Canadian teen Sean Uy did not expect a letter from a powerful person in the U.S.
It came from Andrew Cuomo, governor of the state of New York. He wrote to thank the former student at J. N. Burnett Secondary School in Richmond, B.C.
Cuomo wanted to express his “sincere appreciation” for the face shields Uy sent to “help keep New Yorkers safe” from COVID-19.
“I am forever grateful,” the New York governor told the young man.
When the pandemic spread last spring, Uy began making face shields with his two 3-D printers at home. At the time, he learned from an uncle, who is a doctor in the U.S., that personal protective equipment was in short supply in America.
In addition to New York, once the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S., Uy’s face shields went to Texas, North Carolina, Oregon, and Washington. He also gave to hospitals and care centres in Metro Vancouver.
“I just wanted to help,” Uy told the Straight in a phone interview.
Uy is now 18 years old and a student at BCIT. He is taking an aircraft-maintenance-engineer program at the college’s Aerospace Technology Campus in Richmond.
The young man is of Chinese and Filipino heritage. He and his family moved to Canada from the Philippines in 2005.
Uy recalled that he was surprised and happy when Cuomo’s letter came this November.
“I cannot ask for anything,” he said.
In April this year, the Straight reported about J. N. Burnett students who were making face shields and ear savers, a mask accessory.
Uy and Christopher Lam started at their respective homes. Lam later asked if the school’s 3-D printers could be used. School principal Wennie Walker supported the idea and contacted the Richmond school district to get more printers.
Lam, Uy, and another student, Adriano Carvalheiro-Nunes, then continued with the school-based project. They were supported by technology teacher Wes Bevan and other school staff.
“There’s so many things that I’ve learned,” Uy said about his experience. Uy also noted that he had “never made something so many times over and over and over”.
“I really learned a lot about editing designs and making my production more efficient,” he said.
It also introduced him to many people outside of Canada, not just in the U.S. but in Europe as well, where he connected to individuals regarding technical and supply matters related to 3-D printing.
“This has really grown my circle of who I can reach out to now,” Uy said.
Uy said that he and others helping with the 3-D printing have stepped back from production now that supply from manufacturers has caught up with demand.
When the COVID-19 pandemic started, Uy recalled, people were panic buying because there were limited supplies.
“I thought of it as a way to kind of fill in,” he said about why he and his friends started making face shields and other personal protective equipment.
Uy said that back in April, Cuomo was among those to whom he sent face shields in New York. “That means he really remembered,” Uy said about getting the note from the governor.
In his personally signed letter, Cuomo described Uy’s compassion for New Yorkers as an “extraordinary gesture”.
“This experience has taught me so much,” Cuomo wrote, “but the vast generosity and kindness of people—near and far—is what continues to inspire me.”