When the best charity organization in the world calls on us for help, why do we use COVID-19 as an excuse to ignore its pleas? 

Maybe you saw us blocking the door at Whole Foods, or maybe you saw us dancing at the Santa Monica Pier. Maybe you even heard us loudly telling “dad jokes” in Old Pasadena, and maybe you skated by unseen. I am a face-to-face fundraiser for Doctors Without Borders, otherwise known as Medecins sans Frontier (MSF).

Since 1971, MSF has provided free medical care for those who have absolutely no access to such “luxuries” that we take for granted. Doctors and nurses go to war zones, impoverished nations, and natural disaster areas to make sure those in their greatest hour of need get medical care. I like to call them real-life Superhero Angels, sent to Earth to heal the sick and wounded.

OK, let’s try to NOT talk about the pandemic for just one more paragraph, please.

Did you know that women are still dying from preventable causes during childbirth? Actually, every day about 800 women lose their lives because they can neither find nor afford proper care before, during and after pregnancy. That is why MSF has set up mobile work stations and hospitals all over the world; specifically to find these women and children and provide life-saving care.

Unfortunately, earlier this month there was an attack on an MSF-sponsored maternity ward in Kabul, Afghanistan. Why would anyone attack a maternity ward? Who can say? What we do know is there are parts of this world dealing daily with extreme, senseless acts of bloody violence and unwarranted attacks.

So, back to COVID-19ology, with stay-at-home orders in place in Southern California I quickly became a virtual fundraiser, one who works from home. To no one’s surprise, volunteer doctors still need help with medical supplies. As a result, many like me make hundreds of calls a day to educate and convince folks to become field partners of MSF. This involves giving $25 each month to quite literally save lives.

The excuses are always the same; “I don’t have time.” “I don’t have money.” “I don’t give over the phone.” The list goes on and on, but here are two that make my blood boil: “I can’t give up my money because we are in a pandemic.” And, “I can’t give to you, because I give locally and that’s better for me.”

First, the fact that we are in a pandemic is probably the greatest reason to give to a charity that provides free medical care. I know you are furloughed. I know you might have a job that may not be there next month. But is $25 going to stop you from keeping your lights on? No, but it is going to provide a month’s supply of protective gloves for up to 10 medics.

You want this pandemic to end? MSF does too — and you don’t even have to risk your life to stop it. The doctors and nurses will do that for you, for us.

So let’s get local for a moment. I love supporting local businesses and causes. You become a useful part of the community and are able to watch the positive result. Just tell me who was supposed to give the equivalent of $25 locally for securing those 24 patients that lost their lives in that maternity ward attack in Kabul? Do you think that people living in that region are able to help each other out if MSF even has to be there? Not every place on Earth has people like us living locally.

And some icing on the cake, MSF is now fairly local. Because the US does not seem to know how to provide free medical care, especially to its housing insecure population, MSF has officially stepped in. MSF recently set up shower trailers, handwashing stations, and passed out 1,000 mobile phones to vulnerable New Yorkers who lack the technology to contact emergency services.

If anyone can’t see how giving to Doctors Without Borders is the solution to ending this pandemic, keep hiding $25 under your mattress every month for the second wave of COVID-19. 


Maggie Shaak, a resident of Alhambra, is a fundraiser for Doctors Without Borders. Contact her at  maggieshaak@gmail.com.