Tag Archives: Oaxaca Mask Project

Generosity Knows No Boundaries: Oaxaca Mask Project II

We put out the call on Monday, May 25, that we were starting Phase II of the Oaxaca Mask Project. On Tuesday, May 26, an article in Mexico News Daily featuring the project appeared, written by journalist Janet Blaser. Oaxaca blogger Shannon Pixley Sheppard, View From Casita Colibri, reposted our Monday cry for help.

You responded.

We send you our sincerest, most grateful thanks. Special thanks to Janet and Shannon!

Your generosity gives us the wherewithal to go into mask-making overdrive. Even more important now that the virus is spreading to the villages and more cases are identified.

100 masks went to Macuilxochitl, adjacent to Teotitlan de Valle

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We have cried this week. There were seven (7) funerals in Teotitlan del Valle, two on one day. There are cases diagnosed in neighboring villages and towns. For every published case diagnosed, the multiplier is eight (8) for the underrepresented numbers. If five (5) cases are known, the likely total is 40. The curve is no where in sight.

Mexico’s health care system is in disarray. Upon taking office, President AMLO (Lopez-Obrador) started dismantling the system to reorganize. There is little PPE and health care workers are taxed. The New York Times reports today that 25% of Mexico’s coronavirus cases are health care workers.

In all this, we are hopeful that the masks we offer FREE to people will mitigate the spread of disease in the Oaxaca valleys. Thank you for your generosity, your big heart and your gifts.

It takes a village to protect a village. You and I do this because we have a connection to people and place. We do this because we respect the creativity and hard work of Oaxaqueños. We understand. Thank you, again!

Since Monday, May 25, 2020:

  • 108 donors made gifts
  • $6,746 USD received
  • 1100 masks ordered
  • 4 distribution partnerships formed
  • 8 mask-makers employed
  • Expanded mask-making and distribution to San Miguel del Valle apron-making village
  • More to do!
Rocio Arecely Garcia Lopez, left, San Miguel del Valle, will sew masks for us

Phase II, Oaxaca Mask Project, Starts Today

COVID-19 cases are rising in Oaxaca and the villages. This week’s news reports closures at Abastos Market (Central de Abastos), the huge central food distribution center in Oaxaca city due to high rates of disease. People are testing positive in villages in the Tlacolula Valley. Concern is rising. Demand for face masks is stronger. We must continue to respond. Thousands are at risk. No time to sit back and take a break!

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If you gave earlier, please consider making another gift. If you haven’t yet given, now is the time. The need is still with us.

New Oaxaca Partnerships

We have formed distribution partnerships with:

  • Food for All A Oaxaca-based collective of farmers, chefs, drivers and citizens in Oaxaca, Mexico, providing market boxes from farm to table, founded by Rachael Mamane, James Beard-nominated chef.
  • Puente Works with food producers and micro-enterprises in vulnerable Oaxaca communities to maintain production and economic solidarity
  • Cafebre A Oaxaca city coffee bar that roasts and distributes artisanal beans from independent growers in the highlands
  • Mama Pacha Chocolate A small Oaxaca workshop that makes rich and nutritious chocolate without agrochemicals, promoting a fair economy for cacao bean growers

Each of these organizations will take our masks and distribute them to those in need. The partnership allows us to go deeper and wider with more urgency!

Urgency: We are out of masks in Teotitlan del Valle. People are coming to Cristy’s house to ask for masks. Please help!

Use a face mask in all public places

With help from Food for All‘s Rachael Mamane, our point person, we will be able to get more masks quickly into the hands of farmers, consumers, fruit and vegetable vendors, taxi fleets, and others.

You are key to this project’s continuing success. Right now, we have commitments to make 300 more masks this week and need to pay for them! We want to provide a steady source of face coverings for the near future.

Few have an income source in Oaxaca now and people cannot afford to buy masks. They can barely afford to buy food!

We also continue to work with Cristy Molina in Teotitlan del Valle, where she organizes seamstresses to make masks for us. These are the masks that we will give to Rachael for distribution. Cristy my essential partner who volunteers to protect her village and her neighbors.

Cristy gave our last 100 masks to Macuilxochitl villagers, where cases just diagnosed

Sewing Masks Provides Income

Our strategy has changed. We now want to focus on sending funds to Oaxaca seamstresses for mask-making. This provides an important source of income when all other work has evaporated. We are grateful for all the masks made by friends in the USA up to now. We found that the cost to ship to Oaxaca is better spent providing income to seamstresses there.

Sections of Central de Abastos Market closed for the next two weeks

To keep up-to-date with Oaxaca Covid-19 statistics, please use the Municipio de Oaxaca Facebook page. I am told, however, that actual data is lagging and cases may be as much as 20% higher than what is reported. Hospital beds are filled to capacity. This is what it takes to get people’s attention, unfortunately.

Cristy Molina designs public health messages to create awareness

Another key person whose help we value is Alvin Starkman, Mezcal Educational Tours, who says that masks are direly needed at Abastos — and he feels safe with his N95 and protective shield going there to distribute face coverings!

Alvin Starkman with N95 mask, protective shield and 6 ft. pole

The Oaxaca Mask Project Report #6: The Final Push

This is our final push for now to make and distribute masks in Oaxaca and surrounding villages. We need your help. Will you make a donation today to give us the means to get 300-500 more masks made this week? To do this, we want to raise $1,250 more. To date, we have made and distributed 2,355 masks. Please use this link to give:

paypal.me/oaxacaculture

We want to wrap up receiving donations for this project (for the time being) by May 15. That means we want to contract and pay for more mask making by this Friday and have all the distribution complete by May 30.

My doggie and casita caretakers, family of Arnulfo Lazaro Bautista, Teotitlan del Valle

Then, we are going to take a break and assess our successes and where we could have made a greater impact. Perhaps there will be another wave coming and we will be better prepared to move faster and cover more faces.

Disease will plummet if 90% wear masks! study shows.

And, the New York Times reports that Mexico is underreporting number of cases and deaths. A sad situation that is also true in the United States of America! Of course, some are disbelievers, too.

La Merced Market Story

Reports from Kalisa Wells in Oaxaca City are promising. The streets are empty. And, she says:

“This morning at La Merced Market: To enter, one must wash hands with soap and water, under supervision. Then a temperature check, followed by a gel squirt. The inside was bustling with fully-masked customers and vendors. No way to stay distanced, but big bottles of gel everywhere… at each station. I felt very comfortable! This market got it right!!!!

“Not ONE mask-less person. But it gets better ….. here is where The Oaxaca Mask Project comes in.

“While waiting to wash my hands, a very young (15- 17 years old) couple was trying to get in to pass the hat and play the accordion. They were very rancho, indigenous, poor, with a baby in tow. An official came out to talk to them. She said they may wash and enter and pass the hat, but they must wear a mask.

“Voila ! I gave them one flowered and one plain, and they were admitted. I do not carry a camera, it so wished I could send you a pic of them in masks made [here in Oaxaca] by Rocio Bastida Cruz and Telarcito Lindo [made possible through donations to The Oaxaca Mask Project].

“I carried a couple of masks with me this morning in a plastic bag… for this! But who knew! Thank you Norma. I imagine they made enough today to eat and maybe buy a few groceries to take back on the long bus ride home.”

Note about the above photo: Left to right is Rodolfo, then Arnulfo Menor (Jr.), mom Natividad Ruiz Vasquez, and two-year-old Esmeralda. Arnulfo Lazaro Bautista is taking the photo. They are my Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, friends who are wearing masks made possible through this project. Arnulfo comes to my casita twice daily to feed my dogs in my absence. I’m eternally grateful to them.

Wear Your Mask. Love, Norma

Sam Robbins, mask-maker, who contributed 150 masks to this project

The Oaxaca Mask Project Progress Report #4: Getting Masks to Villages

Thanks to the 58 donors of The Oaxaca Mask Project, we are making and distributing masks beyond Oaxaca city, getting them into villages. Seamstresses we are working with have made or are in process of making 1550 masks. We have received $3,636 to date and all of these funds will be spent by Thursday this week.

To keep the project going, more support is needed.

Donate Here: www.paypal.me/oaxacaculture

We are keeping seamstresses employed and people safe with your gift.

Moreover, friends have made and donated 420 masks that I have shipped to Oaxaca via DHL. Some have also sent the finest cotton quilting fabric that can be sewn there, too. As 100% cloth resources are scarce in Oaxaca, this is an extra-special gift.

50 more masks coming from Sam (Frances) Robbins, Columbus, Ohio

Alvin Starkman, founder of Mezcal Educational Tours, has been a huge help. He has distributed 30 mask to Cuilapam de Guerrero, 20 to San Martin Tilcajete, 25 to Teotitlan del Valle, and 25 to San Marcos Tlapazola. He is also sending 25 masks to the interns at the IMSS Hospital #21 in León, Guanajuato, because they return to work May 1st with insufficient gear. 

Red clay pottery makers Gloria and Maria, San Marcos Tlapazola

Today, he is picking up another 100 masks from San Felipe del Agua maker Rocio Bastida, to distribute later this week to Santa Catarina Minas, San Baltazar Chichicapam, San Pablo Gúilá, San Dionisio Ocotepec and Santiago Matatlán.

Seamstress Ines Lopez Hernandez and her children, Tlacolula de Matamoros

Zapotrek owner Eric Ramirez Ramos is working with seamstress Inez in Talcolula de Matamoros; 100 masks are ready today for him to distribute and we have ordered 100 more. This work is a lifeline for her and her two children.

Gail Pellett, who lives in San Agustin Etla, Oaxaca, is working with a seamstress there to make and distribute 100 masks.

See the Teotitlan del Valle public health video or watch below.

In Teotitlan del Valle, on-the-ground organizer Cristy Molina Martinez gave 46 masks to the president of the Union of Moto-taxis to distribute to all the tuk-tuk drivers. Cristy and Luvia Lazo made a public health information video, and the village president participated in helping distribute masks at the Sunday public market.

Rosario Lazo, is sewing masks in Teotitlan del Valle
Zapotrek guide Rocio Buitron will help Eric distribute masks today

Yesterday, I ventured out with Jacob to the local DHL shipper. The shipment contained 150 masks made by Sam Robbins, Shuko Clouse of Mano del Sur, and Yumiko Wilson. I also included fabric Claudia Michel, and Susie Robison, owner of Cheerio Textiles. Later in the week, I will send fabric and masks made by Sam Robbins (who used to own a quilt shop), Hollie Taylor who makes Protest Pearls, and from Barbara Kuhns in Arizona.

Our DHL box to Oaxaca, Mexico
Shuko Clouse with a bundle of masks

Last week, I met Shuko Clouse, of Mano del Sur, halfway between her house in El Segundo and Jacob’s house in Huntington Beach. We found a leafy, unpopulated park in Long Beach and sat a safe six feet away from each other, talking over a Bento Box picnic lunch. She gave me 100 masks to ship off to Oaxaca that she and Yumiko made. We wanted to hug, but didn’t!

Yumiko Wilson wearing a mask she made for us

Thanks to everyone for your caring and support. Your help is providing jobs for people who sew, and health care safety for those who accept our gifts.

These are difficult times in Mexico, just as they are in the USA. There is both fear and disbelief. The Washington Post reports that Mexico is on the brink of economic collapse and pushing more people below the poverty line.

We are making a very small impact, and yet, we do the best we can with available resources. Everything we do will help someone stay healthy. Thank you.

The Oaxaca Mask Project: Progress Report #1

Rocio Bastida Cruz (right) is sewing masks for us, with help from Dave Crosley (left)

As of today, The Oaxaca Mask Project has

  • raised $1,831 USD
  • received gifts from 31 generous people
  • ordered 300 masks for delivery in the next 10 days
  • help from Eric Ramirez and Zapotrek eco-tours
  • help from Kalisa Wells
  • help from Alvin Starkman and Mezcal Educational Tours to distribute masks to San Marcos Tlapazola and
  • help from Teotitlan del Valle teacher Cristy Molina
  • received mask patterns from Hollie Taylor Novak and Judi Ross
  • translation help from Janet Chavez Santiago, Fe y Lola Rugs

Eric is identifying seamstresses in Tlacolula de Matamoros and Cristy is identifying seamstresses in Teotitlan del Valle. They will both commandeer distribution in their villages. Our goal is to decentralize production and distribution to get the masks out into the villages faster. I’ve asked Arturo Hernandez in Mitla to make and distribute masks throughout his pueblo. All mask-making and distribution costs are supported by this project.

In addition, public health education is essential so people understand why it is important to wear a mask and how to care for it. We are asking each maker to print and attach hang-tags to each mask with this message:

Protégete de la infección viral COVID19. Cada vez que salgas de tu casa usa un cubre bocas. ¡Si te cuidas tú, nos cuidas a nosotros! lavar primero y después de cada uso.

Ways to GIVE and Support the Project

You can make a gift to me directly using this PayPal link: paypal.me/oaxacaculture

You can read more about The Oaxaca Mask Project here.

What Your Gift Will Do

  • $25 will buy and distribute 10 masks with hang-tags
  • $50 will buy and distribute 20 masks with hang-tags
  • $100 will buy and distribute 40 masks with hang-tags

Time is running out. The virus will reach its peak in Oaxaca around May 5, 2020. We need to get these masks made and to people NOW. Can you help?

Contact Norma Schafer with any questions or to volunteer.