Unmasking the effects of Covid-19

The Hout Bay Masks4all team have already supplied over 16 000 masks for communities in need.

A project supplying free cloth face masks in Hout Bay could close because money and materials have dried up, says its founder.

Hout Bay Masks4all has handed out more than 16 000 masks in Imizamo Yethu and Hangberg since lockdown started, thanks to donations of fabric and funds from the public, says Candida Andrada, the Hout Bay woman who launched the project.

She says it also created employment at a time when many businesses were forced to close.

Along with making and handing out masks, the project’s volunteers also educated people about Covid-19.

“We walk the paths and narrow streets of Imizamo Yethu and Hangberg, providing Covid education awareness and donating masks to their residents,” Ms Andrada said.

The project started with a core team of mask sewers on March 22 and Hout Bay Masks4all launched officially on April 3, with volunteers making masks from the safety of their home.

“The Hout Bay Masks4all project is a labour of love by the community to the community,” Ms Andrada said.

To get the project off the ground, she and her team of volunteers sold masks – manufactured by one of the few factories still allowed to operate during the early stages of lockdown – at two of Hout Bay’s main pharmacies.

“By mid-April, it was clear that our original target of 3 000 masks was highly insufficient to protect our most vulnerable residents,”
Ms Andrada said.

To expand the project, she and her team started a GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign and roped in support from family and friends around the world.

The project was then able to start paying its volunteers a stipend of R5 or R10 a mask, depending on whether they were using their own materials.

Mumsie Mongwe is a teacher at Silikamva High School and a mask ambassador for the project. She said she got involved because the project did more than just distribute masks.

“They also educate people about staying safe and protecting themselves and others from Covid-19.”

Ms Mongwe first took interest in the project when it visited her matric class to distribute the masks.

“I got involved because I felt motivated and inspired by their project to assist the community. The project is helping many people in our community and making a huge difference,” she said.

“It pains me to hear that it might be our last distribution, and I can only hope more projects like these can be supported in every way.”

In the beginning, the team focused on aiding front-line responders, including police in Hout Bay, Ocean View and Masiphumelele, as well as people distributing food parcels.

Later the team started handing out the masks to IY and Hangberg residents.

“The feedback received by our masks ambassadors was loud and clear, that our residents valued the masks and that more masks were needed,” Ms Andrada said.

But now, with the full impact of Covid-19 starting to be felt on the economy, donations have dried up and the project faces closure.

“We have used all of the project resources, and we look to have reached the end of our journey donating masks,” Ms Andrada said.

To find out more about the Hout Bay Masks4all project, visit their Facebook page.