High schoolers lead nonprofit and distribute ‘Kind Words’ to Bronx hospitals

A group of teens are showing some love to health care workers the old fashioned way.

Allerton resident Herman Martial Bikoko, a junior at Deerfield Academy, a boarding school in Massachusetts, is shuttered home during COVID-19. Knowing he can’t physically help people, he and his classmates decided to put pen to paper.

Along with Gabriella Hu of Chicago and Henry Barrera of Queens, they started a nonprofit in April, Kind Words USA, where their mission is to send notes of encouragement and gratitude to medical centers around the country. At first they wrote letters to medical facilities and then as word spread, people began sending them notes to send via their website and Instagram.

Bikoko has already mailed personal notes to Montefiore and Lincoln Hospitals and as a group, have sent hundreds of messages to hospitals across the nation.

“For me it’s about legacy of myself and my classmates,” Bikoko said. “The legacy of the coronavirus doesn’t have to be thousands dying. The legacy can be people who created and helped.”

The youth explained that most people can donate money, but writing sincere heartfelt messages can have an impact beyond words. He stressed that doctors and nurses deserve the recognition for the tireless work they put in.

They also plan to send cards to nursing homes and shelters, where people are isolated and cannot have visitors.

Hu has written more than 300 letters and said one boy in Massachusetts sent them a note saying everyone in his family, apart from him, had COVID-19, and requested a letter for a hospital there. According to Hu, they have received positive feedback from all the hospitals.

“I feel really good about it,” she said. “I’m happy I found some small way to help. In writing letters it can help with the human connection that so many people are lacking right now.”

The trio explained that as they sat home watching the death toll and confirmed COVID cases rise, they felt compelled to do something.

“I thought the mission was unique,” Barrera said. “I feel like the attention is needed for Kind Words.”

They all agreed that these turbulent times have changed their perspectives on life; especially Bikoko, who resides in one of the hardest hit areas in the country. At the end of the day, the goal is to make people feel better, even if it is just for a few minutes.

“They’re risking their lives for us and they’re not really receiving anything in return,” he said. “I feel very happy to hand out notes to nurses and doctors. It’s all about the sentimental touch that we all have.”

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