Catholic parish in Kerala stitch and distribute free face masks amid COVID-19 panic

Published 19 March 2020  |  
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As the fear of coronavirus spreads across the country, the government has announced people to avoid travelling or coming in close contact with others, wash hands frequently and wear protective face masks.

As more and more people are rushing to buy face masks, there is a huge shortage of masks and even if available they are sold at a higher price.

In the midst of panic and emergency, Father Sebstian Karukapally, a Catholic priest in Kerala, stepped into the streets to give away free face masks to people working in vulnerable places and are at risk of catching the virus.

"We found even police personnel, drivers and nurses among others working in hospitals and other vulnerable places without protective masks risking their lives after the breakout of the coronavirus in the state," said Father Karukapally, parish priest of Little Flower Latin Church in Pottakuzhy.

The masks that Father Karukapally distributed to others were hand stitched by a group of people engaged in mission work.

After discussing the problem and getting positive response from state parishioners, Father Karukapally started the mission with five sewing machines on March 11 and after the Sunday Mass, a public announcement was made appealing for people to support the mission.

"It was amazing. The following day the number of sewing machines rose to 35 and more and more volunteers from different religions joined us and started stitching masks free of cost," Father Karukapally told UCA News.

"We initially set a target of 20,000 masks using money from the parish reserve fund and also donations from a few generous people," he added.

According to Sereena John, president of Pottakuzhy Parish, the mission has stitched and distributed more than 30,000 masks till now. Seventeen parishes in the Latin diocese have joined the movement and many dioceses in the state have also joined to make it a huge success.

"We are distributing the materials we get free of charge to other parishes and dioceses that have agreed to join the mission as it will reduce the time in stitching and distribution," said John.

Members engaged in making masks work free of cost for as long as 12 hours starting from 10 in the morning.

"Some people provide sewing machines, others provide materials for the masks, others offer free services and others provide food and drinks, making it a truly community-cum-family affair," said Father Karukapally.

The parish now has 90 people actively stitching the face masks with enough material to produce as many as 60,000 masks and distribute them during the time of crisis.

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