Smith community in China sends thousands of masks to Kingston

Posted on May 20, 2020

Cindy Liang (left), Comm'23 delivers a shipment of masks to Ann van Herpt, director of supply chain services at 3SO.
Cindy Liang (left), Comm'23 delivers a shipment of masks to Ann van Herpt, director of supply chain services at 3SO.

Kingston, Ont. – In these trying times, there are many examples of people helping families, friends, neighbours and strangers. The Smith community – which spans the globe and encompasses students, staff, faculty, alumni, partners and more – is no different.

As a business school with deep international ties, Smith has long benefited from its relationships around the world. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many in the Smith community have repeatedly demonstrated their eagerness to join together to help those in need.

Over the past few months, there has been a well-documented shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) for use by frontline health-care workers facing the threat of COVID-19. As the crisis became more manageable in China, it was only starting in North America, and health professionals in Kingston were in need of PPE. 

By April, several members of the Smith community had begun initiatives to get a supply of protective masks from China to Canada. Global partners, alumni clubs and individual students rallied to get thousands of masks delivered.

“The Smith community was quick to respond to the needs generated by the spread of COVID-19, from alumni and students pivoting their businesses and launching new initiatives to assist frontline workers and those at risk, to faculty, students, staff and local community partners coming together to support impacted businesses,” notes Dean Brenda Brouwer. “The donations of personal protective equipment from our students, alumni and partners in China further emphasize the strength and spirit of the Smith network.”

One donation, of 2,000 masks, came to Kingston from the Guanghua School of Management at Peking University in Beijing. Smith’s partnership with Peking, which began in 2005, was expanded last year to allow for select Commerce students to earn a dual degree from both institutions. In a letter to Smith administration, a Peking official expressed thanks for the support the school received during the early stages of the crisis and offered to send the masks as a sign of gratitude and to provide practical help.

With thousands of business-minded alumni spanning the globe, it is no surprise that by late March, Smith alumni in China were also hard at work on a plan to help out. Members of Smith Business Club China, which represents and connects the growing number of Smith alumni in China, were eager to help out their alma mater from afar. They arranged to deliver 6,400 masks to the Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC) in early May.

For Smith Commerce students, international experiences are integral to their time in the program. Whether they have come to Kingston from abroad to earn their degrees or have a broadened perspective from participating in international exchange, students appreciate that they are preparing to enter an increasingly globalized business world.

This knowledge was not lost on first-year Commerce student Cindy Liang, Comm’23, who arranged a third donation of masks after seeing a tweet from KHSC regarding PPE donations. She worked with a group of former peers from her high school (Beijing’s Keystone Academy) who were interested in donating medical supplies to those in need abroad. 

“After they heard my story, they didn’t hesitate to help and generously sent many medical supplies to me, shipping a total of 14 packages to Canada,” Cindy explains.

She worked with university representatives to get the shipment into Canada and delivered 3,650 masks to KHSC.

“Looking back at the process, I have to say I am very appreciative of the help from the Queen’s community because I could not have accomplished this task without them,” says Cindy, who received help from the university’s procurement services to get the masks through customs. 

“I am glad that we could contribute to frontline medical workers in Kingston, and I am also fortunate to be part of the Queen’s community, which is filled with love and support.”

All mask donations were facilitated through 3SO (Shared Support Services Southeastern Ontario), which is responsible for sourcing and distributing PPE for the Kingston region. 

Thanks to the generosity and entrepreneurial spirits of the global Smith community, local health-care professionals are better prepared and protected as they go to work to help Kingston community members in need. 

Tags: Alumni