This year, the Paper Bridges team plans to expand their focus to make a significant impact on vulnerable children during COVID-19. Paper Bridges has set out to send as many face masks to vulnerable youth as possible, and the Paper Bridges Chapters located in New York have contributed immensely to the initiative by assisting in the promotion of the Paper Bridges Mask Fundraiser and in the transportation of masks to foster centers.
Mask mandates have been implemented across the country and are being recommended by leading medical experts to help prevent the spread of the virus. However, with personal protective equipment (PPE) being in short supply in many states, local foster care systems are facing shortages of resources, thereby posing a significant health risk.
Accordingly, Paper Bridges has taken the initiative to send face masks to foster families, group homes, and treatment centers across the United States, helping vulnerable populations acquire access to masks. To support said initiative, a fundraiser was created on August 21, 2020, to raise money to deliver masks to children lacking protective supplies. The fundraiser has already raised over $2,100 of the $3,000 goal. With the focus on providing relief to vulnerable youth in New York, Herricks High School delivered masks directly to foster centers. For Herricks Paper Bridges Chapter, this is especially important because New York was one of the largest hotspots of COVID-19 at the beginning stages of the pandemic.
According to Carrie Wang, the current Marketing Director of Paper Bridges, the fundraiser firmly aligns with the core goals of Paper Bridges. "Our goal has always…been to spread love and encouragement to children in foster care centers and orphanages around the world,” Wang said.
Will Bystrom and Tucker Ort, Co-Presidents of the Paper Bridges Chapter at Locust Valley High School located in New York, are currently the largest contributors to the mask fundraiser, raising over $1,000. During an interview, Wang expressed her gratitude towards their large contributions and is hopeful that this will pave the way for more people to donate.
Although the fundraiser has been successful in regards to making positive impacts on foster centers, there have been obstacles along the way. Wang mentioned that informing people about the fundraiser was one of the key difficulties, especially since, as she explained, “a lot more people would be willing to donate if they knew about it.”
Thus far, Paper Bridges has been working to raise awareness by advertising the fundraiser on the official Paper Bridges website, posting about it on different social media platforms, and encouraging individual chapters to fundraise.
Another challenge has been accessibility. Watchtower Supplies, the warehouse that graciously donated 100,000 masks to Paper Bridges, is located in New York. To guarantee the distribution of masks, another New York Paper Bridges Chapter took on the responsibility of picking up masks from the supplier to send to community centers. Maria De Fex, the Co-President of New York Paper Bridges and the Co-President of the Herricks Paper Bridges Chapter, has kindly collected masks with the help of her chapter. She and her group have driven to several community centers in New York, where some of her commutes have taken up to an hour without traffic. Despite the inconveniences of commute times and having to arrange rides during such unprecedented times, De Fex still believes that hardships were simply the “obstacles of a younger person trying to be… an activist.” So far, De Fex and her group have already aided in the distribution of around 92,500 masks to the nationwide foster community and plan to continue their mission.
With their current accomplishments, the Paper Bridges nonprofit team looks forward to seeing what the future holds for the New York Chapters. They have demonstrated how much of an impact a handful of high schoolers can make in their communities. COVID-19 has not only amplified the discrepancy in the resources foster centers need to support foster children but has revealed the enormous dedication from passionate individuals within the New York Paper Bridges Chapters to curate a meaningful change in the world.
"Considerations for Wearing Masks." Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Last modified August 7, 2020. Accessed October 19, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cloth-face-cover-guidance.html.
Cray, Kate. "How Do You Find a Home for a Foster Child at a Time Like This?" The Atlantic. Last modified October 11, 2020. Accessed October 19, 2020. https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2020/10/challenge-finding-home-foster-child-pandemic/616673/.
Students In School Wearing Face Masks. Photograph. TheStar. May 11, 2020. Accessed October 29, 2020. https://www.thestar.com.my/opinion/columnists/colours-of-china/2020/05/11/best-not-to-wear-mask-during-pe.