Before March 2020, wearing masks was an unfamiliar concept. Now, however, it has become our new norm as all Deerfield community members work together to protect the community from the spread of the virus. Indeed, COVID-19 has changed and will continue to change our lives for some time to come. Ever optimistic, Deerfield students have not only adapted to mask-wearing, but also have sought creative ways to use masks. By keeping a positive attitude toward masking, Deerfield students have found ways to engage in acts of service. From starting student-led organizations such as Shielding Our Defenders, to sewing masks and using social media to provide fashion-related advice for mask wearers, Deerfield students have extended their initiatives beyond campus.
At the start of the pandemic in March, Angie Osei-Ampadu ’21 and Eric Wang ’21 co-founded Shielding Our Defenders (S.O.D.), an organization that donates masks and PPE to hospitals and health care workers. Angie shared that they came up with the idea while discussing the dramatic impact of the pandemic on New York City. She had explained the situation at the hospital where her mother was employed: “The nurses and doctors didn’t have enough masks. The PPE was really short.” Eric then told her that he had extra masks that his dad had been sending over from Hong Kong and that he would arrange for some masks to be shipped to her mom. Soon, Osei-Ampadu and Wang realized that this could be implemented on a larger scale to support multiple hospitals around the country.
When asked about the fundraising success of S.O.D., Osei-Ampadu attributed it to wide-spread support from fellow Deerfield students. “[The success was] very much due to the Deerfield network and people’s willingness to help and get involved,” she said. S.O.D. recruited Deerfield students to join its efforts by sharing about the organization through Instagram and promoting their GoFundMe page.
Liv Del Sarto ’21, one of S.O.D’s members, shared her work with S.O.D. as well as projects to provide cloth masks for her community. “I was making masks for my family members and friends, and then later in the summer I started making them for my local homeless shelters and places that I knew needed them,” she said. “I’ve always been a crafter, so that was just something that appealed to me as a way to help.”
Del Sarto was not the only Deerfield student who worked with S.O.D. Lilly Berry ’21 worked as the Head of Communications and the Head of the West Coast Branch, as well as collaborating with the New Jersey team. She shared that, surprisingly, one of their biggest struggles was finding hospitals to donate masks to. “There were times where we had masks sitting in our houses and could not find a place to donate them. Besides that, we were fortunate not to face any big struggles,” she said. When asked about her favorite aspect of S.O.D., Berry shared that it was being able to use their resources to help those in need. “We received a picture from some of the staff at a California hospital that had just received a shipment from us,” she recounted. “Even though they were wearing masks, you could see that they were smiling!”
In regards to staying safe on campus, Director of Medical and Health Services Dr. Bryant Benson shared that, “We want to keep multiple layers of protection in place to operate in the best and safest way we can. To keep our community, our employees, and our students safe, and to stay open. We want to have this in person experience which makes Deerfield so Deerfield.”
He also noted that during the months spent preparing for students’ return in the fall, “It was very concerning to our crew in the health center, trying to find PPE, especially because it dried up in the first few months of the pandemic. But luckily in the summer, we found alternative vendors collaboratively through alumni, collaboratively through peer schools, and we worked collectively trying to find gear, so we were in good shape PPE wise when the school year started. Much better shape than I had initially thought we would be in.”
Thanks to these students’ efforts to make mask-wearing an opportunity for service and fun, the Deerfield community can be assured that what’s really under people’s masks are smiles.