Despite little sewing experience, Zara Craig '23 and Hayley Chisholm '23 have responded to a need they see in our local and national communities: sewing face masks to help slow the transmission of COVID-19.
“My dad still has to go to work like normal because his job is considered essential,” said Chisholm. “He was telling me about the numerous people he has to interact with on a daily basis. But since he doesn’t work in the medical field, masks are not provided. I think it’s crazy that so many people are expected to go to work like normal, without protection, when thousands of people are dying. I saw this as a major problem and decided to make masks for my dad and his coworkers.”
Craig, too, began by sewing masks for her family, then friends. As more people asked her for masks, her mother created an online order form and requests have come in from as far away as Michigan, New York, and Massachusetts.
“Before this, I knew how a sewing machine worked and that was about it,” said Craig. “The first few masks I made were functional, but not very pretty. By the time I sewed my fourth mask, I was getting really good at it and it has become almost mindless for me at this point. Now I’ve made more than 150 masks and I have about 40 more orders to fill. After that, all of the masks I make will be donated.”
The CDC now recommends everyone wear a mask when they are outside of their self-isolation zones to slow the transmission of COVID-19 from both symptomatic and asymptomatic carriers. Some states have made wearing masks mandatory in public areas.
“Most of the people I have talked to who are not medical workers are having trouble getting masks and other safety precautions because most resources are going to medical workers,” explained Craig. “That's not a bad thing, but everyone needs masks and I am able to give them masks.”
For Craig, giving away masks to those who can’t afford them is balanced by charging those who can. From the money collected, she donates half directly to COVID-19 relief funds in Charlottesville. Once her current orders are fulfilled, the next batch of masks made will be donated to pediatric doctors’ offices and The Haven, a multi-resource day shelter for people experiencing homelessness in Charlottesville.
“I think it’s important for everyone to do what they can to help others right now,” said Chisholm. “So even though I barely knew how to sew, I had a lot of extra time I could use to learn. I think everyone should use this time to better themselves and their community. Now that most commitments are canceled or postponed, it’s the perfect time to learn a new skill!”