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April 5, 2020
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Romani people from different Czech towns have joined the face mask sewing effort

19.3.2020 18:23
Romani people at the Chánov housing estate in the Czech Republic are sewing face masks due to the shortage. (2020) (PHOTO:  Aver Roma)
Romani people at the Chánov housing estate in the Czech Republic are sewing face masks due to the shortage. (2020) (PHOTO: Aver Roma)

Because there is still an acute lack of face masks in the Czech Republic, many volunteers, including those working in the civil sector, have joined the effort to make them at home. One such group is the CEDR community association in Rumburk, where Marcela Surmajová is a field worker.

"CEDR runs a shelter and also provides social services in the Šluknov area. Everybody knows - and we are no exception - that it is exactly social services staffers who are so endangered by the lack of face masks. For that reason, we have begun, along with our colleagues and led by our director, to sew our own. They are not, naturally, just for us, we are distributing them to our clients and their loved ones. We believe that by doing this we are contributing at least somewhat to the feeling of safety and protection in this currently difficult situation," Surmajová told news server Romea.cz.

There are many similar initiatives underway throughout the country, taking advantage of social media now to inform people, network with them, and offer aid. People in socially excluded localities are also involved.

At the Chánov housing estate, for example, the Aver Roma association is running, which got its start organizing sports activities and currently runs educational activities for children. Now, because of quarantine, those activities cannot be organized in person, so Aver Roma is doing its best to at least sew and distribute face masks.

As Peter Bažo explains, "This is our third day sewing, we have managed to make and distribute about 250 - 300 face masks. We sew until 18:00 and then one of us distributes them. People come here for them, mostly just one person per family, and we give them the masks. This is mainly about people from the Chánov housing estates, but people from town are also coming for them and naturally we do not distinguish who is who."

In the Karlovy Vary Region, specifically in Chodov, the public benefit corporation Khamoro, headed by Emil Voráč, a recipient of the Laskavec award, is doing its best to provide this kind of aid. "My wife Blanka and my colleague Jarmila Bandurová are on their third day of sewing. They're not professional seamstresses, so they sew at the tempo they can. Unfortunately, our sewing machine is acting up, we only have one. However, even so we have sewn more than 50 face masks and we have dozens more cut up for sewing. We are distributing them to the clients that Khamoro is taking care of as part of our social services. Simultaneously we are doing our best to explain to those who are interested how to sew face masks like this," he told news server Romea.cz.

In the excluded locality of Liščina in Ostrava, the Life Together (Vzájemné soužití) organization, led by Kumar Vishwanathan, has been functioning for years, and he explained to Romea.cz that three of his employees have been sewing face masks for the rest. "This arose as a community idea. There are no face masks, everybody knows this, and so we wanted to help. First mothers came here to learn how to sew on their own. However, when quarantine was announced, it wasn't possible for them to come here anymore. So we put together a mixed team, two Romani women and one non-Romani woman, who are our employees. They are now sewing face masks for the rest. People call them and order how many face masks they need. They sew them, and then one member per family comes for them. Next week we would like to open another such workshop in the center of Ostrava," he told news server Romea.cz.

There are many similar activities and others are springing up. News server Romea.cz will inform you of them as they progress.

Jarmila Balážová, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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COVID-19, Neziskový sektor, Socially excluded localities, society



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