This article appeared in the May 04, 2020 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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Empathy, necessity, and a young mask-maker’s special offering

Courtesy of Eric Kim
Eric Kim, a junior at Sunset High School in Beaverton, Oregon, wanted to ensure that people in contact with those with impaired hearing could communicate with them while masked, so he adapted a clear-fabric version that allows for lip-reading.
Clayton Collins
Director, editorial innovation

As some areas ease out of lockdown, big public- and private-sector players keep trying to engineer (and scale up) ways of easing life amid coronavirus.

Meanwhile, grassroots efforts are thriving.  

Face coverings, worn out of respect for those who don’t have the luxury of physical distancing, get a lot of creative attention. It’s more than pretty patterns. Tokujin Yoshioka, the Japanese designer behind the 2020 Olympic torch, just developed a free template for a plastic full-face shield. In Vermont, a sewing machine wizard keeps old machines running for fabric mask DIYers. 

And then there’s Eric Kim. The Oregon high schooler, who has partial hearing loss, was concerned about how mask requirements would affect those who count on being able to read lips. Empathy pushed him toward a niche. He had inspiration: the work of a Kentucky college student he’d seen on CNN. 

So he called her for tips. Then he bought out the clear fabric at his local Dollar Tree and set about learning to sew. 

“It was a lot harder than I thought,” he told the Portland Oregonian: hours at the machine, a pipe-cleaner insert to ensure a snug fit. As of today, he has supplied about 70 free masks, he says in an email, and is answering hundreds of calls from around the country. He’s got a funding effort, and he’s got a plan: to keep going for “as long as people keep requesting.”


This article appeared in the May 04, 2020 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 05/04 edition
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