When Stanford announced on March 10 that classes would be moved online, many students stressed over the transition from in-person to distance learning. But Freddy Rabbat ’23 and Jack Yuan ’24 added even more to their plate, embarking upon a daunting project: supplying hospitals with masks. The pair said they worked 12 to 16 hours a day for three months, supplying and donating over 240 million masks to U.S. and Brazilian hospitals as well as other nonprofit organizations.
“The entire project started in late March,” Yuan said. “It started off as something smaller — Freddy and I were just working on it together — but in the end, it grew quite large.”
Rabbat decided to start the project in early March when he returned home to Brazil and saw how underprepared the country was.
“We didn’t have the resources,” he said. “Some people weren’t even looking for the resources yet, and [there were also] those who weren’t able to find it.”
Rabbat contacted a few friends to see if they knew any manufacturers in their areas. Yuan, who had returned to his home in China, was one of them.
“I had no idea if he knew the people in the area, but I [thought,] ‘Let’s just give it a shot,’” Rabbat said. “He’s a person in a country that I know that produces a lot of these products, and there might be a chance he knows someone in the area. I reached out to Jack and … we found a few manufacturers who would be able to help us in supplying these products.”
Rabbat and Yuan worked with Brazil’s federal government and different manufacturers to find “the best quality and lowest cost of equipment for Brazilian and American people,” Yuan said. They talked with approximately 200 mask manufacturers.
“We needed to get the right masks to Brazilian hospitals at the lowest price possible,” Yuan said. For him, that meant “a lot of traveling around China, a lot of negotiations. The cultural differences between how Chinese and Brazilians think and the [different] time zones [made things] super difficult.”
Despite the difficult work, Rabbat said that watching the first plane arrive with masks in Brazil made it all worthwhile.
At the time, there were still “another 43 planes to come, but at least the first one’s here [in Brazil], and [that] was a really happy moment. … It was an emotional moment to see those masks coming,” he said.
Rabbat said the project “worked only because of the level of trust that both Jack and I had in each other.”
“That’s what really differentiated us,” Rabbat said. “We’re talking about two nations across the world. We think in polar opposites and [have] different cultures, different mindsets [and] different ways of working. We helped bridge that [gap] with the trust we had in each other.”
As for the future, the two plan to continue supplying hospitals with the materials that they need.
“The main objective is to continue to try to help out people wherever tools are necessary,” Rabbat said. “Let’s see where else we can help … let’s look onto other areas where there is a large need.”
Contact Tyler Pak at tylerypak ‘at’ gmail.com.