A simple act of kindness
On March 25, The New York Times ran a story about Americans stepping up to face the coronavirus pandemic by sewing masks for their healthcare providers as well as the general public.
Nayeema Ahmad, a non-resident Bangladeshi living in Oak Ridge, Tennessee for the last 32 years, is also making a contribution during these trying times.
The retired high school science teacher, now in her 60s, has made more than 100 masks since March 17 and sent them to doctors in Massachusetts, Virginia and California.
Talking to this correspondent over WhatsApp, she said the first request came from the daughter-in-law of a friend.
"She is a pediatrician at an emergency clinic in Massachusetts," Nayeema said, adding that the doctor sent her a message with a link that had instructions on making masks, and requested Nayeema to make some to meet the urgent demand.
Using leftover fabric she had at home and some elastic and wire from the store, Nayeema could easily produce some masks at home.
She mailed the masks to hospitals and clinics. She uses different patterned and coloured cotton fabric for making the two-layered mask with a small pocket-like opening, where users can insert coffee filters for added protection.
"They are washable and reusable," she said, explaining that the doctor in Massachusetts used hers over an N95 mask, to prolong its longevity. In the USA, there is a shortage of N95 masks that can effectively filter out coronavirus.
After Nayeema sent the first batch of masks to Massachusetts, more requests came in as information about her small initiative spread through word of mouth.
"I also gave a couple of masks to my general practitioner," she said.
Expressing her gratitude to Nayeema, pediatrician Mohsina A Karim, from Worcester, Massachusetts sent her a message, where she wrote "I used the mask you made, today. But most importantly it protected my N95 mask, so I can use that one longer."
But Nayeema is modest about her contribution. "Everybody is doing what they can," she said, giving examples of how a fabric shop in her city is distributing free kits to the citizens with all the materials needed for making masks.
At present, Nayeema is busy sewing masks for a group named Muslim Community Knoxville, which is collecting masks door-to-door to distribute among healthcare workers.
While cotton masks, like the one Nayeema is making, are no substitute for the N95 masks that can effectively filter out the coronavirus, it is still useful for general public, and for doctors who want to prolong the longevity if N95 masks.