Parents Unite for COVID-19 Relief

July 2, 2020

Nohee Kwak and Jacob Lee were used to hearing the name “Johns Hopkins” around their home in Seoul, South Korea. Their son, Brian, was a student at the university preparing to graduate in May 2020. For several years, Kwak had been a leader in a close-knit group of more than 80 Hopkins parents throughout the country. But beginning in January, “Johns Hopkins” was heard in an unfamiliar place — the television. And it was spoken by unfamiliar voices — news anchors reporting on the growing coronavirus pandemic.

Three people - Jacob Lee, Nohee Kwak, and their son Brian - sit on a couch. Brian holds the family dog, Choco, on his lap.
Jacob Lee (left) and Nohee Kwak (center) have long been active leaders in the South Korean Hopkins parents community. Their son, Brian (right, holding the family dog, Choco), graduated in May 2020.

On Kakao Talk, a messaging app popular in South Korea, COVID-19 quickly became the prominent topic of conversation among the Hopkins parents.

“By May, South Korea had dealt with things quite well, but we knew America had a problem. One of the moms [in the Hopkins parents group] has a friend who’s a nurse and told her she needed protective equipment,” Kwak says. “We thought, because Hopkins has such a big hospital, maybe they need something, too.”

Kwak took the lead, leaning on her experience organizing local parents to support several Johns Hopkins engagement efforts in the country, such as the receptions where families of accepted students could connect with one another.

“It’s a small community, so it may not be as powerful as the Hopkins network of parents in the United States, but having a close connection with this group of parents is very important to us,” Kwak says.

At first, the parents group wanted to send masks to Hopkins, but government restrictions prevented them from doing so. After speaking with some Hopkins staff, Kwak proposed an alternative to the group: inviting the Hopkins parents group to band together and donate to Hopkins’ COVID-19 response funds on Giving Tuesday on May 5. The effort netted 27 gifts totaling more than $2,000.

“We all keep hearing Hopkins’ name in the news, they’ve been clocking the status of the virus from around the world from the very beginning,” Lee says. “That makes us proud to be a member of the university — we are very proud of Hopkins.”

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Topics: Friends of Johns Hopkins Medicine, Parents, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Promote and Protect Health