SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – Since the start of its Buy1Give1 Masks for the Masses program in May 2020, the St. Maarten Development Fund (SMDF) has produced and distributed over one thousand five hundred facemasks throughout the Sint Maarten community.
The initiative began as a volunteer initiative during the partial lockdown period whereby hobbyist and professional seamstresses and tailors were scouted for their sewing talents and skills to produce the masks, which are 100% cotton, reusable and washable. The completed masks were then washed and placed into individually sealed bags that include filters as well as information about how to properly wear and wash the mask in 3 languages (English, Haitian Creole and Spanish).
As part of an effort to stimulate economic activity, especially for those professional seamstresses/tailors who found themselves without their usual income over the course of the pandemic, the project quickly evolved into a Buy1Give1 social entrepreneurship model where participating producers could receive compensation of 4 ANG for each mask produced. Due to numerous contributions from supportive donors, SMDF was able to sell the masks for ANG 5 or USD 3 each and for each mask purchased, one was donated to a person in need.
Since the start of the project, 562 masks have been sold to both private individuals and companies, and as of September 1st, a total of 1,102 have been donated to various non-profit organizations including the St. Maarten AIDS Foundation, Mental Health Foundation, National Institute of Arts, Player Development, two daycare centers, the New Start for Children foster home, and the White and Yellow Cross Care Foundation. Because of the overwhelming support from the community, including two local fabric stores who generously donated materials and/or provided them at heavily discounted amounts, SMDF expects to distribute an additional 300 free masks to the community in the coming week. In order to ensure that the masks reach persons who are truly in need, distribution of the masks will take place through local NGO partners who are already on the ground distributing food packages and cooked meals.
SMDF could not have executed this project without the support from the St. Maarten community, the many seamstresses and tailors who worked tirelessly to produce the masks. With the support of our key financial donor Netherlands based RebuildSXM, the producers could be compensated for their works. Additionally, with generous in-kind donations from community partners such as A Stitch In Time, Efa’s Sewing Center and NAPA Autoparts, SMDF could provide masks to the community for an extremely low cost.