Mark Chung ’21, overcomes obstacles created by COVID restrictions and finds a different way to help out.

This summer 25 students were accepted in the CSGC grants program. These grants are funded due to the generous support of the Cost, Earle/Mendillo and Workman families, who established endowment funds to support the community and public service endeavors of future generations of Deerfield students. For more information on these grants please visit: https://deerfield.edu/csgc/grants.

Early in April, as I was calling my friend Eric, we began to discuss the possibility of contributing our efforts and time into helping alleviate the crisis faced by many individuals during the COVID-19 crisis. Fast forward a couple weeks, and we had begun to send out our first shipments, and it was clear that our community and loved ones were dedicated to helping us bring our mission to life.

Over the past three months, my friends and I have been hard at work building up the Shielding Our Defenders initiative. On paper, our goal was straightforward: to provide medical professionals and institutions with the proper resources to keep our communities safe and healthy. We were well aware of the difficulties faced by many of these individuals, and of the great challenges they faced to receive something as simple as basic facial protection. We had been keeping ourselves updated through news and social media, where we were constantly reminded of the realities of this crisis. Coinciding with a halting of much of our academic and extracurricular lives, it was clear that many of us felt hopeless in the beginnings of this pandemic. Personally, I felt as though I didn’t have the place to chip in, that I was unable to help with the limited resources available to me among these circumstances. However, my experiences participating in SOD have shown me otherwise.

Being quarantined in Seoul, South Korea, I was (and have been) largely unable to help out with the field work of organizing shipments and delivering them to medical centers. Researching into ways that I could help out turned out largely unfruitful. Despite being able to help receive resources, restrictions on PPE exports made it nearly impossible for me to participate physically.

This, obviously, was a blow for my morale. Finding and having ways for you to help out at your fingertips, but being unable to do so due to the circumstances was certainly frustrating. However, I understood that the core of an initiative went deeper than field work– and I was ready to redirect my dedication into any aspect I could help out with.

Over the past few months, I have been utilizing my abilities and support from the CSGC to develop an image for SOD, an identity that we could present to those in our community and beyond. While it may seem superficial at first, my experiences so far participating in groups and initiatives have taught me the importance of image and design, especially in virtual environments. With social distancing largely limiting face-to-face interactions with our community, we established early on that our image as a group would be a critical component of our initiative. Our goal was not only to fulfill our original mission, but also to connect with our community through it– we understood that the first step in this would be our online presence.

I have dedicated my hours and efforts into SOD developing graphics, designing a website, and updating our supporters on the amazing work we have been able to accomplish throughout this amazing experience. I have come to realize that the barriers that I had originally been stumped by provided me the opportunity to explore challenges I had never focused on before. Our lives, whether it be on campus or not, will inevitably be different for the foreseeable future. Some of our work as a school will have to take place in online settings, and it is easy for us to slip into the same frustration that I had experienced early on in developing SOD. But SOD has only shown us the ability for those in our community to adapt, and I am dedicated to putting in the same amount of effort into my work as we look into the coming months.

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