LEXINGTON, Ky. — As University of Kentucky’s overseas partner universities were hit by COVID-19, the UK International Center leadership sent messages of concern and support to impacted colleagues and facilitated the sending of protective personal equipment (PPE). Now, as the virus unfolds in the U.S., UK’s Chinese partners are stepping up to assist UK.
UK’s strategic partner universities in China were impacted early on by COVID-19, and the International Center had to suspend many planned interactions, including UK’s Faculty Training and Development Program with the university’s partner China University of Mining and Technology. And many much-awaited visits to UK from Chinese partner universities and vice versa were postponed.
The UK Confucius Institute (UKCI) and the Office of China Initiatives (OCI) sent multiple messages of support to 20 Chinese partner universities during the COVID-19 outbreak in China and arranged for some donated items to be sent to Huazhong University of Science and Technology Hospital, a partner in the most affected city of Wuhan.
“Already, this pandemic has revealed the strength of UK’s partnerships around the world,” Associate Provost for Internationalization Sue Roberts said. “UK’s international partners are a source of strength for us both in good times and not-so-good times. During times like these we need to stay connected and support one another.”
Shortly after COVID-19 spread to the U.S., UKCI received messages from many Chinese partners, expressing support for UK. Chinese partner universities immediately worked with UKCI to arrange for donations of masks and protective face shields to UK.
UKCI and OCI worked through their Chinese partners to bring 15,000 pieces of PPE to campus coming from a variety of sources in China, which are being donated to UK’s community, including to UK HealthCare.
“It is an extremely meaningful gesture. Our health care workers are on the front lines, and they need adequate PPE,” Roberts said. “The donations send the message that we value and appreciate everything our colleagues in UK HealthCare are doing.”
So far, donations including 11,000 N95 and surgical masks and 260 face shields have arrived from Shanghai University, Beijing Institute of Technology at Zhuhai, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Beijing Sports University, Beijing Language and Culture University, Hanban and Harbin JRSIS Healthcare Cooperation. Additionally, the parent of Chinese student Pan Fan, sophomore international student in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment also donated 1,000 masks for UK students.
“Together we face the unprecedented challenge and the chaos that COVID-19 has caused in all of our professional and personal lives, and together we will overcome,” UKCI and OCI Director Huajing Maske said. “The thousands of masks that UKCI has received and will receive coming from different parts of China are the testimony of this unity of humanity.”
Over 2,800 masks will be delivered to the residents of UK’s Graduate and Family Housing, where many graduate students and their families are currently staying. Additionally, Maske said that campus partners, including the Martin Luther King Center and UK Postal Services’ Distribution Center, have also received some of the donated masks.
In the wider community, UKCI has worked with Global Lex to deliver donated masks to the Lexington’s Emergency Operations Center. And, masks have been distributed to K-12 Chinese teachers in counties across Kentucky.
Importing personal protective equipment (PPE) into the U.S. has not been easy — but the Confucius Institute team in collaboration with Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration Eric Monday have worked to arrange for the transport and delivery of the needed equipment.
In addition to handling the delivery of equipment donations, the Confucius Institute team has been busy translating important messages from President Eli Capilouto, Provost David Blackwell, UK’s International Student and Scholar Services and Mayor Linda Gorton for Chinese-speaking audiences. Lastly, the team has been translating Gov. Andy Beshear’s daily COVID-19 briefings for broadcast on RADIOLEX.
UK and its international partners continue to work together to support one another no matter the circumstances. These existing, long-standing partnerships, which have grown over time, are a leading example of the positive benefits of being part of a global community during challenging times. As with so many of the great challenges we all face in today’s world, COVID-19 crosses borders freely and its impact is felt worldwide. The university’s network of international partners helps UK’s research, education and service to do likewise.
Although international travel and in-person engagements have been temporarily suspended, Roberts said UK’s international inter-institutional relationships will remain a top priority. “The tremendous intellectual strength that comes from international research and educational exchanges and collaboration will be an asset to UK as we emerge from this, I am sure,” Roberts added.