Meet our Community Hero: Shovana Thulung

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Tell us about yourself:

My name is Shovana Thulung and Im from Nepal. Professionally, I am a developer/photographer. I have been living in San Francisco for the past seven years.
I created Sew Masks 4 SF as a way to help increase the number of masks being made and distributed in shelters, hospitals, and nursing homes throughout the Bay Area.
My goal is to make masks that will not only help with the gaps in need but will also help educate people on the basic level of supplies needed in a shelter. I want people to learn how small of an amount could make a huge difference. In a sense, I’m fighting for more than one cause.

How did this campaign get started?

Our goal is to help bring together people who want to sew and donate masks. We believe in the power of having safe masks made by others for our loved ones, those in hospitals, shelters etc.
I had posted on Facebook groups as well as some specific forums because I really wanted to learn mask making. I sent messages out to the other members of my sewing groups, and I was surprised by how quickly someone offered to help. I could tell they were a little nervous, but they were willing to help anyway if I wanted them to. The response was so overwhelming that now here we are.

Mayor London Breed acknowledging Sewmask4sf and sporting a mask sewn/embroidered by volunteer Sonia Tamura Miller.

How do the mask kits work for anyone who would like to volunteer?

You don’t need any experience or special skills to sew a mask. We provide all the materials and instruction you need, as well as video instructions so you can quickly learn how to sew. We will come to your home, or pick up masks from pick-up points all over San Francisco.
Our mission is to empower anyone to do good. From our early days delivering mask-making material kits in San Francisco, weve found that the act of creating something beautiful and donating it to someone in need has incredible power.

What are some of the challenges you have faced?

The challenges we have faced in getting started was funding our idea for our mask kits. Making prototypes to be able to test how well the mask kits work.
In the beginning, we were trying to find the right fabric sponsors, but we were very lucky to work with Discount Fabrics. They have been very kind and generous.
It was difficult to make the right pattern that fit most face sizes and had filter. Our masks have a layer of polypropylene material(filter). Its semi water resistant and better than regular homemade masks. Motion Studio helped us by pre cutting the fabrics. I am very thankful to Motion Studio www.amotionstudio.com , Marpha marpha.org for our website: sewmask4sf.com and Discount Fabrics www.discountfabrics-sf.com .

“Vision without action is just a dream.”

~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

How has covid affected you?

It was pretty terrifying at first because my husband is in healthcare field. He still had to go to work at the hospital and risk being exposed, and no one had any idea how to deal with this virus or for how long it would be around. This campaign was my way of turning those scary and unprecedented times into something positive and helpful for those in need.

Fabrics being cut at Amotion Studio for mask kits.

How has your community evolved since?

Having over 65 volunteers be a part of this and willingly choose to donate their time to help out on this cause made it very easy to connect with all of them. As time passed and we all got comfortable with each other, we discovered that everyone had their unique strengths and we all have our own roles assigned for the campaign now, such as video editing, designs, and sewing. This project allowed so many great friendships to be created along the way and I couldnt be more grateful or happy with everyone involved. Together we donated 7000 plus masks, 700 plus hygiene kits, 500 scrub caps, thousands of water bottles, food items, and clothing to healthcare workers, nursing homes, shelters, orphanages, fire evacuees, and firefighters.