Part of our Together While Apart campaign, #MyMaskMyStory is a collection of personal accounts from individuals with deep ties to the COVID-19 pandemic. These include those who have volunteered, those who have donated, and those who have received.
Edited by Dilber Shatursun
“When I came to the US, I came empty-handed. I grew up in Tainan, Taiwan, and came here at 17 years old. I worked my way from language school to college, started work after graduation, and created my current business. What I have now is all that this land has given me, so I often think about how to do something to give back to the community.”
“Our company, Furniture of America, recently started making masks in the US. It was by chance and also fate. During this period in Taiwan and China, I got to know of factories making raw materials for masks, factories with mask-making machinery… plus the news I was hearing that masks were mostly made outside the US. We thought this was an opportunity to help bring production back to the American economy, to make masks in America for Americans to use.”
“The other reason I wanted to make masks was for our employees to use- so they could feel more at ease. That’s why we decided to give it a try. We began this project about three or four months ago. So far, it’s been very smooth and successful. The masks we currently produce are only given away or donated- and not sold- because it doesn’t feel right to be selling them during the current situation.”
“About 50,000 to 60,000 masks are donated each month. Donations have been to customers of our furniture company, community hospitals. Besides that, on our mask branding website, Aidway, there is a page for anyone to register, explaining which hospital or individuals need masks. We will do a simple review, and then package and mail out the masks. This is what we have been doing.”
“Over $100,000 is the value of the donated masks. Actually, we did not calculate that each month it will take this much investment. We originally just wanted to make masks for company employees, and donate the excess masks to help others. Since our main furniture business is fine, mask production will still focus on the guiding principle of how to help the community and slow the growth of the pandemic.”
“But, we are a furniture factory- without many contacts or connections to reach hospitals and those who would really need masks. I had seen many Tzu Chi stories, and, actually, my mother is a Tzu Chi volunteer in Taiwan. Here, Rosi T. Ueng, a Tzu Chi volunteer, and I have known each other for many years. I heard her say [they] have a lot of connections to help people in need… so I wanted to give masks through Tzu Chi to those who could use them.”
“We hope to donate 2,000 masks to Tzu Chi through Rosi every month, and continue to do so, according to Tzu Chi’s needs. We will just donate- and continue to donate- until the pandemic has eased, then we will discuss how to develop our business model after that. After all, the pandemic is still very grave.”
“If every person, each with their own strengths, can help another person, this energy can make our world a better place. I feel this is something everyone should do.”
Ronald Kuo is the owner of Furniture of America & Aidway Personal Care Product, Inc. His recent donation of 1,000 N95 respirators in June to Tzu Chi USA was followed by another 2,000 in July, with a commitment to donate another 2,000 N95s every month to Tzu Chi as needed. To see the entire #MyMaskMyStory collection, click here.