When the statewide shelter-in-place was mandated, I gained a new perspective on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. I realized how privileged my family and I were to stay at home, while others still needed to go to work. Seeing their struggles, I knew I wanted to help, and with a group of friends, we organized an effort to show support for essential workers around the Bay Area.
With the help of Manzanita Works, we started by putting up signs around our hometown of Palo Alto as a means of cheering on essential workers as they headed off to work. So far, we have put up dozens of signs throughout the Bay and hope to spread our message of love and appreciation to as many essential workers as possible.
When we noticed that other youth groups were making more tangible contributions to our local workers, we decided to expand our methods of outreach. The result is the Essential Heroes Campaign– focused on providing support and resources to the heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic- essential workers and first responders.
Through my mom’s involvement, Edda Lieja from the Latino Community Foundation’s Peninsula Latina Giving Circle, we learned about the Community Center for Arts in Technology (CCAT) in Fresno which was in desperate need of masks. When I called Armando Valdez, CCAT’s Director, he explained his efforts to aid local farmworkers and social workers, distributing masks, food, and other resources.
Two of our team members, Alex and Jordan, experimented with various mask designs until they found one that had been created by healthcare workers in Montana. Using five 3D printers on loan from idTech and Nokia, we got to work. In one week, we successfully printed 50 reusable masks, complete with adjustable straps and an ergonomic fit.
Being able to help farmers, who feed and provide for various communities around the state, meant a lot. Often, people who work in the fields go unseen, and sometimes are afraid to ask for help. Even before the pandemic, they worked tirelessly, facing vast temperature changes and long hours. Ironically while they are surrounded by produce, staying healthy and getting food to their own families is a daily challenge.
For our families, this scenario hit home; as Latinos, we felt empathy for these farmworkers, and we couldn’t let them continue in unsafe conditions. By donating these masks, it felt as though our efforts had made a tangible impact and kept members of the Fresno community safe.
This experience has emphasized the importance of community outreach, the significance of organizations like CCAT, and the power of youth leadership. These masks are a small token of appreciation for the people providing us with food in these difficult times. But to us they are a big testament to the fact that each of us – children, teens, and adults- can do something to help.
Written by youth contributors Inés García and Alex Fester.