Wearing a facemask is important even when lockdowns are being relaxed, as they are in India, but it is especially important in public and community settings, where people are likely to be in close proximity to others. In fact, wearing a mask has been recommended by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and the Government of India.
However, buying a facemask is an expensive proposition for those earning low incomes. “It is a very difficult time for us,” says Karamshibhai, a daily wage labourer from a remote village in Dhari, Gujarat. “Now that the lockdown has opened up, we want to go out and start making a living but because of the COVID disease we do not feel safe. We do not have money or access to getting masks.”
Aga Khan Preschools decided to help. The Preschools resolved to contribute by making face masks available to villagers in the villages and town near where they operated. The Aga Khan Preschool committee members, parents and teachers, willingly volunteered for the “mask making” activity. Committee members prepared a plan, procured the raw materials, identified volunteers with a sewing machine at home, provided technical guidance to sew facemasks, mobilised resources and distributed the masks – all the while following physical distancing norms. More than 5000 masks were made in less than two weeks.
The importance of mask-wearing is underscored by Bulbul, a vegetable vendor from Botad town in Gujarat, who says, “I visit many places and meet many people daily while selling vegetables and it is difficult to cover my face all the time with cloth or handkerchief. I cannot afford to buy a mask that can be worn only once. I thank the team of Aga Khan Preschool in Botad to give me a reusable mask, which I wash at night and use in the daytime during my work. Now I am more confident and feel safe when I go out to sell vegetables.”
This text was adapted from a story published on the Aga Khan Schools website.