Berkeley nonprofit donates personal protective equipment to hospitals

Tina Zheng/Courtesy

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Project Scientific Coat Initiative for Future Innovators, or SCIFI, provided local hospitals with personal protective equipment, or PPE, in response to the shortage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Project SCIFI is a Berkeley-based, STEM-focused nonprofit organization that provides science equipment to underfunded schools both locally and across the country.

“Our main goal is to provide these students with the tools necessary to practice hands-on STEM education so that they can become passionate about a career in STEM and to encourage them to pursue that path,” said Tess Alwan, member of Project SCIFI and campus freshman.

Though Project SCIFI does not typically donate to hospitals, members decided they would donate PPE to hospitals because of the need. Project SCIFI had the necessary resources, Alwan said.

Alwan added that Project SCIFI is raising money through crowdfunding and government grants and using the money that it typically puts toward schools to donate PPE to hospitals. It also worked with other nonprofits such as Bio-Link Depot and academic sponsors such as UCSF, UC Berkeley and Stanford University to secure materials.

“We’re constantly talking with other organizations to match need with resources, and we get direct donations of materials,” Alwan said. “We also work with other institutions, organizations and companies to get materials and funding as well.”

According to Alwan, by using the nonprofit’s members and their networks, Project SCIFI was able to connect with Bay Area hospitals. To decide which hospitals received donations, the nonprofit contacted hospitals to assess their needs, said Edbert Lu, chief technical officer of Project SCIFI.

Project SCIFI has already made two donations. About $2,700 worth of PPE was donated to UCSF Emergency Department and another donation of about $1,200 worth of medical-grade gowns was given to the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

“A couple of our members made several calls to multiple San Francisco-based hospitals to see if we could match their specific PPE need to what we have in stock,” Lu said. “We eventually got in touch with these two hospitals. It just ended up working out time-wise, need-base-wise, all of that.”

According to Lu, local health care workers reached out to Project SCIFI requesting PPE, and Project SCIFI is currently trying to get materials to support those workers. He added that the process of providing PPE to hospitals was community-based as Project SCIFI works to address community needs.

Alwan added that the project has been able to provide the necessary equipment to hospitals that need it.

“We have been able to provide to just those frontline health care providers such as nurses and doctors with the PPE that they need just to be able to treat everyone,” Alwan said.

Contact Robson Swift at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @swift_robson.

A previous version of this article misspelled Tess Alwan’s name.