Editor's note: This news column showcases stories from around the world that bring a touch of positivity to the fight against the deadly coronavirus.
Joseph Wong, a family doctor, has made it his goal to get masks to the people on the front lines of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Wong, the founder of the Yee Hong Community Wellness Foundation and former chairman of the United Way Greater Toronto, has partnered with more than 100 volunteers, doctors and municipalities in the Greater Toronto Area, or GTA, to launch a C$2 million fundraising campaign called "Stop COVID-19".
The mission is to source personal protective equipment, or PPE, for healthcare workers.
Three weeks ago, Wong and other volunteers picked up 200,000 masks at the Toronto Pearson Airport. The masks were procured from various sources, including from China.
Wong and his team collect and distribute the masks to hospitals and agencies working with senior citizens homes and low-income families in the GTA every week.
Since mid-March, the healthcare system in the metropolitan region has been under immense strain due to the shortage of PPE.
Wong and his partners borrowed $600,000 from their personal contacts to order 500,000 medical and N95 masks before the outbreak in the GTA. "Countries including the US are turning to global suppliers for PPE, and prices will skyrocket by the day, if not by the hour," he said.
"The worst is yet to come if we aren't prepared. We need to mobilize to save our home and healthcare workers. Canadians must act now."
Many Chinese Canadians have eagerly contributed to the campaign, which started in early April. One of the biggest supporters is Lenny Wong, another Chinese community leader with a successful business.
"Besides giving a very generous donation, Lenny loaned the campaign a quarter of a million dollars to kick-start the PPE purchase," Wong said. "To date, our volunteers have pledged over $300,000 before mounting a public appeal for donations."
All the PPE will be distributed through partners including municipal governments and the United Way. After the arrival of the first shipment of 200,000 masks, the second delivery of 300,000 will arrive soon.
"Our goal is to divide our supplies according to the population in the GTA," Joseph Wong said. "Due to dire situations in certain hospitals, we will ensure a clear, logistical directive that will have the most impact on the fight against the coronavirus."
The reliability of the suppliers and the quality of the PPE are top priorities, Wong said. Many of the volunteers are experienced professionals and entrepreneurs and acutely aware of the responsibilities of safeguarding donor dollars.
"We strive to ensure the equipment is up to the standard, while keeping the purchase price reasonable and receiving shipments in a timely manner," he said.
Meanwhile, as a founder of the Yee Hong Centre for Geriatric Care, Wong, along with senior-living organizations across Canada teamed up to launch and fund a CAPES (Canadian Alliance to Protect and Equip Seniors Living) project.
The seniors are at much higher risk of developing serious complications from the virus. Overall, deaths in long-term care and senior homes account for 79 percent of the total deaths in the country, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.
"The urgency of protecting the people most vulnerable to COVID-19 prompted us to move rapidly to bring together a group of Canada's largest senior-living operators to not only centralize a purchase of PPE but also coordinate a process for access and distribution to smaller operators across the country," Wong said.