If you’ve been on Instagram recently you might have seen well-known mom accounts, a few celebrities, and even major parenting magazines all sharing something called Masks for Heroes.
This truly ambitious project is attempting to get n95 masks and other PPE equipment to the front lines of the Covid-19 outbreak as quickly as possible.
The hustle behind this effort is awe-inspiring.
Masks for Heroes started when Instagram user Becky Viera who is known as @wittyotter heard two of her friends who are health care working expressing fears over how low their hospital supplies were.
That’s when Viera, a new mom, and general badass started brainstorming ways she could help from home.
“They began sharing how low they were on masks about three weeks ago, and the situation just got worse. I wanted to help while staying home, so I turned to Instagram.”
Viera tapped into her social network of both followers and creative peers.
She tells Filter Free Parents that for her the most obvious path toward helping might be to leverage her platform to amplify pleas for help. Viera says,
“I have this platform where I can reach people, why can’t I leverage it that to help people I care about in a time of life and death — because that’s the situation our health care workers are faced with right now,”
“We just need to raise more awareness of how grave this situation truly is, because some people still don’t believe it.”
Mere days ago, Viera reached out to her friends on Instagram and asked that they help her share screenshots of requests for PPE from her friends.
The attention was immediate so Viera started a new account on Instagram called @MasksForHeroes that was quickly overwhelmed with requests from health care workers from around the country.
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"It's unacceptable that we're sending medical professionals like lambs to the slaughterhouse without giving anything to protect themselves," said Dr. Marianne Hamra, who works in New Jersey. "Bandanas and scarves? C'mon CDC — that's completely ridiculous." In Arizona, an anesthesiologist said he and his fiancée, who work at the same Phoenix-area hospital, have resorted to purchasing N95 masks on eBay. "I have a FedEx shipping arriving on Tuesday, but we'll see," said the anesthesiologist, who asked to remain anonymous because he isn't authorized to speak with the press. "We are the ones handling the patients' air tubes, so we are really in a bad position." A nurse in western Ohio said that, save for one specific unit where Covid-19 patients are supposed to be sent, nurses at the medical center are forbidden from wearing masks — not just N95 masks, but surgical masks or any masks. "My problem is, you don't know who's coming in or out," said the nurse, who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation. "We know there are people who are asymptomatic…But we're not allowed to wear PPE; we were told it would give patients anxiety." But she said the lack of a mask has filled her with anxiety. "I don't want to bring anything home to my kids," she said. "I'm a single mom. I signed up to be a frontline worker, but I don't have the equipment to do it." Text via CNN @masksforheroes #getmeppe #masksforheroes
“In less than 48 hours we had web designers, engineers, developers and marketing and PR people on board, all pro bono,” Viera explains.
“I’d say within four days total we went from an idea to an organization with global reach. Never doubt the power of moms when we join together to make something happen!”
So, here’s how Masks for Heroes works. And here’s how YOU can help.
To Donate PPE
Go to Masks for Heroes and click on GIVE. From there, and fill out the quick form that helps the organizers identify who you are and how to connect you with requests that are the best fit.
To Make Masks
To make masks, click on MAKE MASKS and follow the tutorials posted on how to sew PPE face masks. Not all material is a great fit and while the organization acknowledges that DIY masks are not ideal, they are better than nothing, which what doctors and nurses are currently being asked to work with.
To Request PPE
If you are a front line worker and you are in need of PPE and don’t know where to turn please click on GET HELP and scroll down and fill out the form.
From there, organizers will take your information and add it to the growing list of requests from around the country. This section of the website if updated several times a day.
The goal is to get PPE (personal protective equipment) into the hands of health care workers on the front lines, hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, community outreach programs, anyone working in health care right now.
Through the Masks for Heroes website and social media platforms, volunteers are accepting requests for PPE, assisting those who are looking to donate and provide resources for individuals and organizations who are making supplies — nationally and globally.
For Viera, one of the hardest parts of spearheading such an impressive project is the heartbreaking stories she’s reading daily.
“One that keeps me going was another mom who contacted us to get PPE for her husband,” Viera shares.
“His hospital was out of everything. He called her and asked her to see if they had bandanas around the house that he could use to make masks, and he was using a garbage bag as surgical gowns.
She was packing her and her daughter’s suitcases because he wanted them to go and stay with her parents to keep them safe because the likelihood that he would be exposed was so high.
She said she headed off not knowing if she would see him alive again. Like he was going to war with no weapons.
I sat and cried for a long time after talking with her, but it instilled a passion in me to keep charging forward.”