South Brunswick teen teaches residents virtually how to make cloth masks for essential workers

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Hymavathi Gollakota is leading a team of mask makers who are donating masks to essential workers and the homeless.PHOTOS COURTESY OF HYMA GOLLAKOTA
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Hymavathi Gollakota is leading a team of mask makers who are donating masks to essential workers and the homeless.PHOTOS COURTESY OF HYMA GOLLAKOTA
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SOUTH BRUNSWICK – Hymavathi Gollakota is encouraging residents to attend her virtual mask-making workshops or sewing basics workshops in an effort to help the community.
Hyma, a junior at South Brunswick High School, has not suffered any COVID-related tragedies in her close family, but decided she and her mother would make masks for essential personnel, homeless individuals, and basically anyone who needed masks during quarantine.
She turned this newfound skill into her Girl Scout Gold Award: her project “Mask It!” is creating masks for those in need.
“I have a very helpful team. I have been working with my neighbor, Arnavh Sinha, and his mother, Shweta Sinha, for a while. Mrs. Sinha put me in touch with Abhilasha Singh, who was coordinating the group of mask makers that I volunteered with earlier in the summer. They have been very helpful with my award so far.
“My Girl Scout leader, Lakshmi Bandi, has been very essential to the process. In order to make masks in such a large quantity, I needed to teach some of my friends how to make masks so they could help me. Danielle DeJesus, Victoria Cohen and Luna Koiwa have been super-helpful and hardworking, and make such amazing masks.
“I am currently teaching more people how to make masks and offering virtual workshops to teach attendees how to make masks,” the 16-year-old said.
As of press time, the team had made 150 masks and had another 100 masks in production.
“The masks are made in our homes and we all use a sewing machine. A big challenge was having to teach some of the mask makers to sew in the first place. I would have to make them practice sewing in straight lines. It took me a while to pick up as well so I can’t judge,” she said.
She said the personal cloth masks are made from materials that can be found around the house. The masks, which help to halt the spread of COVID-19, can be thrown in a washing machine with other items, she said.
The current order is being donated to South Brunswick High School.
“We are going to donate 200 masks in total now, but the number might increase soon,” she said.
Hyma said her goals for the future are to make the project more large scale, to donate to more places, and to recruit mask makers from all over.
“This project is important to me because, like anyone else, I would like for the fast recovery from the pandemic and for things to return to normal.
“In order to slowly start opening back up the country, people need to protect themselves and others by wearing masks.
“I hope that by making these masks and teaching people the skill of sewing, I’m having my own impact in the fight against the pandemic.
“The skill of sewing is extremely useful, not just for making masks, but for all kinds of purposes. It will definitely be useful to you in the future.
“Even if people don’t want to volunteer, I would love to just teach people how to make masks or teach them sewing basics. And finally, it would be amazing if my Gold Award is approved. It’s been a goal of mine for a while and I need people’s help to achieve it,” she said.
For more information about dates of virtual workshops, materials needed, and how to become a mask maker, email Hyma at hymavathigollakota@gmail.com