Members of the Santa Barbara Chinese School Jason Mai, Tao Wu, Wenjing Chen and Connie Fan have been ordering medical supplies from China to donate to local hospitals. | Credit: Daniel Dreifuss

With family and friends back in Asia, Wenjing Chen, principal of the Santa Barbara Chinese School, is all too familiar with the pain the coronavirus can bring. So are her students. “We have seen the outbreak in China, so we know what we are facing right now,” Chen said. “We are fighting against time.”

To help stave off a shortage of protective equipment for Santa Barbara’s medical workers — which doctors and nurses in China faced with devastating results — Chen and the volunteers have raised nearly $12,000 to buy masks, gowns, and gloves overseas and have them shipped to the Central Coast. They are using their connections and language skills to track down the right Chinese suppliers and have so far delivered hundreds of items to Cottage Health, including N95 masks and face shields. Hundreds more are on the way. “We know the medical workers are working so hard on the front line,” Chen said. “If there’s something we can do to protect them, why not?”

As far as she’s aware, Santa Barbara’s Chinese community hasn’t experienced the xenophobic backlash reported in other cities across the country. Chen arrived in the U.S. in 2013 and has always found Americans “very friendly and very helpful,” she said. “We want to return the kindness. This is our community, and we care about it. We’re just glad to help.”

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