Brandeis summer mask-making initiative makes over 500 masks

Over twenty members of the Brandeis community have taken some time out of their summer to make masks to donate to The Family Van, a social service organization, through Brandeis Mask Making. Brandeis Mask Making is an initiative started by Supriya Jain ‘22 and Claire West ‘21 when the coronavirus pandemic began. 

It all began when Jain was doing an internship with The Family Van, which works to serve populations in Boston with health resources. “They have been struggling a lot because they cannot go out into the community,” Jain told The Brandeis Hoot in a Zoom interview. So she began thinking of other ways to work with those populations, help in other ways and to “combine Brandeis experience with that internship.” They came to an idea: to hold a mask-making competition to raise masks for The Family Van. 

“I largely chose to do this because I was reading a lot about how COVID affects those communities and wanted to see if there is a way to provide those resources to those communities” added Jain.  

West came onto the project when Jain came to her with the idea, since as coordinators for Hospital Helpers within Waltham Group, they have worked together before. “I had been over the summer working this summer service squad, there was a big need for masks in the community, so I was brainstorming ways of how to get masks. Supriya [Jain] had a great way of making it a competition,” said West. “It was fun to work together,” added West.   

“I cannot emphasize enough the importance of the work that The Family Van does; it works to actually center the narrative around those most impacted. Brandeis students providing these masks is actually a big deal—a mask can save a life. This can be the only mask that a person has, and the students are doing valuable work,” added Jain. 

“What we wanted is to encourage participation amongst the entire Brandeis community; anyone who wanted to participate could,” Jain told The Hoot. They decided on a few different prizes: most adult masks made, most children’s masks made and most creative masks, which was meant for people with various abilities to join. “I wanted to make it a competition because I thought it would be an interesting and cool way for people to participate, so it was a bigger push for people to be creative with them,” added Jain.  

During the summer, they had a couple meetings to see people’s faces and had a couple Zoom tutorials on how to make masks. They had a Google Drive folder with instructions, in which people got engaged and helped each other out. One staff member offered to lend their sewing machine. The group got several first-years involved, who wanted to get involved before they came to Brandeis, added West.  “It’s been fun, I was impressed with the amount of interest and engagement we saw with the project,” she continued.

Jain and West told The Hoot that 31 people signed up, while 20 people sent in masks for a total of over 500 masks made and donated. The top three students who made the most adult masks were Sarah Mei ’23 (with 130 masks), Amanda Wan ’21 (with 54 masks) and Armin Jayaswal ’21 (with 50 masks). Hannah Taylor ’23 won the most children’s masks made category, with 40 masks, while Emily McKerrow ’24, who made ten masks, won the most creative category. 

For West, the best part about being a part of this project was “being able to see the impact it has on the community,” and she was “in awe of how much people contributed, people who have never sewn in their lives, but they were learning.” It was also “fun to get alumni and staff involved: very nice to see engagement from all aspects of the community,” she concluded. 
Jain added that she “could see the direct tangible impact: two days after I gave the masks to The Family Van they gave them out to the community.” She was “very humbled with how much work was put in.”

They are planning on continuing the project this fall: “the need doesn’t go away with just 500 masks; it is important to us that we continue helping those communities,” said Jain. However, the program is likely going to be structured differently than how it was in the summer. Jain and West are still in the process of working out the details.

 If you would like to sign up to help make masks in the fall, you can fill out this form.

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