Dozens of refugee women make, donate masks during coronavirus pandemic

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CHICAGO — Over the last couple of weeks, dozens of refugee women have been turning scraps of fabric into masks and gifting them to others, but with a common thread.

Recently, the soft hum of a sewing machine has been a constant for Sandra Muyumba.

“It’s so good making the masks because it’s helping the community,” said Muyumba, a refugee from Namibia.

Three years ago, Muyumba and her family came to the United States to flee persecution in Namibia.

“This is health and airborne disease, but it’s not like being tortured. This is different than the things we go through,” she said.

All of the women making masks are graduates of the RefugeeOne service in Chicago, according to Jims Porter.

“They reached out to us to say ‘would we like some masks’ and we said ‘absolutely!’” said Sheila Bogen, Executive Director of SelfHelp Home.

Through a small grant from a local church, the women from RefugeeOne Sewing Studio have been able to make nearly 1,000 face masks.

“RefugeeOne made 100 beautiful masks for us, which they presented to us this afternoon and they’re gorgeous. They’re soft and beautiful spring colors,” said Bogen.

“The relationship we have with SelfHelp Home is pretty cool,” said Porter.

“We still have refugees that live here today. People that have been persecuted, people that have come from camps who escaped by the skin of their teeth,” said Bogen.

Those who sought refugee decades ago, now being served by those who just arrived.

“They hire refugees and give them a chance to work in their first American job, but at the same time those refugees have a chance to serve people who fled persecution like them,” said Porter about SelfHelp Home.

Every mask made out of gratitude for a safe place to call home.

“Life is good for us here with my family,” said Muyumba.

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