"Asian Americans are with health workers and we want to unite"
A family friend who works as an ER doctor in Florida had informed young Valerie Xu that frontline workers had to reuse masks for multiple weeks.
In response, Xu started a fundraiser called Masks Matters to raise money to buy equipment for hospitals. She donated $1,240 from her own savings and a local Asian American-run business in Dallas matched her donations too.
Within a few weeks, Xu raised $7,500, which was enough money to donate 10,000 surgical masks and 1,2000 FFP2 masks to UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas on Friday morning.
“I did not expect it to be this big,” Xu admits. “Our goal was to at least have 5,000 masks, but when we slowly saw it climb… [we decided to] increase the number of masks. It was definitely a surprise, but I’m just so thankful to everyone who helped spread the message and contributed to my campaign.”
Valerie Xu said it was her “civic duty” to help first responders during this crisis.
“This is something that’s happening nationwide,” Xu said. “Especially in a first world country like the U.S., these things should not be happening and I think as people in this country, we have a civic duty to try and help these [first responders] any way possible.”
“I’m just really happy that I’m able to make a difference and want to show that Asian Americans are with health workers and we want to unite,” the young teen added.
Xu said that doctors being forced to reuse masks was unacceptable
“Unfortunately, he is not the only doctor that has to do that… which just goes to show the urgent need,” she said. “In order for a community to fight this virus, medical workers need to be safely protected.”
Xu was also inspired to donate in an effort to tackle racism facing Asian Americans due to the virus.
A hate tracker showed that Asian women are being harassed twice as much as men in Coronavirus-related attacks.
Xu herself had encountered such racism first-hand.
“I was in my neighborhood, just walking outside and I wasn’t even coughing or anything,” she said. “This lady was walking a few feet away from me, and when she saw me, she immediately covered her entire mouth and pinched her nose.”
“It was a shocker to me, especially since I’ve grown up in the U.S.,” Xu continued. “It just made me realize that no matter how much I try to prove myself as an American, my skin color will always define me… [this] motivated me to speak out for my race and my community.”
“It means a lot to me because I want to try and inspire a lot of other Asian American women like me,” Xu added. “I just want to make a difference. I want to show others that Asian Americans are standing alongside health workers [and] are willing to help contribute.”
Xu plans to continue with her campaign, which is still receiving funds. She hopes continue buying equipment that will be donated to “whoever needs it”.