Buddhist monastics and temple volunteers from New York and California have independently organized to produce face shields for medical workers in their communities. In New York, Dinh Tran Tuan and 55 fellow Vietnamese Americans from the Thanh Tinh Buddhist Temple in the city of Rochester have produced 5,500 face shields for Rochester General and Strong Memorial hospitals. Across the country in Riverside, California, Ven. Quangtri Thich of Phat Tue Temple is working alongside monks and nuns to produce some 600 masks a day for frontline health workers in their area.
The work of both temples reflects efforts carried out by Buddhist organizations, large and small, around the world. As restrictions prevent monks and nuns from carrying out regular meetings with temple members and the public, many have sought ways to put their practices of compassion and generosity into action to help with the fight against COVID-19.
In New York, 48-year-old Dinh said: “When we delivered the face shields to the hospitals, they were very appreciative and sent many thank-you notes. That really boosted our morale because we all knew we were lending a helping hand to stop this epidemic, especially in the New York region.” (VOA News)
Temple members helped fund the endeavor by donating more than US$12,000, enabling Dinh and the volunteers to purchase enough supplies to create 8,000 face shields. This allowed them to send many masks to hard-hit area beyond Rochester, including New York City and its suburbs.
Dinh designed the face shield himself, drawing on more than 20 years of experience as a chemical engineer at Xerox Corp. Using clear plastic and foam with an elastic band helps to keep the masks sturdy yet lightweight to improve comfort. Dinh and his team of volunteers also make the masks in a variety of sizes to ensure the best possible fit for healthcare workers.
Nearly 2,000 of the face masks were sent to Rochester General Hospital, where they were received by Gerald Gacioch, the hospital’s chief of cardiology. “Everybody that has seen them loves them,” Gacioch said in a written statement. “We would be delighted to accept as many as your generous community offers. They are GREATLY appreciated.” (VOA News)
Gacioch continued: “He made a prototype and had my staff and me try it out. WAY more comfortable and breathable than our standard face shield. This is vital when doctors and staff may need to wear them for hours at a time. Hearing is also good and we can use a stethoscope with them!” (VOA News)
The ability to help hospitals nearby as well as those far away and in in greater need helped drive the enthusiasm of the volunteers. More temple members offered to help than Dinh could assign to needed jobs.
One volunteer, Phan Thi My, responded immediately to Dinh’s early requests for help. “I read on the internet that doctors and nurses were in dire need of medical supplies, so I was really happy I could help,” she said. (VOA News)
“I saw videos of nurses crying because of not enough personal protective equipment (PPE), and it’s our duty to do something to help,” said Ven. Quangtri Thich. “Buddha taught us to help people and to show them the way to end suffering. Help everyone anyway possible.” (The Press-Enterprise)