Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, medical professionals have been pushed to the front lines and are at a constant risk of infection. ICONfront interviewed Miyu Kashiwabara, an ICU junior student who stands up for these medical professionals.
Q1. Please tell us about your project.
I started an online fundraiser for medical workers in Japan who are at the front lines during this COVID-19 pandemic.
I am selling sweatshirts and T-shirts which I designed, and the profit from the sales will be donated to medical workers through “Peace Winds Japan”.
“Peace Winds Japan” is the organization I am planning to donate to. Since the head of this organization is a medical worker, I thought that my donations would reach hospitals and medical facilities sooner than other non-medical support organizations.
Q2. What inspired you to start this project?
Originally, I was the head of Forth Women’s Dormitory in ICU, and had been designing logos and T-shirts for their alumni association. This year, I was planning to design a sweatshirt when the freshmen moved in, but it was canceled due to COVID-19.
I was still into designing so when I was thinking about what I can do for others, while drawing on my smartphone, I came up with the idea to support the medical workers on the front line. I took action straight away and created an Instagram account for this project, just an hour later.
Until I came up with the idea, I thought that the only thing I could do was to stay at home and avoid spreading the virus. But I remembered the people who couldn’t stay home, and who fought on the front lines even though they had a high risk of being infected at their workplace. After considering what I could do, I came up with the idea of supporting them through online donations.
Q3.How did you feel at the beginning?
I didn’t have much experience doing this and it wasn’t easy, but I thought if I didn’t start now, nothing was going to change!I was ready to engage in the project. I started selling the T-shirts towards the end of April, and since then my friends have given me many words of support, and have shared my work through social media. The reactions and feedback from my friends and supporters have really motivated me further.
Q4. When do you feel that your efforts have been worthwhile?
It’s very rewarding when my friends actually buy my products and give me words of support. For example, one of my friends said, “I’m supporting you, let me buy it!”, and people I don’t know told me that my designs were so cute, and so they followed my Instagram account.
Q5. Is there anything you have learned, compared to before and after your project?
It’s really difficult to design a T-shirt that everyone likes. That is the difficulty of activism.
It has been about a month since I started this project, and I have had many internal struggles. If I want to increase the donation amount, the price will inevitably become higher, and people will hesitate to buy the T-shirts. Therefore, I thought it would be easier if I set the same price for all the T-shirts, regardless of different profit margins, but with this being charity work, some people thought that the profit was unclear. I gradually incorporated those opinions into my activities.
I also received many comments when I posted information on social media, both good and bad. I learned a lot from them.
Q6.Originally, the title of your activity was “F**k You Virus”, but after a while, you changed it to “Fight You Virus”. Can you explain the reason?
At first I named my project based on how I felt. However, I received various comments on social media, such as, “not many people would want to buy your product if the title has the f-word in it” or, “will the doctors and nurses be happy receiving a donation from an f-word fund?”
So, I decided to conduct a survey on Instagram on whether I should change the title or not, and the result was fifty-fifty. I eventually decided to change the name from “F**k you Virus” to “Fight You Virus”, because I wanted more people to see and recognize my project.
Q7. Do you have a message towards the society?
There is always someone suffering in our society. If you are not the one suffering, I think you should reach out to those who are. This time, I was able to take action, so I just took action.
If you are capable of relieving someone’s pain, you have to do something. Medical professionals are the same as us, living around us. They are not invincible, they are human beings. Let’s praise their work and support them at the same time.
Q8. What kind of person do you think is an activist?
I think everyone who lives wanting to change something for the better is an activist. There are various issues to be solved in our society, and I would like to solve them as much as possible.
Q9. Finally, what are your goals for the future? Any challenges in mind?
First of all, I need more recognition for my project, because I want to do my best to carry out the donation by selling more T-shirts. While COVID-19 is raging, I will continue to concentrate on this project. but when it has settled down, I would like to tackle other social issues around the world, like feminism.
I also have many artistically talented friends, such as in music and painting. Though I used my own design for this project, I am planning more activism through art with those friends in the future.