UEA student distributes thousands of face masks in Norwich

UEA student Songze Chang, an international student from China studying a postgraduate course in global media and economics, has been distributing face masks to elderly and vulnerable people in Norwich. He said that after being asked by an elderly man in a supermarket where he had got his own mask, he wanted to do something to help vulnerable members of the community at this time.

Mr Chang said: “At that moment I felt that I really needed to help him. Later on, I bought 100 face masks from China online and packed them up including some positive messages and an image of my national flag.

“My friends and I started to give them out in Norwich, many of whom told us they didn’t have access to the internet to buy them. People were surprised and receptive to our offer and thanked us, many putting them on straight away as they entered supermarkets.”

Videos of him and his friends distributing the face coverings were then uploaded to the social media platform TikTok, prompting the donation of more than 8,000 additional masks. Some of these were donated to workers at local care homes, Earlam Police station, and Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

Karen Blackney, Head of UEA’s International Office, said: “When I heard about this, I was so delighted that in these challenging times, an international student from UEA has reached out to help others in our Norfolk community. 

“What an amazing example of a humanitarian act that crosses all boundaries; nothing exemplifies more clearly that we are all in this together and that our common humanity can and should win through. Congratulations to Songze and thank you for your generosity and kindness.”

Mr Chang said he wanted to give back to the Norwich community that has welcomed him since he began his studies here in September 2019. He said: “People always speak to me who are interested in my home country, how living in the UK is different and what I want to do after my studies. I am very thankful to be living in such a safe, kind and welcoming community where everyone embraces international students.”

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Henry Webb

January 2021
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