WHS freshman gives back during COVID-19 pandemic


Credit: Bernard Lee

Wayland high school freshman Maya Lee after delivering food to Parmenter in Wayland. Lee delivers food and meals to food pantries, hospitals, and homeless shelters as part of her foundation, Team UKAPS. “My foundation shows that kids can help out during times of struggle,” Lee said.

Josh Schreiber

During the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of people have lost their jobs or loved ones across the world. While most people have spent the past few months staying home and stocking up on groceries for themselves, one Wayland High School student has taken the opportunity to give back.

Shortly after school was postponed in March, WHS freshman Maya Lee founded Team UKAPS; a foundation started to help homeless families, healthcare workers and anyone struggling during the pandemic.

“Team UKAPS stands for Uniting Kids Against Poverty and Sickness,” Lee said. “I started my foundation because when the Coronavirus first hit Wayland, I noticed the effect that it had on our community, and I wanted to see what I could do to help.”

Team UKAPS is unique because it focuses on helping a wide variety of people instead of just a certain group.

“My foundation helps communities as kind of like a win-win-win,” Lee said. “First, we organize a food drive and donate our collections to a local food pantry. Then, we want to help out local restaurants, so we buy meals from those local restaurants and donate them to hard-working healthcare workers on the front lines.”

Lee packing food to bring to Parmenter food pantry in Wayland

While Lee’s foundation has greatly benefited people in Wayland, Team UKAPS has now gone not only national but international, too, with 15 cities currently involved.

“We’ve done this process here in Wayland and Boston, and we’ve actually been able to expand to 15 cities in total,” Lee said. “Some of those are New York City, Sacramento, Tulsa, Honolulu, and even as far as Hamburg, Germany.”

Lee got the idea for starting Team UKAPS in part from her family’s holiday gift drive that they have been doing for several years. When the pandemic hit, Lee realized that she could help people that were struggling even though it wasn’t during the holidays.

“For the past several years, my family has been doing a holiday gift drive for homeless families, and it’s just really become a family tradition to give back during the holidays,” Lee said. “I really look forward to the holiday season because it’s a time where we get to give back to families and kids and give them the holidays that they deserve. When the pandemic hit, I knew I needed to do something to help those in need.”

When Lee started her foundation, she wanted to show kids that they could make a huge impact in the world, and it doesn’t just have to be the adults starting their own foundations.

“The reason for naming it ‘UKAPS’ – meaning Uniting Kids Against Poverty and Sickness – was because we really wanted to unite kids during this time, and when people think of other people contributing during this time, they normally think of adults, but my foundation shows that kids can make a difference and help out,” Lee said. “We also added poverty and sickness because, knock on wood, the [COVID-19] pandemic will be over one day, but poverty and sickness is still something that affects people all over the world. My foundation will continue to help people in any way once the pandemic is over.”

After starting in Wayland and then Boston, Lee and her family spread the word to friends across the country to get involved in their city.

Healthcare workers at Newton-Wellesley hospital receiving meals from Team UKAPS

“As far as reaching out to the cities, I have contacted some of my friends in different cities, and my mom and dad have been contacting their friends that have sons and daughters that would be interested in this process, and being a part of Team UKAPS,” Lee said.

While Team UKAPS is already in 15 cities across the world, Lee has ambitious goals for the rest of the year.

“Right now, we’re focusing on the 15 cities, and we’ve actually finished our first round of cities,” Lee said. “But by the end of the summer, the goal would be to get to 50 cities, and then the ultimate goal, depending on fundraising, would be to help 100 cities by the end of 2020.”

For people looking to get involved with Team UKAPS, they can go to this link and click “Shop Now” to donate. People can also help out by spreading the word to other cities.

“We’re always looking for more cities to get involved during this time, so if anyone knows people that would be interested in another city, they can contact me on Instagram at @TeamUKAPS,” Lee said.

For anyone wanting to stay up-to-date with Team UKAPS, they can follow them on social media.

“We have our social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – all of them are @TeamUKAPS,” Lee said. “On our Facebook page, we post our updates of what we’ve been doing. We’ve received lots of photos and videos from restaurants, hospitals and pantries thanking Team UKAPS for the donations so that you can see those on our Facebook page.”

Overall, Team UKAPS has had a huge impact on Lee and has gotten her interested in philanthropy. She started her own philanthropy club at WHS and looks to continue to help people as she progresses through high school and on.

“Team UKAPS has really gotten me interested in philanthropy work, and I started a philanthropy club here in Wayland,” Lee said. “So when this COVID-19 pandemic hit Wayland, I just wanted to see how I could help during this difficult time.”

For more info on Team UKAPS, click here.