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Making Masks, Saving Lives

Like so many other families, Shabila Osmari’s is staying safe at home through the COVID crisis though is struggling to make ends meet. Her husband, Mohammed, is a delivery driver for Amazon, but due to shutdowns and decreased consumer spending, his hours and shifts have been cut. Prior to shutdowns, Shabila was a part-time employee at Panera Bread but with reduced hours and prohibited sit-down service, this is no longer an option.

The couple was just getting by before the crisis. Now they are struggling, especially with an energetic four year old to keep up with.

To help generate some income, Shabila wondered if she could sew protective face masks for people to use in public. She could offer them for $5 each and do her part to help stop the spread of the virus. “She is very good at sewing,” says Mohammed. “Knowing that she is making a contribution for our family makes her so happy.”

Shabila found a face mask design online to follow. She uses simple white fabric to highlight to people that they need to be washed after every use. They may understand this, but a visual reminder jogs the memory. She thanks her husband and son for being gracious models in helping her design these masks. In sharing her work, she contacted One Journey’s sister organization, NOVA Friends of Refugees, to spread the word to its network.

Shabila and Mohammed are recent arrivals from Afghanistan where he worked as a project manager with the U.S. Agency for International Development. They arrived in February 2018 through the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program and settled in Alexandria, Virginia with their son, Rizwan. In spite of the situation, their spirits remain positive. They send their best wishes to everyone, “Stay well during this crazy time.”

The Refugee Mask Maker Circle

While the pandemic lasts and the need continues, Shabila estimates that she can make 20-30 masks a day. This is just the start. Shabila’s request has inspired NOVA Friends of Refugees, our sister organization, to reach out to other financially struggling refugees and invite them to join the Refugee Mask Maker Circle. Through the ‘Circle,’ they sew masks to help make ends meet during the crisis while pitching in for the fight to flatten the curve.

One Journey encourages you to support the initiative. Please fill out this form to place an order. If you order more than 5 masks, the cost is $7 per mask. If you order 5 or less masks, the cost is $9 per mask. You can also select to donate to provide masks to local hospitals or donate directly to the Refugee Mask Maker Circle which will provide for costs of delivery and material. Additionally, if you would like to support the Refugee Mask Maker Circle and do not need the masks, you can donate directly to St. George's Refugee Ministry (select “Social Justice/refugees” in the Pledges pulldown box). 100% of your donation will support the refugee mask makers and frontline hospital workers.

NOVA Friends of Refugees is a refugee ministry initiative of St. George’s Episcopal Church of Arlington, VA. This interfaith network welcomes, assists, and advocates for refugees. Please contact Kenn Speicher ( if you have any questions. Thank you for supporting refugees during these difficult times.


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