Student Inspired by History, and Faith, to Volunteer During COVID pandemic

DaeJin Kim during his volunteer shift at University Hospital, where he supports staff treating COVID-19 patients.

In  March, as COVID-19 began its rapid spread and state lockdowns began, DaeJin Kim had the same response as other New Jerseyans. He was filled with anxiety.

“At first I was a little bit afraid. I kept reading about rising death rates,” said Kim, a fourth-year student.

But he wanted to find a way to support others and alleviate suffering. DaeJin is one of a handful of predoctoral students who’ve been volunteering at University Hospital during the COVID-19 outbreak. He helps outfit staff with PPE and performs the daily screenings staff must undergo before treating patients.

“I ask them if they have new fever, sore throat muscle pain, shortness of breath,”he explained. “They get a sticker if they don’t have a fever.”

Often, they’re drained from long hours and the monotony of the screening routine. “People get frustrated and they’re really tired, it’s something that’s hard on everybody. But we’re getting through it,” said Kim.

In March, Kim began volunteering two or three times a week, before the height of pandemic and has continued every Saturday.  These days, he isn’t as fearful as he used to be. “As weeks go by, I got used to it and since I’m feeling fine, I think I’ll be healthy as long as I wear the proper equipment.”

When asked why it was important for him to volunteer during the outbreak, he replied that it’s a matter of faith. He is a devout Christian and loves to learn about the history of the religion. Reading the New York Times bestseller “The Triumph of Christianity,” by Rodney Stark, an acclaimed religious and social historian, inspired him.

“In second century Rome, there was a plague going on. Corpses were in the streets and things were brutal but the Christians chose to take care of their neighbors  at a time when  that wasn’t really done. I thought that was really honorable of them. Although I was scared, and I’m pretty sure they were too, it’s worth helping out in dire situations,” he says. “It’s one of the reasons I went into healthcare.”