Here’s what you need to make a facemask:
Step 0: Wash your hands and clean your workspace and tools with alcohol or hand sanitizer.
Step 1: Layer your pieces. Make a “tissue sandwich” by placing a folded (or cut to size) tissue between two half sheets of paper towel.
Step 2: Fold the bottom of the long side of the stack upward by about an inch. Flip the whole thing and fold again, repeating until you reach the top and have a “fan” of paper towel.
Step 3: Place holes. Pinch the end of the fan flat and place a hole one half inch from the edge. Repeat on the other side.
Step 4: Push one end of the rubber band through the hole, and then pull that first loop through the other side of the rubber band to create a knot. Repeat on other side
Cool! Now you know how to make a Facemask! Now do it 700 times. That’s what my partner and I decided to volunteer for two weeks ago. In these trying times, it isn’t so much the gruesome news or the death toll that keeps you up at night, nah, that simply goes without saying. For a busy body like me, whose life in the beforetime involved lots of photography shoots on location, concerts, festivals, and plenty of social encounters with tons of people, no, it’s the boredom that gets to me.
It’s challenging to have the best of both worlds. On one hand, I miss my old life and want to go out, on the other hand, everything changes in this world and right now we NEED to be distant and we need to make smart choices that not only affect my partner and I. One day I was on the Internet and I noticed a link to an opportunity from United Way that the Fiserv Forum in Downtown Milwaukee, WI was putting on. MaskupMKE is trying to reach a goal of assembling 3.5 million homemade masks for healthcare providers and essential workers. Volunteers are invited to pick up a Mask kit (a square box), and inside is the materials to make 700 facemasks. The challenge is to get it done in 4 days from your pickup date. At the time I was bored and thought, “Yes! I will do that. I’ll do anything right now!” so I signed us up and a day later, we picked up our kit from the Fiserv. We set up a workstation in the house. One where we can A) sit comfortably, B) Stand up if we need to, C) Angle the television so we can see it, and most importantly D) it needs to be on a surface where you can sanitize the hell out of the surface over and over again.
It takes about a minute to assemble a simple facemask. One minute. My partner and I scoffed at the notion of 700 facemasks. “We could EACH do 700 facemasks if we could!” my partner exclaimed with excitement. At the end of our journey together it took us around a total of 20 hours to complete 700 facemasks. We used a hole-punch method, and I have a permanent sore red mark on my palm from the punches handle.
You reach a certain point in the making process where you just want to stop and take a break. You just don’t want to stare at another facemask. What happened to me was I got frustrated, and then escaped to my phone and began reading unavoidable stories about essential workers, nurses, and patients who all THEY want to do is leave for a moment and take a break from their reality. I went in the fridge and grabbed my self a slice of humble pie and got back to making facemasks. (No humble pie was ever near our workstation, FYI.)
When it was over, at about 7:30pm on day 3, I just stared at the full box of masks. “Wow!” I thought. “This is what 700 facemasks looks like. I wonder if they go through this many in one day? Did it take me 3 days to make a one day’s worth of masks?” The thought is still a little bizarre to me.
It’s a truly tough world out there right now, and I won’t let boredom affect my decision making. People are risking their lives right now so that I’m safe and the best way I can help them is find ways to keep myself from not infecting myself or others around me. When I found a moment to help, as miniscule and meaningless as a simple box of non-graded paper masks is, it still felt important to do it. I hope I helped at least one person in all of the process. We all need to do our part, so if you’re also bored, United Way is still looking for volunteers.