This interview was particularly important to me as I went to The Lawrenceville School myself, many moons ago on a scholarship with the English Speaking Union. It is the most incredible school and I can imagine how hard it must be for everyone who isn’t able to enjoy lessons on their beautiful campus right now.
Phil and his friends are doing something amazing to help during this time though and considering they are still teenagers at school I am even more impressed! They are in their junior year, which is the equivalent of lower 6th (year 12) in the UK.
Pantect is making and donating masks from South Korea and distributing them to those in need in and around New Jersey. Read on to see how Phil set up Pantect and how they are helping right now.
Interview with Phil Han – Pantect Donating Masks to Those in Need
1. Hi Phil, How are you doing in this strange time? Tell us a bit about you, your background, where you are etc?
Hi Jenny! I’ve got to express once again how grateful I am for you to write a story on us. I hope you, your family and friends are doing well amid these trying times. I was born in the states but grew up in Seoul, South Korea, with one younger brother.
I attended an international school most of my time in Seoul. After middle school, I was deeply attracted to the communal lifestyle, vast opportunities, and world-class education offered at boarding school institutions. I am currently a Junior at The Lawrenceville School, a boarding school in Central New Jersey.
Though it had its fair share of challenges — such as living in a whole new country — I’m grateful that I am part of the Big Red family. Beyond school, I am an avid squash player, music teacher, and cook. Some of my favorite authors are Malcolm Gladwell and Jordan B. Peterson.
2. Tell us about Pantect and what made you set it up?
It was back in late March when I heard school would be shut down for the rest of the term. Like what my mom does to her white hair, many of my friends that I desperately wanted to reconnect with during the spring were painfully plucked away. I especially regret not taking those one or two extra minutes to talk with seniors.
When I returned home to Korea, the first vividly apparent difference from the states was the prevalence of masks. EVERYONE was wearing masks. And, I thought, perhaps this might be one of the key explanations as to how Korea so successfully contained the virus.
I had previously done some research on the benefits of mask usage; the results were mostly inconclusive. One thing was for sure, however. Masks have become a symbol of communal effort, generosity, and conviction beyond its alleged benefits. I felt the urge to share the hopeful sentiment I found in Korea back to those in America.
For a good week, I looked for ways to donate masks. Would I make them with some old t-shirts? Who could help me? How would I ship these overseas in time? Should I be doing something more than simply donating masks?
It was also during this process that I came up with the name “Pantect.” Short for Pandemic Protect, Pantect literally means “all cover” derived from its Greek and Latin roots.
I leaped to organizing my first donation when my mom was able to find a man who has a mask factory. The government regulations prohibited us from sending single-use masks. And thankfully, our supplier produced reusable cloth masks. With the help of two friends, we successfully delivered our first shipment. Now, I have a team of 16 Lawrentians, alumni, and other friends who are helping me grow the fundraiser.
3. How many masks have you made and donated so far?
We have acquired a total of 10,000 masks so far. For our first shipment, we donated 1,000 to the Trenton Office of Emergency Operations in New Jersey, 500 each to the communities of Concord, Massachusetts and Lakeville, Connecticut.
The second shipment saw us donate 4,000 to the Princeton Area Community Foundation, a philanthropic community foundation based in Central New Jersey. For our third shipment, we are planning to send 2,000 masks to the JBJ Soul Kitchen, a non-profit kitchen founded by Jon Bon Jovi, and another 1,000 to Franklin County, Massachusetts. We are currently communicating with a couple of organizations to donate our remaining 1,000 masks.
Since interviewing Phil, Pantect have also teamed up with Mercier Street Friends Food Bank in New Jersey, to put masks inside their food bags for the local community .
4. How can people help and get involved?
Donate, Follow, and Share. Donate if you can. Any amount will not go unused. Follow our social media (Instagram and GoFundMe). And, please spread the word! Share the fundraiser with your friends and family, co-workers, and group chats. You can do all of this in a matter of minutes, and you have already played a part in the global effort to overcome the virus.
If you are running a similar charity or part of a business or corporation, reach out to us for ways we can work together make a greater impact. I have never organized a fundraiser of this scale, but I’m learning so much every bit of the way. I’m deeply moved by the efforts of individual communities and organizations to not only help those really in need but also to encourage everyone in the field of altruism to succeed.
Communal dedication is that much more important during a time of crisis. It is easy to sit back and wait for others to take care of problems. But you know that clearly is not enough, and your helping could significantly help alleviate the devastating affects of COVID.
When our government and institutions are struggling to provide for everyone, we each then have a civic duty to extend our compassion to our communities.
5. Any plans for continuing this or doing anything long term with the project? Beyond Covid19?
For years, experts have been wary of a pandemic like COVID-19. Our ignorance of these very warnings has brought severe consequences. Now, the same experts predict that there will be a stronger, more infectious virus bound to come.
Pantect started as an organization that donates masks. We don’t plan to stop that anytime soon. For the next couple of years, we are also aiming to grow awareness as a pandemic network. The virus will undeniably affect every aspect of school life; we want to make resources available for schools to make informed and wise decisions moving forward, become involved in these crucial decision-making processes, and communicate these details with the rest of the school — the students, administration, and parents.
Thereafter, Pantect will function to keep pandemic prep and management on the school community’s radar. Once again, these things aren’t going away. They’ll keep coming. The worst thing we could do as a community is to learn nothing from this experience.
Wowee I am so impressed Phil. Thanks so much for taking the time to be interviewed. I look forward to watching how your not for profit organisation progresses and see how many more people you can help with masks. It seems a small thing but I think it can make a big difference. Whether that is making people feel less anxious when having to leave the house to forming an extra barrier to stop the virus spreading, I really think the small things help.
I’ve just donated to Pantect and you can too on the links below.