Anjan Nadimpalli has volunteered at Second Harvest of Silicon Valley since 2014. When the coronavirus pandemic hit, the San Jose resident wasn’t about to stop going into the Second Harvest warehouse facility to sort, pack and distribute food.
“Because we’re maintaining social distance and everything that is going around Covid-19, we have fewer volunteers in the warehouse,” Nadimpalli said. “The loss of volunteers helps motivate me to keep coming back.”
Nadimpalli, an IT engineer at Cisco, believes volunteering is critical now more than ever. He donates anywhere from four to seven hours a week.
“Hunger is one of the more critical issues in the Bay Area; it was even before the whole Covid-19 issue started,” he said. “Now with the number of layoffs and furloughs around the country, the number of people that depend on the food bank goes up.”
Nadimpalli exemplifies the selfless acts of kindness and generosity that characterize a bright spot emerging from the coronavirus outbreak. That selflessness is displayed by doctors and nurses, firefighters and police officers, grocery store workers and delivery carriers, and the makers churning out face shields from their 3D machines at home. We see it in the restaurants that provide food to survivors, as well as in the first responders and volunteers who pack food for distribution.
The everyday heroes who work behind the scenes or on the front lines in the fight against the novel coronavirus are everywhere, making sure things keep running and bringing some semblance of normalcy to a world turned upside down.
Joanne Richards, an OB-GYN hospitalist for obstetrix in the perinatal division at Good Samaritan Hospital, works labor and delivery, and as a first responder in the emergency room. Health-care workers are at increased risk of contracting the coronavirus, as they are in close contact with patients throughout the day. Richards said about 25 percent of pregnant patients who later become Covid-19 positive are asymptomatic at the time they are present during labor and delivery.
Health-care workers battle various front-line problems every day, but the coronavirus has made “every day” an entirely different beast. “It’s stressful for all of us because you’re fighting something that is unseen,” Richards said. “We normally take care of sick people, but that’s not the problem. The problem is something we can’t see.”
There is no such thing as a six-foot distance guideline for an OB-GYN like Richards. “We have to breach that barrier because we’re holding people’s legs, taking care of them and having to touch patients,” she said. Most health-care workers are not looking to be put on a pedestal; rather, they show up and do their job to the best of their ability, helping to save lives in the process. “This is something we made a commitment to a long time ago,” Richards said. “We do appreciate all the support from everyone else.”
Richards was referring to people like Matt Ebisu, a Sunnyvale resident who started a GoFundMe account so he could make 3D-printed protective face shields to donate to health-care workers. Ebisu and Richards connected after Richards sent out a Facebook plea from a group called the Bay Area Medical Faceshield Emergency Production.
“I joined the group and then told them we are in dire need of face shields,” she said in a recent interview. “Matt responded as did Eric Hess of Maker Nexus. … At the time, we were critically short on N95 masks and were using primarily homemade masks. So the face shields were crucial for us.”
Ebisu said he gained inspiration after reading stories about people who built face shields for health-care workers. Ebisu, a robotics engineer at Savioke in Sunnyvale, knew he could make a positive difference as well. After all, he had four production-primed 3D printers at home. “I thought, ‘Let’s see how I can contribute,’” he recounted. “I just put up the GoFundMe online April 14 and was thinking that even if it could raise $50, I can put that money to good use.”
The account raised $900 by April 20, surpassing the original goal amount. Ebisu has donated personal protective equipment [PPEs] to Good Samaritan, O’Connor, Kaiser Permanente in Santa Clara and Stanford Medical Center. Ebisu’s reason for making face shields is simple: he wants the frontline health-care workers to get the protective equipment they need to fight the coronavirus pandemic. “And I’m still prototyping new designs as they come out,” he said. “So even if I have a working design, I could get feedback from nurses or practitioners who say ‘Hey, we can really use this instead.’ Then I take their feedback to meet their specifications.”
Ebisu finds tremendous fulfillment in making a difference during the pandemic. “If you would have asked me four months ago what I would be doing now, making face shields for hospitals is not something I would’ve thought of,” Ebisu said. “I would’ve responded that I would be making robot parts. But face shields are what people need right now.”
A group of Bellarmine College Preparatory sophomores decided to put their time and talents together to make a positive impact, too. Aditya Indla, Veer Juneja, Saket Bhudia, John Xu and Michael Lutz raised more than $9,000 with the GoFundMe account they organized and promoted. They donated those funds directly to Maker Nexus, a 3D-printing company in Sunnyvale with hundreds of volunteer makers who build face shields from their own homes.
The Bellarmine students work in conjunction with youth-activist organization Empowering Youth Action, Aneesh Sharma, Bellarmine’s Maker Lab and Maker Nexus, leverage social media platforms like Instagram and gather people from different sectors to coalesce on an initiative to help frontline pandemic health-care workers. “Social media by far is the biggest part in this campaign to get money for the GoFundMe,” said Juneja, president and founder of Empowering Youth Action, which was established March 12. “We were born with a phone in our hands.”
Shortly after Indla started the GoFundMe account, he knew the Empowering Youth Action leaders could organize and promote a solid fundraising campaign to get health-care workers the equipment they need to protect themselves and their patients.
“One of the biggest reasons I decided to start the GoFundMe and why we started Empowering Youth Action was to help all the people who are struggling during this pandemic or working to fight the virus,” Indla said. “A lot of people share the sentiment, and that’s why both have been successful.”
Six weeks ago, the Bellarmine sophomores were prepping for state- and national-level high school speech-and-debate tournaments. Then the pandemic hit, and schools throughout the nation closed their campuses. Even though the Bellarmine students are in the thick of virtual learning and will still receive letter grades, the pandemic—for all intents and purposes—brought an abrupt end to their school year.
“It was definitely sad to see everything stop—you don’t get to see friends, sports, extracurricular activities,” Juneja said. “But with all the extra free time we had, we had had a chance to actually make a difference.”