Helping the Community: One Face Mask at a Time

May 19, 2020

Marisa is a full-time student majoring in Software Engineering and a programmer. She is motivated by using and creating tech to bring joy to others. She is equally as passionate about sharing her love of technology with others, advocating for youth mental health resources, and working to create equality in STEM. Marisa is also a two-time Hispanic Scholarship Fund Scholar. Outside of school, she loves listening to music, going to concerts, and spending time with family and friends.

This story took place in United States

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(Courtesy of Priyanka)

Like most of us, Priyanka Gupta, 16 and a junior in high school, has spent the last weeks feeling worried and uneasy.

“I’ve been apprehensive ever since my school closed mid-March for spring break,” Priyanka said. “It’s devastating to see the enormous negative impact the pandemic is having on society, and I think it’s even more devastating to see a lack of adherence to the advice of medical professionals. It’s pretty frightening.”

As the number of cases continue to rise, so does the shortage of critical masks for healthcare professionals and frontline responders.

Feeling the need to help, Priyanka and her family got to work.

“A family friend of ours, Luann Tran, is the CEO of a local organization, the Austin Vietnamese American Medical Professional Society (AVAMPS). With the help of AVAMPS, we have been provided with fabric to cut into protective face masks.”

Priyanka and her family have spent the last few weeks cutting face masks for those at the frontline of this crisis. So far, they’ve cut enough fabric for about 200 face masks.

“Using our own fabric as well as fabric from AVAMPS, we pin down templates of medium and large face masks, then cut them and keep them in stacks of four. Each stack of four will become one mask when the seamstress from AVAMPS sews them,” Priyanka said. “For us, it’s a long process to get through old bedsheets and pillowcases, cutting them down to size, pinning and marking the templates, and collecting stacks of four. In a few hours, we can cut close to 25 or 30 masks. After our newest batch is ready, we give them to AVAMPS to be sewn and distributed.”

While the process can be long and tedious, Priyanka knows what she’s doing is extremely important and needed.

“We chose to help out because while social distancing, we’ve just been at home,” Priyanka said. “It’s important to us to spend our time doing meaningful and impactful things, and this was the perfect opportunity to do so. There’s so much that anyone and everyone in the community can do right from their homes.”

She added, “It’s pretty exciting to work on this project, knowing that in between online school, family time, and relaxation, I’m able to take part in something that will benefit my community. It’s really rewarding to know that our time and effort is going towards helping healthcare professionals across Austin and other parts of the country.”

She is also taking something away from the project.

“This experience is teaching me that it just takes a little bit of initiative to stand up and support my community. Once you start, it’s easy to follow through. It’s something that anyone who is willing to reach out can do.”

When asked what she would say to someone who wants to help during this time, Priyanka pushed for those to take initiative.

“Reach out to local medical professionals or committees and take part in volunteer efforts. Start a fundraiser to support organizations that are tackling this pandemic. Teach your friends and family about social distancing, and send your support to front-line workers. There are so many opportunities for anyone and everyone to help out, especially because most of us are just at home. It just takes some initiative and drive.”

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