COVID-19 has devastated personal protection equipment (PPE) stores in the places that need it most, such as hospitals, nursing homes, and senior centers, and supplies are getting dangerously low, especially in New York City where my family and I live.
When COVID-19 first hit the area and the city went into a lockdown, my wife, Lisa, immediately started looking for ways to give back. As someone who considers helping others to be a fundamental part of being alive, she wanted to get involved and give back in a meaningful way. Our neighbor, Ambereen Sleemi, is the executive director and surgical director of International Medical Response (IMR), a non-profit organization focused on providing primary and surgical care in strategic areas to mitigate the effects of resource deficits. When Lisa heard that IMR was organizing a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, she immediately volunteered. The organization, which typically focuses on treating severe gynecological conditions in Africa, Malawi, and Haiti as well as bringing direct medical aid and supplies to victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, had shifted gears and is now procuring and distributing critical PPE to healthcare workers in New York and California.
Lisa and I started volunteering with IMR in April by picking up PPE supplies near our home in Brooklyn and delivering materials 3-4 times a week for an hour or two at a time to hospitals, nursing homes, and senior centers across Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn. The PPE supplies typically include face masks, face shields, gloves, and booties, but we have also delivered other supplies such as reusable gowns, Tyvek hazmat suits, and even cleaning supplies. Lisa communicates with the organizations by texting them when shipments have been dropped off and does the driving, while I help load the equipment and drop it off. We both wear goggles, face masks, and gloves and do not come into direct contact with the healthcare workers who pick up the supplies and take them back inside. While all this is going on, I stay connected to my team at Lighthouse via my phone and continue to work on the drives to and from locations. I’m always following a few Teams chats, emailing, and talking to clients as we navigate the streets of New York with our car full of PPE.
Providing COVID-19 relief is very personal for Lisa and I. Lisa’s father and Lisa’s best friend’s father both passed due to COVID-19. Lisa recently said to me, “I was sitting at home and feeling hopeless. I needed to do something and delivering PPE allowed me to do that.”
It feels good to help people. I am very grateful to be able to work from home during this difficult period and have a leader who supports my volunteer efforts. We also have been having more quality time with our kids where we genuinely laugh and connect.
If you are interested in volunteering in a similar capacity, reach out to your local organizations that are supplying and delivering PPE. If you feel so inclined, you can also donate to provide emergency PPE supplies for NYC here.
For more information, please feel free to reach out to me at CJanak@lighthouseglobal.com.