refugees making masksAll over the world, artisan refugees are using their talents to make face masks. These refugees live in countries such as Mali, Germany, America, Malaysia and many more. They are running a race against time to fill the short supply of face masks in the wake of COVID-19. Refugees making face masks is one way they are giving back.

Social distancing enforcements have put a strain on refugee-owned tailoring businesses. People are unable to come into these businesses anymore as they have to stay at home. Finding a solution to this bind, refugees have turned their primary services to making masks. They are selling them to stay afloat while also helping a great cause.

Refugees Making Face Masks

At least 32,898 have come through Washington since 2003. In Seattle, the Refugee Artisan Initiative has the mission to “transform the lives of refugee and immigrant women by providing sustainable work in sewing and handcrafting products.” Usually, women in this organization, who span from countries such as Vietnam, China, Myanmar and Morocco, produce home products like potholders and fabric jewelry. The Refugee Artisan Initiative helps train refugees so they will have a way to earn a living. It also helps them assimilate by helping them find English classes.

When the crisis hit, the organization was bombarded with many messages about there being a shortage of face masks. In response to this, working refugees decided to make masks by using the multitude of fabrics they have. The Refugee Artisan Initiative then launched a GoFundMe page to support the refugees making face masks. The refugees were able to make more than 1,200 masks within five days.

Continued Efforts

In addition to face masks, the Refugee Artisan Initiative team is also making face shields. It started with a goal of creating 1,000 face shields, but after “Washington state started to pay people for finished face shields,” the goal increased to 10,000. So far, the organization has raised $39,525 towards its $45,000 goal. This money goes to supporting the refugees making the masks to keep the production going. Now, refugees around the world are making masks to help the cause and make whatever money they can to survive.

In refugee camps, social distancing is nonexistent because there are too many people in the camps and they are too close together to social distance. Refugees feel empowered to make face masks in these camps. One of these refugees is fashion designer Maombi Samil who lives in Kenya and is making face masks for the UNHCR (the U.N. Refugee Agency). He and his team were able to make 300 masks in one week. Some of these masks went to refugees who could afford them as well as staff members in need.

Refugees making face masks have helped communities tremendously. They will continue to use their talents to produce face masks as COVID-19 continues. They have been able to make a great difference in protecting people, especially those on the front-lines, against COVID-19.

Emily Joy Oomen
Photo: Flickr