Column: Student Perspectives During The COVID-19 Pandemic

With the advent of the coronavirus pandemic, the world has been put on hold. This public health crisis has strained many sectors of society due to diminishing resources, travel restrictions and overburdened healthcare workers. Amidst all this, people are rising together to help their communities. Over the past few months, while staying at home, I’ve used my time to join this wave of organizers and created LILAC, a COVID-19 relief organization. 

At the beginning of the pandemic, I stumbled upon the social media page of a local Nassau County Legislator Joshua Lafazan, encouraging people to submit Thank You letters for health care workers. Inspired by the idea, I wrote an open letter to health care workers, which was published in my local paper. As schools in New York and Long Island began closing, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio broadcasted the urgent need for protective supplies in NYC. I realized then and there I must do something about the urgent need for PPE within my community.

I founded Long Island Laboring Against COVID-19, or LILAC, an organization that raises funds to serve COVID-19 patients, medical professionals, first responders, and frontline workers putting their lives at risk. 

I created a GoFundMe on March 23. By May 7, we raised more than $17,000 dollars of LILAC’s $20,000 fundraising goal. Also, to meet the enormous demand for more PPE in NYC and Long Island, inspired and motivated by the philanthropic actions of individuals and businesses, and to pay tribute to all those frontline health care workers and non-medical essential workers who have lost their lives, I donated $40,000 of my college savings and $950 of personal savings to help. With these funds, LILAC purchased 25,000 masks and 1,000 medical coveralls/gowns. 

LILAC has also created the Thank You and We Care initiative, which raises the medical community’s spirits by compiling and distributing encouraging letters, cards, artwork, and creative videos for local health workers and patients. We’ve partnered with politicians, including Lafazan and Congressman Tom Suozzi, to donate masks and artwork from this Initiative to hospitals, nursing homes, first responders, fire departments and local government offices. In addition, we’ve garnered support from nonprofits, magazines, school district administrators and other community and cultural leaders. I’m also rolling out the initiative with public schools in my school district.

With this outpouring of support, I’ve been able to radically mobilize my community and help hundreds of people. As LILAC grows, I’m seeking driven students who desire to support their communities. There are many ways to get involved, from submitting artwork, letters and videos to our Thank You and We Care initiative, to joining the organization itself and making an impact in your local community. 

Young people are uniquely positioned in this time to shape the future of our communities. At LILAC, our members have steadily grown, and one member, Willow Dunn, spoke to how touched she was by the sacrifices being made. 

“If I had to choose a personal hero,” Dunn said, “it would be all of the people working in hospitals during this pandemic.”

It’s important to use the privileges we have to serve others, whether through strategically allocating resources or shining light on those neglected by society. Another LILAC member, Alyssa Pinto, spoke about our duty to help uplift our fellow human beings and remember their work.

“I hope all medical professionals get paid their dues,” Pinto said. “We must tell the stories of all medical workers who put blood, sweat and tears to save every life they could.”

If you are interested in knowing more about how you can join, check out LILAC’s GoFundMe at www.gofundme.com/f/LILACovid19 or follow our Instagram @LILACovid_19 for more updates.

—The author Sabrina Guo is an award-winning student journalist who attends Syosset High School.

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