One year into the pandemic that has changed all our lives in ways large and small, one of us received a call from a family member who had been talking to a physician friend in Los Angeles. It was early January 2021. Vaccines had been approved, but were not available yet. Lockdowns were being lifted prematurely, and a surge was in full effect. The physician felt like even though she could see the light at the end of the tunnel, the tunnel was still very long. After an arduous year with no time off or rest, she was exhausted. The family member wanted to know: what could any of us do to help?
At Yale SOM, we reached out to the people we knew would have answers—our classmates in the healthcare focus area of the MBA for Executives Class of 2021—and asked, “What can we do to help the doctors and first responders who are just so tired to let them know they are supported, and they are appreciated?”
The overwhelming response was, “Wear a mask! Social distance! Follow the CDC guidelines!” Then one response came back that broke our hearts: “Don’t just wear a mask—donate them.”
As the pandemic has continued to expose our nation’s health and social inequities, we knew that many segments of the population were in dire need of masks. In particular, the homeless crisis in Los Angeles and other major metropolitan areas (and throughout the world) has skyrocketed as one of the many knock-on effects of the pandemic. The outbreak spread like wildfire among the homeless sites and shelters, especially in Skid Row.
We reached out to our classmates again, this time to see who wanted to chip in to donate masks to the homeless. We were able to raise enough money to buy 2,200 disposable and 175 reusable masks, which were delivered to L.A. and Philly. We’re confident that they will be used to their best effect, because our connections are local and were able to get them to where they’re most needed.
Dan distributed masks to the homeless shelters on Skid Row and to the USC Street Medicine Team, which provides free healthcare to the most vulnerable in L.A. Crystal Yates ‘21 connected us with Families Forward, which provides social services and housing support to vulnerable families in the Philly area. And we were able to send so many masks, in large part, because of Kahlil Morse ’21 and Yauheni Solad ‘21, who extended us a generous friends and family discount through their new mask and PPE company, Prime Source Medical Supplies.
If you want to learn more about how to help the most vulnerable among us, we encourage you to check out this TED Talk. And if you’re looking for a way to help healthcare workers, coffee and donuts are always welcome, too.