#MyMaskMyStory: “It’s not too late to be a part of Tzu Chi”

Northwest  | September 23, 2020

Part of our Together While Apart campaign, #MyMaskMyStory is a collection of personal accounts from individuals with deep ties to the COVID-19 pandemic. These include those who have volunteered, those who have donated, and those who have received.

Edited by Dilber Shatursun

“In the beginning [of the pandemic], we couldn’t find masks on the market and there was a shortage of them even for the frontline medical workers. I was really worried for them; if medical workers on the frontline can’t protect themselves, what about us?”

“[At the same time,] our volunteers had a LINE group chat. Someone in the chat asked if anyone has a sewing machine to lend. Since I have one, I asked them what they wanted to do with it. They said that they wanted to make cloth masks. When I heard that, I said, ‘I would like to join!’ So, they added me to the cloth mask-making team.”

“We were divided into groups. We each take care of different tasks, including the purchase of material, sourcing needles and thread, and trimming the fabric according to patterns. I’m responsible for sewing mainly, so volunteers from the team will bring the semi-finished products to me and take my finished products away.”

“I still remember Sister Rita’s challenges getting the fabric. All the stores were closed at that time [because of the pandemic], so she asked around for favors from cloth shop owners to open and let us purchase material. For a while, cotton was in short supply. All of the volunteers turned their homes upside down to find unused cotton cloths to contribute.”

“I’m used to sewing and repairing. I made the curtains in my home and have also tailored my husband’s clothes when they’re too small or too big. I’ve also taken Tzu Chi’s continuing education sewing classes. I’m nearly eighty years old, but my eyes are fine! I can finish about 12 per day.”

“Volunteers only need to give me samples of masks. I can figure out how to sew them without watching a how-to video. The surgical caps for the frontline medical workers are also not too difficult. When I heard that many doctors and nurses liked our product, took photos with them, and even wrote us thank you cards, I felt very content. I hope the masks and caps can guard their health and safety.”

“Master Cheng Yen once said, ‘the more we do, the more we gain.’ When my attention turned to [mask-making], my anxiety subsided. I think when I’m helping others, I’m actually the one that received help. It has helped me calm my anxieties while sheltering in place.”

“I’m happy it’s not too late to be a part of Tzu Chi. I joined at the age of fifty, so I can walk along Tzu Chi’s Dharma path for the rest of my life. I feel very lucky and blessed. But, I want to pass on the mission to younger volunteers. I’m already 76 years old, and I need to spend more time at home taking care for my 90-year-old husband.”

“However, I’m still a happy volunteer! I’ll do my best whenever Tzu Chi volunteers need help, because we’re dedicated to Tzu Chi’s mission and having good to do is the happiest thing on Earth!”

Un-Chyong Yang is a Tzu Chi Northwest volunteer and is currently on its cloth mask and cap-making team, which sews and distributes cloth masks and caps to local hospitals, senior centers, and more. She is 76 years young. Discover the full #MyMaskMyStory collection here, and help us do more to support healthcare heroes and inspire compassion through our Together While Apart fundraiser.

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