By collecting thousands of personal protective equipment items — or PPEs — and donating them to local hospitals, Ashburn 7-year-old Zohaib Begg proved it’s not only grown-ups who can make a difference during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Zohaib was inspired to do his charitable work when his aunt, who works in the emergency room at Inova Fairfax Hospital, said she did not have any protective headgear to wear to her next shift.
“We were looking at swim caps to give her, because I’m a swimmer,” Isma Begg, Zohaib’s mother, told the Times-Mirror. “We were thinking what else she could wear.”
Young Zohaib piped up. “I got the idea that we could collect shower caps from hotels,” he said. His aunt confirmed shower caps would work as one-time disposable PPEs, as long as they could be affixed to one’s face with elastic.
The Beggs began by listing out local hotels and making calls. “Most of the hotels were deserted with managers working the shifts. There were no housekeeping needs at this point, so they were really generous,” Isma Begg said.
In addition to shower caps, Zohaib said many hotels’ maintenance departments could donate proper face-masks and protective gloves. As coronavirus has kept most of America isolated at home, the need for hotel room upkeep materials is minimal.
After establishing contact, Zohaib and his mother drove to the hotels and gathered the donations while maintaining proper social distance. They had managers leave the materials ready to grab from a shelf so they could quickly go in and out.
“We mostly didn’t have contact with anybody,” Isma Begg said. “Some other places that would require more contact, we just had to say no [to their donations].”
Even with that caveat, the results of Zohaib’s work are staggering. “We ended up with 6,009 PPEs,” he said proudly.
“Really wonderful things have happened since he did it. We’ve been getting great responses,” Isma Begg said.
Zohaib’s work has inspired similar action from those close to him, including his grandmother, who also works at a hospital. She and her coworkers plan to ask for PPE donations from the maintenance departments at nearby universities.
Beside his generous efforts, the Beggs are doing their best to use their time well while self-isolating. As a second-grader at Guidepost Montessori in Broadlands, Zohaib continues to spend weekdays learning as much as he can.
“I have classes on the Internet, and then I have breaks around 10 or 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.,” Zohaib said.
“We’re just like everybody else. We’re looking up new recipes, we’re going on walks, our basement is a playground, and we do a lot of FaceTime with grandparents and the rest of the family,” Isma Begg said.