UT Students Found ‘Project Protect’ to Fundraise for Protective Equipment
By Ryan Chandler
Photography By Ryan Chandler
Austin – Clinicians at the Pediatric Associates of Austin are counting the days until they run out of personal protective equipment. With a nationwide shortage of masks, shields and gloves triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic, the clinic only has enough equipment to last them until the end of May. They know the virus will be a threat longer than that.
“We have a set date that we know we’re going to run out of everything,” medical assistant and University of Texas at Austin junior Matthew Spretz said. “I reuse the same mask for three days… It’s definitely going to be concerning at one point.”
In response to that shortage, a group of UT students founded the organization Project Protect to fundraise for organizations providing PPE. In the last two weeks, the organization has raised more than $4,000 and grown to more than 50 members from campuses across the country including Harvard, Stanford and UVA.
“The story and the origins of Project Protect tell what we stand for,” project co-founder and UT sophomore Krisha Tripathy said. “I was feeling frustrated and helpless that I was at home while there are people suffering on the outside and there’s not much I can do… What is really binding our community together is that fight to get that protection out for as many people as we can as soon as possible.”
The project is partnering with the humanitarian organization Direct Relief, which will contribute 100 percent of its funds to supplying hospitals with protective equipment. However, the problem is complicated. A large cause of the shortage is not that hospitals lack funds but that they lack a place to spend them.
“It’s not so much the funds as it is the actual PPE,” Spretz said. “There’s a nationwide shortage right now. So the moms of workers at the clinics have been making cloth masks and donating it to people… It’s just those little giving back things that you can do.”
Co-founder Sharif Long added that although the organization hopes the donations will help alleviate this problem as much as possible, Project Protect is about more than just fundraising.
“[It’s about] giving people a platform to give back and buying into how connected we all are,” Long said. “Even though we’re not together, even though these are people we don’t know, at the end of the day, we’re all going through this same thing together, so how can we do our part?”
The organization hopes to raise $10,000 and will continue to spotlight medical workers and educate students on social distancing techniques until the pandemic is over. The founders say the sense of community that they have gained through their efforts has inspired them.
“It’s that sense of community that’s pushing us forward, that’s telling of what Project Protect stands for,” Tripathy said. “Just bringing our community together to do what we can in any way we can.”