Masks Masks Masks !!! A COVID Story from us.


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We all want to help one another, human beings are like that
We want to live by each other's happiness, not by each other's misery - Charlie Chaplin
A COVID times story, which was long pending, that I am writing now at its one year anniversary.  It has been more than a year now we are into the COVID Global pandemic. 

Today marks a 1-year anniversary of a short combat effort we did last year in our local community. In late March 2020, when the initial stay at home orders were announced, CDC had initial guidelines that Masks really does not help. But later they changed the guidance. All because of the mask shortage in US.  I remember ordering a mask online in March, but that did not arrive till end of April 2020. I also heard horror stories, how health care workers were struggling without masks in our city. Btw, we were living in the richest country in the World but could not make masks at the time of need.  Situations are different today, you can get masks in every form and shape, style, and color everywhere here now. Now there is a new problem of oversupply and garbage generation with single use masks landing in the ocean.

But during the initial stay at home days, after reading so many research articles, I realized a good cloth mask can help us and hence I was trying to stitch a mask for my family. Both, my wife Sakthi and I did not know how to stitch, so during lunch time we were having a conversation, shall we ask some folks if they can stitch masks for us, since there is no masks anywhere.  That lunch conversation between us resulted in starting a local community crowdsourcing initiative to stitch cloth masks last year : Seattle Face Mask Army . Sakthi posted in the local facebook groups to recruit few women who knew to stitch and formed a group. The idea here was simple - we sourced mask materials and deliverd the mask materials to your doorstep , you stitch and leave it at your porch. We will pick them and deliver it  to the sections and individuals where it is most needed.

Within a week - we had a lot of friends and volunteers who joined to help us in various aspects of the effort - stitching, procurement, delivery, running awareness campaign, and fundraising.  After ramping up our effort in a month, we had 100+ volunteers helping in various stages to deliver 200+ cloth masks every week to hospitals and public utility services.  

Every stage was a challenge, since supply chain was badly impacted, we did not get enough raw materials. I remember Sakthi and I personally took all the old t-shirts and cut them and made as stretchable elastic for masks. Our friends donated their unused bed sheets that we could cut to make it as masks. Many friends spent their weekends delivering and picking materials and masks to various houses and the health care organizations. Many volunteers joined and said even if they don't know stitching they will do the help with cutting the materials. So we created an awesome supply chain of funding, sourcing materials, cutting and prep of pre stitch materials, stitching, delivery network and campaigning the efforts in a period of 4 weeks. More than 75+ women who spent their valuable hours and labor to do the stitching of these masks at their home.  By end of June we donated more than 5000 cloth masks to people who were in need. Only by end of June 2020, masks supply chain started to open up and a lot of commercially made masks were available when we slowly ramped down our effort.

The beauty of this collective human effort, we never met almost 95% of these volunteers in person and we could not see them because of the social distancing guidelines.  There was no personal connection, we had, and no need for each of these volunteers to help or give their time, money and labour at the time. But they all came together to help others at the time of need. Beacuse we all want to help one another and we are like that only ! 

This is a great story and memory for Sakthi and I to cherish and remember. We spent our weekends planning, packing and organizing this effort together. Thanks to all the friends, family members and volunteers who were a part of this beautiful journey. Big Thank you !!!


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