One of the most striking lifestyle changes resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic is the use of face masks. In April 2020, the Kenyan government made it mandatory and directed all members of the public to wear them anytime they leave their houses and issued orders that anyone found in public without a mask would be arrested and charged for threatening the lives of others.
While the measure has been credited for slowing the spread of the virus in Kenya, it created daunting challenges for residents of Kariobangi and other informal settlements. For starters, masks weren’t readily available in April, and where available they would cost 50 to 100 shillings (about $1). For people who had just lost their jobs, spending 50-100 shillings on a mask was not an option.
Hands of Love, through the support of our friend Amy, worked with a cooperative of tailors to make over 11,000 masks for both adults and children with inspiring African fabrics which we began distributing in early April. We have provided masks to our children and their families, boda boda riders (motorcycle taxis), traders in the markets, youth groups, women groups, and churches. With widespread and frequent distribution, the initiative has been greatly appreciated throughout the Kariobangi community.