000 pounds ($628,900), which was used to buy test kits, surgical gowns, face masks and other personal protection equipment.
"I had not imagined the campaign could raise such a big amount of money. However, I am not surprised either," Li said, adding that the Chinese community is willing to help others in need.
Due to travel restrictions, they had to grapple with logistics problems but then were told all donations were being transported by the British Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC). Though it meant they had to redo the necessary paperwork, still, with the DHSC organizing relief charter routes, they could eventually save a lot of energy on international logistics.
Then they learned that as part of quality control measures, the Chinese authorities had required the manufacturers to register with regulatory agencies and be vetted before exporting medical products. So they had to look for registered suppliers.
However, with more and more Chinese institutions in the UK undertaking similar donation drives, information about where to buy things and how to send them was readily shared.
On April 5, a plane carrying the first batch of medical supplies collected by 15 Chinese organizations and associations in the UK for over 10 British hospitals and research institutions took off from China.
The donations were received with warm thanks. The Oxford Vaccine Centre of the University of Oxford, which is testing a COVID-19 vaccine, said the "generous donation… will play an essential role in the protection of both staff and and participants as we seek to establish the safety and efficacy of a vaccine against COVID-19." It also said, "Over the past few weeks we have been humbled to receive donations and offers of help from groups and individuals from all corners of the UK, and the world. These have served as a reminder that the work we are undertaking is for the benefit of everyone and only by working together will we achieve success."
Li said she was moved by the kindness and sense of responsibility shown by all those who were part of the endeavor. One of them was a transporter who drove the goods over hundreds of kilometers from a city in Anhui in east China to the airport in Shanghai. "He messaged me as he passed through every city until the goods arrived at the airport warehouse, though it was late at night in China," she said.
The majority of the people in the campaign had never known each other before but they came together in solidarity and worked shoulder to shoulder to help tide others over difficulties.
"When the epidemic was severe in China, many foreign friends came to care for us, and we're glad to reciprocate," Li said. "Also, we always remember that we represent China."
(Original Title: Standing Shoulder To Shoulder)
Copyedited by Sudeshna Sarkar
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