Refugees sewing masks for healthcare workers

Updated: Jun. 22, 2020 at 8:45 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - With Arizona’s new mask mandate and COVID-19 cases on the rise, the demand for masks is increasing.

In the meantime, many are still dealing with the financial fallout that the pandemic created.

But now, one organization is mending the two together to help the community.

It's called T.H.R.E.A.D, or Together for Hope, Resiliency, Empowerment and Development.

It was born in part from Dana Smith who was already taught refugee women how to sew more than three years ago through Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest.

Smith then began sewing with Mending Souls, a non-profit that has donated masks during COVID-19, and decided she could do the same with her sewing group.

Smith, along with Susan Gamble, a teacher at Imago Dei Middle School, decided they could help the refugees make money by sewing masks since a lot lost their jobs when COVID-19 started.

“Many come and they start at entry level jobs things such as housekeepers, dishwashers, working at a hotel, and because of coronavirus those were all gone,” said Smith.

Smith and Gamble began using the sewing class to teach the refugees how to make the masks, which they would sew in their own homes after reviving the material from the women.

The two partnered with Imago Dei Middle School who provided the funds through community donations and grant money to pay the refugees $3.50 a mask. They can sew up to 50 a week, allowing them to bring home $175 dollars.

"We started giving people 10—then 20, then 30 then 50," said Smith.

But as the word got out, and the virus got worse over the weeks, their operations expanded.

"The demand was there so we kept ramping up as far as we could go," said Gamble. "I thought we could get up to almost a thousand a week and we did that within six weeks."

So far they've sewn over 8,000 masks and counting that have gone out to local hospitals, reservations, and community groups.

It's given refugees like Bibizahra Molviaddullah a way to provide for her daughter after moving here from Afghanistan.

“Me and my daughter were not safe in our country,” said Molviaddullah. “I am single mom so it’s very hard—it’s very hard to pay everything.”

Kobra Jafary, originally from Afghanistan, joined in as well and brought in friends who lost jobs.

“I’m proud of myself that I made some masks,” said Jafary. “I’m helping other people.”

Smith and Gamble are always looking for monetary donations or fabric donations. However, they ask that they are full pieces of fabric and not left over scraps since it can be hard to make the mask pattern from smaller pieces.

Fabric donations can be made at:

Imago Dei Middle School 55 N 6th Ave, Tucson, AZ 85701


Monetary donations:

visit Write in the online form that you’re giving to the sewing program.

Copyright 2020 KOLD News 13. All rights reserved.