The Mask Project at IU is a student-led organization that makes free, homemade masks for the IU campus and the Bloomington community. So far, the project and Bloomington Mask Drive has produced over 70,000 masks.
They distribute masks based on areas of the community with the most concern for COVID-19. The initiative also partnered with Bloomington Mask Drive to address the initial shortage of masks during the pandemic. The drive started after Arianna Smith, IU Mask Project founder and president, said she looked for enriching community-centric experiences related to the pandemic upon returning to campus last year.
Smith said the Mask Project’s goal is to provide free resources for those in need as well as promote wearing masks in public. She said it is significant for people to realize the pandemic is ongoing and they should respond accordingly.
The organization tried to raise awareness on the importance of masks and following the COVID-19 protocol through its social media platform. Their Instagram features two new series: “Why masks matter” and “Got My Shot Saturday.” Each is a collection of pictures and people explaining why they wear masks and get vaccinated. There is also information on mask pickups at places like Luddy Hall, Hopscotch Coffee and the Monroe County Public Library.
Smith said the organization fosters mask advocacy on social media to inform, educate, and encourage positive change. She said she hopes more people will discuss the pandemic and understand the importance of safe practices like masking.
Students can attend tri-weekly meetings at 7 p.m. Wednesdays in Ballantine Hall and/or visit the project’s website to sign up as a volunteer to make masks at the College Mall from 2 to 6 p.m. on Mondays and Fridays.
Smith said she encourages students to participate regardless of whether they can sew. There is assistance at all volunteer events as well as other tasks such as packaging, sorting, and sanitizing.
Muskaan Ramchandani, vice president of the IU Mask Project, said she was pleased with volunteer turnout since participation dropped after the second wave of COVID-19 this summer. She said that lack of participation was mainly due to the influx in other in-person activities as well as the mandate not requiring masks while outdoors.
“We have acquired over 100 members and hundreds of service hours with every minute spent pouring love into the community,” Ramchandani said.
The group plans to continue making masks to respond to an increase in demand and encourage students to volunteer whenever possible.
“The physical act of donating your time towards a particular cause alongside individuals from multiple generations is simply heartwarming,” Ramchandani said. “It is a reminder that none of us are in this fight alone and that it is a whole community working together to aid and uplift others.”