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The student Asian Society (AS) turned missed opportunities into philanthropy this spring, donating all the funds they raised for club programming to COVID-19 relief efforts in Boston.

“It feels empowering to have made a tangible difference, and it’s comforting to know that Asians and Asian-Americans in Boston are receiving aid,” said Tony Wang ’20. “We hope Boston’s many communities will support each other in weathering COVID-19 as well as its economic impacts.”

Typically, the AS holds a t-shirt sale to fund programs like the group’s annual senior banquet. This year, using a design from Evelyn Cao ’22, the group sold sweatpants instead. The sale was wildly successful, said teacher Vivian WuWong, a club advisor.

“We decided to shift the purpose of our fundraiser because we wanted to give students a way to direct their anxiety about the virus in a positive way, so we asked students to buy sweatpants in support of the relief efforts,” WuWong said. “The fundraiser was so successful that we had to order a second printing.”

Racism and xenophobia directed toward East Asian people alarmed students, many of whom were receiving troubling news from family and friends in China at the outset of the novel coronavirus infections there. Initial plans to send money to Wuhan, China, changed when the students learned that the money could make a bigger difference locally.

The AS donated proceeds from the sale to the Chinatown Progressive Association’s COVID-19 emergency fund. They also gave to the Boston Medical Center in Mattapan, to help bridge the gap in virus outcomes facing communities of color.

Residents in Boston’s Chinatown neighborhood have been hit hard by the economic effects of the coronavirus; many work in service-industry jobs that have disappeared, and the language barriers and immigration concerns that lock people out of unemployment benefits have left them without a safety net, Wang said. Solidarity from people who reject bias and support the most affected communities has been inspiring, he added.

“Asian communities throughout the world have felt both hostility and support in this difficult time,” Wang said. “I’m grateful that so many from inside these communities and outside them have stepped up to help.”