It began with sandwiches.
Since March, when UCLA transitioned to remote learning and closed the campus to all but essential services in response to the coronavirus pandemic, about 200 international students have chosen to stay in campus residence halls. Naturally, their situations have caused concern among their parents all over the world.
When one mother of a student from China learned of her child’s temporarily limited dining options during the break between winter and spring quarters — sandwiches among them — she contacted Cindy Fan, UCLA's vice provost for international studies and global engagement. Fan informed her of the campus's plans to reopen certain dining facilities the following week and reassured her, and other Chinese parents with whom she was in contact, that UCLA would continue to provide diverse dining options and safe conditions for the students.
Touched by UCLA's commitment to taking good care of their children, the mother — who had already been interested in donating to UCLA — and two other Chinese parents began encouraging others to contribute. Fan recommended that the group consider directing their philanthropy to UCLA Health's fund for health care workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis.
With the support of staff at UCLA Health and the UCLA Alumni Association, the parents created a personalized crowdsourced fundraising page. Word of the initiative was shared with the UCLA Beijing Alumni group, whose members began to contribute.
The organizers set a fundraising target of $20,000 and reached their goal in only 10 days. Donations came in from cities all over China — and from parents of current students and alumni. As of April 15, nearly 300 people — including many Chinese mothers — had donated a total of more than $23,000. The campaign ends on April 26.
The campaign's name — #TeamLA: Chinese Parents Supporting UCLA Against COVID-19 — stresses the collective nature of the effort, and the organizers have chosen to remain anonymous to emphasize the group's collective identity.
"This is a special channel for Chinese parents to say thank you to our health professionals on the front line of the COVID-19 global pandemic," said the mom who originated the idea. "We all want to express our gratitude to UCLA Health, the UCLA chancellor and UCLA Alumni Association and UCLA Parent & Family Association for taking proper and prompt measures to take care of our students, as they always do, at this atypical time."
Meanwhile, another group of more than 100 Chinese and Chinese American parents of UCLA students who were unaware of that effort were organizing via WeChat to support the campus.
In recent weeks, that group has donated 10,000 surgical masks to UCLA Health, and 500 more to the UCLA Police Department. (The group also contributed another 10,000 masks to the Valley Medical Center Foundation in San Jose, California, due to the enormous need there.)
"I was very touched when I heard about their donation, which was of great help to our front-line workers at UCLA Health during this unprecedented global crisis," said Dr. Cun-Yu Wang, associate dean for graduate studies at the UCLA School of Dentistry, who helped coordinate the delivery of the masks to UCLA.
Katie Brown, an associate director for annual giving in UCLA Health Sciences Development, said both efforts have demonstrated that the UCLA community is truly a global one.
"We at UCLA Health can't begin to express the depth of our gratitude for the heartfelt support that Chinese parents have shown for our medical professionals," she said. "Their contributions show how one individual can make a huge difference just by sharing their story and encouraging others."
Editor's note: This story was updated April 16 to clarify the menu options available in campus dining halls during the quarter break.