Mask-ER-Aid: A community response to COVID-19

Capriana and Trenton Jiang are siblings from San Jose, CA who started a Mask-ER-Aid, project to organize and lead the many sewists interested in helping sew masks and other PPE for staff at Valley Medical Center in Santa Clara. Mask-ER-Aid has over 100 members and have collectively donated over 4100 sewn items to Valley Med. Sewn items include reusable masks, bouffants (a type of surgical cap), and ear tension relievers (keeps elastic off ears).

Co-founders Capriana Jiang (left) and Trenton Jiang (right). They are both wearing homemade masks.

Pictured above: Co-founders Capriana Jiang (left) and Trenton Jiang (right)

How did you organize Mask-ER-Aid? Take us through the process from the idea to getting your masks out to clinics and hospitals.

The outbreak of the pandemic immediately shed light on the need for medical equipment. We quickly realized that our background as sewers gave us the ability to contribute to the fight in a meaningful way. Our family began pumping out face masks and sending them to Valley Medical Center, however, it was apparent that there was still a dire need for PPE. Our contact at the VMC foundation informed us that there were other sewers who wanted to contribute but weren’t sure how to go about doing it, leading us to create Mask-ER-Aid as a means to organize this community.

How did you bring attention to your project? Did you use any specific platforms to get the word out in your community?

We relied primarily on Facebook and word of mouth. People interested in helping that reached out to Valley Med were forwarded our way as well. Many sewing and quilting groups spread the word to their members and friends they knew also.

Why did you choose to host Mask-ER-Aid on a Facebook group instead of another platform?

We wanted to choose a platform that most people had accounts on. Since many of our members and sewists are older, we figured Facebook would be more accessible and appropriate than say Instagram or another platform. Facebook groups also allow for collaboration and for other members to post as well. We wanted a platform that allowed for engagement and that conveyed a sense of teamwork.

Why is it important for teenagers to get involved in addition to adults?

It’s important for teenagers to get involved because this age group has so much untapped potential to achieve meaningful things.

It's something that even I (Trenton) didn’t realize. Going into this project I was skeptical that we’d have any impact on the community. I literally thought to myself, “I’m 17, there’s no way this is going anywhere.”

How can we encourage young people to engage with real world issues instead of being satisfied with the status quo?

It is important to emphasize that posting on Instagram and social media is not enough, everyone needs to contribute in any way they can. Situations such as this pandemic require hands on action.

It feels good to make a difference within your community and with the right opportunity I think young people will realize this more and more.

How did you scale mask production to meet the increase in demand?

Since all of our sewists are volunteers, they generously donate whatever time they can spare to sewing. We of course let everyone know in the group when there is a shortage and they need extra PPE but most of our donations are dependent on whatever our sewists can accomplish.

Eight stacks of hand-sewn fabric masks of varying colors and sizes.

Pictured above: Eight stacks of hand-sewn fabric masks of varying colors and sizes.

Do you have any future goals for Mask-ER-Aid? Do you see yourself launching similar initiatives in the future?

We hope to keep Mask-ER-Aid going as long as this pandemic lasts. Our end goal is for Valley Med to tell us they have enough PPE because this would mean we did our job. If and when this happens, we think a good next step is to turn to other essential businesses and make sure they also have enough PPE.

Outside of Mask-ER-Aid, what are your interests and hobbies? Do you have any time management strategies or ways to give your day more structure during quarantine?

Trenton: Some interests of mine include sports - hockey, mountain biking, and lacrosse primarily. I enjoy backpacking and the outdoors in general. I’ve also used this newfound time to learn about and begin investing/trading. Just having a daily routine has been enough to keep me sane during quarantine. Staying busy is key.

Capriana: In my free time I love to bake, play lacrosse, sew, travel, beekeep and volunteer. I am passionate about the environment and medicine as a biology and pre-med student. During quarantine, I’ve found that it helps a lot to have a list of things I need to accomplish each day, it helps keep me busy. I have been focusing on my hobbies that I can do at home such as baking, sewing, and beekeeping which have helped give more meaning to my days.

What are your educational and career aspirations?

Trenton: I’m planning on going to college next year and studying either medicine or public health.

Capriana: I plan to graduate with a major in Biology and double minors in bioethics and chemistry. After that I plan to go to medical school to become a dermatologist.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

Trenton: I would live in Seattle. It’s a beautiful city with a great culture that is minutes away from pristine wilderness.

Capriana: I would live in the Swiss Alps. They are so beautiful and I could eat fresh cheese every day till I die.


Join the movement!

Silicon Valley Mask-ER-Aid Facebook Group

Capriana's email

Trenton's email