On 12th March 2020 the first case of coronavirus in Kenya was confirmed. Immediately after, lots of citizens were rushing to supermarkets and buying lots of sanitizer, handwash and masks. To a point that the prices of these sanitizers, handwash and face masks shot up because they were in such high demand and in many places they sold out.
Immediately I saw this I thought about my community, and for a moment I was lost for words and full of tears; I started thinking about my home, my family, the guys I grew up with, the people I live with; and then the challenges I’ve gone through with my family growing up; the many nights we slept hungry because we couldn’t afford to buy a meal.
With all that I pictured how many people were in the same situation today. Lots of people in my community survive from hand to mouth, many earning just a few dollars in a day. Somebody like this can’t afford sanitizer, handwash and masks, and then at the same time buy food and feed their families, they’ll have to choose!
And in a situation like this they'll choose to feed their family first because they are in a situation of choosing which way to die. Asking themselves, “should I quarantine myself at home and die of hunger with my family or should I go out try get work feed my family?" And also not everyone here is that educated or knows much about the Covid-19.
These are the reasons why I started making face masks and distributing them for FREE to everyone in my community.
Though my masks don’t help as much as the ones recommended for the health workers, they at least give some protection, and help stop people from touching their face with their hands, which is how so many people catch it.
I have to think about my own safety because you never know who brings you the virus in times like this. So I don’t allow anyone to come pick them from my workshop, once I’m done I always take it to a specific point to hand them out.
But while I'm there I use it as an opportunity to educate guys in the community about Covid-19, and on how they can help prevent the virus from reaching them.
The fabrics that I’ve been using are scrap fabrics that remained from clothes that I made before for my clients. My target is to make as many as I can for free because not everyone in Kibera and other communities can be able to afford things like this that are so important.
I don’t want to turn this into a business opportunity; I’m making the masks for free to everybody because my motives are very clear and I want to continue helping more people in my country. Even if I got all the profits in the world I would go nowhere with that profit if I end up with the virus.
So far, with the support of Uweza Foundation and Project Kenya, I’ve been able to make and distribute more than 6,000 free masks to my community and all over Nairobi. With continued support from them, and from companies like Sandstorm, I'm hoping to make and give out more because right now they are needed so badly. If you would like to donate directly to this initiative please visit Looks Like Avido.