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Makeshift Masks & Health

Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Ms. Angella Chizimba

Dear Reader,

I hope you’re all well and staying safe considering the circumstances that we are all in. It’s hard not to lose the spirit these days. I have been thinking about writing on the cloth face masks topic that has been so popular with this COVID-19 pandemic. I had a very divided opinion on this and the benefits of using them until one of the groups am working with on a Community Lead Development Project made them. This quickly spiraled into making them full-time for the care of others in the community.

The fact is that you cannot sew face masks without believing in them if you want to stay sane. As weird as this may sound, sewing face masks isn’t an easy job. You can spend the whole day on your sewing machine only to come up with 50 masks or less, that’s after spending hours and hours cutting your cotton material.

Wearing a mask, even a makeshift cotton mask, is better than wearing none. In a society where people can wear a disposable mask five times or more, worse enough washing a disposable mask to be reused the next day, makeshift masks are ideal and affordable.  Well, I was so shocked when I saw one of the community members hanging a disposable face mask on a dryer, and after I asked her why she did that, she said “Everyone does this, and you do not expect me to be buying this every single day.”  Of course, I shared how makeshift masks are meant to be reused after a good washing but not these disposable masks. I could go endlessly about the benefits of making face masks locally.

There are indeed serious benefits of wearing/making makeshift fabric masks. I have also included some insights from the group I have been working with in making these face masks. Firstly, one lady told me that making face masks helps her to get away from the constant feeling of helplessness in a global crisis like this and other issues in the community, we can easily feel overwhelmed and powerless. Actively doing something gives her a sense of self-empowerment. You are not stopping the pandemic by making a handful of masks, but being able to help even the tiniest amount makes her feel better. Secondly, active solidarity can help lift your mood. Taking part in sewing face masks will make you feel less alone, this has been helpful to me as am usually alone in my house. Thirdly, some of these group members gather small cloth materials to make face masks for their family members and friends and they receive great feedback. Whether they wear them or not, everyone likes a little care. Being pro-social and helping others reinforces your sense of fulfillment and relatedness to others.

Lastly and more importantly, these face masks are offered at a low cost. They are affordable for everyone to buy, and everyone’s safety is taken at heart and considered. They are easy and can be made from de-stashing and de-cluttering fabric poles. You don’t have to necessarily buy new material, we can use old cotton scraps. Let’s make the current situation less scary! Making cotton face masks can help people in local communities access them easily and affordably.


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