Oberlin’s Chinese Student Association addressed the COVID-19 health crisis by offering students programming and support, along with contributing to fundraising efforts for hospitals in China.
In mid-March, a small group of students assembled in the Allen Memorial Art Museum (AMAM) to reflect on works created by Chinese artists. As the students discussed the pieces in a conversation led by Hannah Wirta Kinney, assistant curator of academic programs, and Emma Laube, curatorial assistant, they identified themes and shared their observations.
The gathering, “Culture, Life, and Family Bonding in the Context of Coronavirus,” was organized by the Chinese Student Association (CSA) in collaboration with the museum’s Office of Academic Programs . The program was created as a way for students to discuss their thoughts and offer support by using artwork to explore the concepts of family bonding, life, and death in the context of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
According to CSA chair and third-year Wenling Li, the group serves Chinese international students, students of the Chinese diaspora, and anyone interested in Chinese culture, primarily by building community through events that celebrate traditional culture. These events include the Lunar New Year banquet and the Chinese student music showcase.
In light of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the CSA expanded its focus to include opportunities for members to both aid in and reflect on the crisis.
In late January, when the COVID-19 outbreak was sweeping through Wuhan, China, CSA event coordinator and second-year Wenting Gao suggested the group begin fundraising to aid in relief efforts.
"The coronavirus started to spread in China at a tremendous speed,” says Gao. ‘‘During that time, there were about 300 to 500 new patients being diagnosed with coronavirus every day. [On] social media, many hospitals were seeking help from the public due to their severe lack of medical supplies, especially in the Hubei province, the epicenter of COVID-19."
Members of the CSA learned about the Cleveland-based COVID-19 Coronavirus Outbreak Relief Campaign, which was being led by the nonprofit Listen Share Learn Group in collaboration with Cleveland Chinese Students and Scholars Association. The campaign’s goal was to send medical protective equipment to doctors in Wuhan, and members of the Oberlin CSA wanted to contribute.
“We quickly reached a consensus among CSA members and started fundraising,” says Li. “We raised more than $3,000 within one day after the fundraising began.”
In total, the CSA raised $7,617.94, primarily from Chinese students and parents. The funds were then donated to the Cleveland Chinese Students and Scholars Association for purchasing and sending medical supplies to China. CSA members also assisted the relief campaign by helping with inventory, packing, and sorting donated supplies.
In addition to fundraising efforts and the program at AMAM, the CSA organized a candlelight vigil for Wuhan. The effort was created by Li and senior politics major Luke Chen as a way to raise awareness of the global health crisis and to provide support for students.
Chen explains that he hoped that the vigil could raise awareness about the outbreak and how it affected individuals, including medical workers and ordinary citizens.
“I think it is meaningful for students at Oberlin to have a place to share thoughts and support each other in this crucial period,” says Chen. “It is important for us, especially Chinese students, to remember that we fundamentally shared similar hopes that the situation would get better and that fewer people would be affected. [When the outbreak] passes, I hope we can have memories that will not fade away with the virus.”
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