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Fabric Masks for frontline workers in the DTES

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In the midst of COVID-19, being able to safely self-quarantine, self-isolate, or stay at home is not just our duty, it’s a privilege. But, for those who live and work in the Downtown East Side (“DTES”), Vancouver’s lowest-income and most vulnerable neighbourhood, there are additional challenges that make coping with the spread of the pandemic far more urgent and perilous.

Due to a host of social inequities and injustices, the DTES is home to a disproportionate number of marginalized people experiencing, among other things, mental illness, homelessness and substance addiction. With supplies running low, face masks are desperately needed by frontline social service workers supporting these individuals.

“The situation is serious and it is urgent. In a neighbourhood where space, food, supplies, and everything is shared, if we have one infection, it could decimate this entire community. Living conditions are already dire, and this is only going to get worse if we don’t act now.”  -  Wendy Pedersen, Organizer, DTES SRO Collaborative Society.

We are mobilizing our local manufacturing partners to make washable, reusable fabric masks for DTES Response , an organization created to provide a coordinated effort to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The masks will be distributed to four organizations represented by them : DTES SRO Collaboration (SRO-C) , Western Aboriginal Harm Reduction Society (WAHRS) , Friends of CCAP (Carnegie Community Action Project) , and Overdose Prevention Society (OPS) .

This list is likely to grow: our goal is provide 1,500 masks as an initial pilot, and then respond to demand as it grows. (Update: our new goal is to make 2,500 masks). 

“I think the mask shortage is going to be an issue for some time to come. These new non-medical masks can reduce the spread of virus from infected people and while a mask won’t guarantee that you don’t get / spread COVID-19, it definitely lowers the risk. For DTES frontline workers, it could make a big difference, especially when combined with a face shield (which are also being donated!). And use of washable masks by the general public could help alleviate the shortage of medical grade masks for hospital staff and first responders.”– Kathy Shimizu, DTES Response Coordinator

The need is urgent and our ability to finance these costs during this uncertain time is very stretched. Every $6 (revised from $7 due to found production efficiencies) contributed will go directly to making and distributing a fabric mask to DTES Response. To learn more about the research we’ve done on the need, health and safety considerations, read our blog post here . 

Who we are: Aisle  (formerly known as Lunapads) is a Vancouver BC-based company that specializes in washable cloth menstrual pads and period underwear. We have been proudly making our products in Vancouver since 1993. A B Corporation since 2012, we value community and the environment in every decision we make. This is why we are focused on making cloth masks to support frontline workers who are helping vulnerable community members at this time of dire need. 

Thank you for your generous support!
Suzanne Siemens, Madeleine Shaw and the Aisle  International team

Photo credit: Jesse Winter

Please note: we cannot assure anyone of the effectiveness of a cloth mask for any purpose.  We are highlighting the limitations of these cloth masks to each recipient group and any user must be advised that they may use them at their own risk.


  • Anonymous
    • $50 
    • 4 yrs

Fundraising team: Aisle (Madeleine, Suzanne and team) (3)

Suzanne Siemens
Vancouver, BC
Madeleine Shaw
Team member
Hayaat SK
Team member

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