Student organizations at Penn State rally to help Wuhan

Nathan Rufo
February 06, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Multiple student organizations at Penn State have stepped up efforts to support their fellow students in a time of uncertainty, as reports of the spread of the novel 2019-nCoV coronavirus, centered in the Wuhan province of China, continue worldwide.

While there have been no cases of the virus at any Penn State campus or anywhere in Pennsylvania at this time, the University is following federal and global recommendations from health agencies and the State Department and taking precautions to protect the health of students, faculty and staff. 

“I offer the University’s sympathy to those whose family members or friends have been affected by this virus,” said Damon Sims, vice president for Student Affairs. “More importantly, however, I offer our support. There are limits to what the University can do in response to a global challenge emerging half a world away, but there also is much we can offer to those among us affected by this concern.” 

Avenues of support available for students at Penn State include Student Care and AdvocacyCounseling and Psychological Services, and University Health Services (UHS). Students who feel they need support during this time should reach out to the relevant offices for help.  

In addition, student organizations at the University are organizing fundraisers and information sessions to help others in need. 

As the coronavirus outbreak continues, the Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA) at University Park has been working with Penn State’s Office of Global Programs to provide information to Chinese students through the social media platform WeChat. Global Programs, in turn, has been helping by providing translation services and messaging of important information about resources across campus.  

A few weeks ago, CSSA decided that they wanted to do something to help those suffering from coronavirus in China. Under the leadership of their president, Qiuchen “Queenie” Fan, the group created a GoFundMe page to help provide medical supplies to those in need in Wuhan. Reports suggest that hospitals in the province may be running dangerously low on supplies, leading to the potential of health professionals using substandard materials that leave medical professionals and patients alike more at risk. 

“Every day, Chinese students are getting new notifications of increasing numbers of infected patients back in China,” said Fan. “The hospitals in the Wuhan area are seriously lacking in medical products. As a Chinese student organization, we want to do whatever we can to help.” 

Through advertising on social media through Facebook, Twitter and WeChat, the group has raised almost $9,500. When they began the fundraising process, they knew that their goal was to raise enough money to send 200,000 masks to Wuhan. But, when they went to purchase masks online, the students realized that masks were all out of stock — due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Fan reached out to Global Programs to ask for assistance and was connected with University Health Services, which was able to work with CSSA to use the money raised toward purchasing medical supplies through UHS’ own supplier. The first shipment of medical equipment is already on its way to Wuhan. 

“As soon as we learned that Chinese students were trying to purchase masks to send to a hospital with depleted medical supplies in China, UHS Pharmacy Manager Kelly Sutherland ordered as many as she could from our suppliers,” said Dr. Robin Oliver-Veronesi, senior director of UHS. “As we’ve received the boxes of masks, we’ve provided them to the Chinese students.” 

Meanwhile, the Chinese Undergraduate Student Association (CUSA) at University Park has embarked on its own fundraising venture. The organization coordinated the purchase of 2,000 masks, as well as other supplies such as medical gloves and glasses, which will be sent to China through a nonprofit organization in Los Angeles.  

“It’s important to coordinate this and help those in Wuhan,” said Yinyin Wang, president of CUSA. “There have been problems getting supplies to Wuhan when students tried to send them on their own, and sending money causes a lot of problems. But because we’re able to work with a nonprofit, we can make sure the masks get there.” 

The efforts are not limited to University Park. Student organizations are gearing up across Penn State’s campuses, such as the Asian Student Organization (ASO) at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College. The ASO and the Behrend campus are collaborating with CUSA, buying masks from local suppliers and adding them to the shipment being sent. 

“As the situation becomes more dire in Wuhan, these students are exemplifying the spirit of responsibility as global citizens — one of Penn State’s core values,” said Rob Crane, interim vice provost for Global Programs. “We are very proud to call them Penn Staters."

Last Updated September 22, 2020