In less than a week, three migrants living in a temporary accommodation center in Paris have produced more than 1,500 facemasks to help protect people against the deadly coronavirus. The masks are given to the Salvation Army which then hands them out to migrant aid groups and other accommodation centers.
“When I first saw on TV that the number of deaths just continued to climb, I cried. But then I got an idea: I used to work as a tailor back home, and so I could make masks,” Jonson, a 32-year-old asylum seeker from Ivory Coast, says.
Marie-France Beretti, the director of the accommodation center where Jonson is staying, recounts how Jonson came and told her about his idea. “And so we got a hold of a few rolls of fabric and set up a small workshop in the meeting room.”
In the matter of just a few days, Jonson and two other migrants have produced more than 1,500 masks, or an average of around 300 per day. The masks are handed to the Salvation Army which distributes them to migrant aid groups and other migrant shelters which are all in dire need of protective gear.
Beretti is in awe of the center's three mask-makers. “They’re fantastic and extraordinary,” she says.
Shouldn’t stop caring
“Just because we live in a difficult situation ourselves, that doesn’t mean that we should stop caring for others. Those who work; healthcare workers, cashiers, delivery drivers, and so on, risk a lot so why not help them,” 39-year-old mask-maker Florence from Cameroon says. “It makes us happy to help the country and it also keeps us occupied,” she says.
Jonson agrees. “If we can help to stop the virus from spreading, we’re happy to be able to contribute to the national effort.”
Both Jonson and Florence say that as long as the virus threatens to spread further, “everyone should stay home in order to help healthcare workers.”
But the mask-makers are not the only residents in the accommodation center to contribute to the fight against the coronavirus: Two residents have taken it upon themselves to help out the cleaning staff. “Every day they disinfect the premises and even the street in front of the centre. They also empty the garbage bins. It’s their own decision, we haven’t asked them to do anything,” Berreti says and adds that she is thinking of possibilities to award them with job contracts.