A talented group of seamstresses from Maskwacis have won an Alberta Northern Lights Volunteer Award.
The Alberta Northern Lights Volunteer Program was created by the Government of Alberta to honour everyday heroes who are helping make life better in communities across the province.
‘Masks 4 Maskwacis’ was a group created over a year ago at the beginning of the pandemic when masks were in high demand, but there was a significant shortage of medical grade masks.
A group of sewers from Maskwacis decided to develop Masks 4 Maskwacis, a Facebook group through which they could communicate with the community and create enough masks to give out to individuals who were in need of them, free of charge.
One of the seamstresses Debra Buffalo says, “for us it was so important that we do whatever we could to protect our Elders and vulnerable members of our Nation.”
Buffalo says that although when they started there was a lot of debate over the effectiveness of masks as a safety practice against COVID-19, she believes that having masks available and more community members masking, saved lives.
“I think especially at the beginning of the Pandemic there was so much controversy over wearing masks, many people were saying masks were not effective in the fight against COVID,” says Buffalo. “And now you look at things, masks are mandatory.”
“At that time we didn’t even have a vaccine available so I believe wearing the masks may have saved many people, as well as social distancing and hand sanitizing.”
Another seamstress with Masks 4 Maskwacis, Ramona Washburn, echoes Buffalo’s excitement at this award win and recognition.
“It’s great that we got acknowledged, and that wasn’t an expectation at all,” says Washburn.
When the group was created Washburn says that she felt it was important to be able to provide masks for the people of Maskwacis. She also states that Masks 4 Maskwacis wasn’t just for residents of Maskwacis, but that they were more than happy to help out anyone requesting a mask.
“It was really nice to just come together to provide a necessity for anybody who needed it.”
Washburn says that the mask sewing only began to slow down about three months ago, over a year from when the group first started. She estimates that they have made thousands of masks over the past year.