Addressing a problem head-on

| October 31, 2020 | 1 Comment
Inara Eichenbauma, wife of Latvian Ambassador Karlis Eichenbaums, has been making masks for people in need since the pandemic hit back in March. (Photo: Ülle Baum)

Inara Eichenbauma, wife of Latvian Ambassador Karlis Eichenbaums, has been making masks for people in need since the pandemic hit back in March. (Photo: Ülle Baum)

Two diplomatic spouses in Ottawa have been busy making masks since COVID-19 hit in March.
“I was doing some research and the more I read, the scarier it was,” says Inara Eihenbauma, wife of Latvian Ambassador Karlis Eihenbaums, about the pandemic. “Then I started asking what one could do. I decided I could make face masks since you were not able to buy them at the time.”
There was one snag in the plan: For the first time in her diplomatic life, she didn’t bring her sewing machine with her to Canada. But a Canadian friend offered her one and her mask-making project began. Her husband kicked off material donations by giving her one of his shirts.
“This mask project was my personal contribution against COVID-19,” Eihenbauma says. “I don’t sell them. It was first for family and friends from the U.S., Netherlands, Belgium and Latvia, then staff of the embassy and colleagues and their family members.”
She estimates she’s made about 500 in total and says “it’s not much — it’s just my personal contribution.”
She’s also made medical caps for doctors, and masks for employees at Global Affairs Canada and residents of the Perley-Rideau Veterans’ Health Centre, where she previously volunteered. She then expanded her reach to Ottawa-based Latvian seniors as well as Ottawa school children and their parents.
She has done a combination of pickups and deliveries of her masks and many Canadian friends have donated material.
“Such projects really bring people together,” she says. “There’s so much goodness that comes out.”
Across town, Margaret Dickenson, widow of late Canadian ambassador Larry Dickenson, is also making masks as part of the Army of Masks initiative, begun by her daughter, Tonya. She started it with two friends she met when she lived in Abu Dhabi, UAE. One has since relocated to Qatar and the other is based in Florida.
With an app and a website, Army of Masks connects people who are willing to volunteer to sew masks for people who need them. So far, the “army” has produced more than 53,000 masks and given them all away. The original idea was to give two masks to every North American in need of them.
“When this first hit, we knew that the virus would know no borders,” Tonya Dickenson says.

Eichenbauma’s colourful array of masks. (Photo: Ülle Baum)

Eihenbauma’s colourful array of masks. (Photo: Ülle Baum)

Some of her most prolific volunteers, including a small group of Filipino ex-pats based in Toronto, are making as many as 200 masks a day.
In Ottawa, many masks — often 500 to 700 at a time — have gone to food banks, and Carefor, which offers professional services such as nursing and in-home physiotherapy and personal support services such as Meals on Wheels and transportation.

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  1. Raul says:

    Lovely initiative!

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