Although the transition to social distancing and online learning has been a challenge, students from the English Language Center (ELC) are continuing to make a positive impact in their adopted communities; both in the DC Metro region and across the country. Boram “Bobo” Kim has been studying at the ELC since 2017, and will be attending the Art Institute of Chicago this fall to pursue her Master’s Degree in Art Therapy. But in the meantime, she and her three roommates are working tirelessly to make masks for healthcare workers and local residents in their neighborhood of Falls Church, VA.
Kim attended art school in South Korea and was working as an art teacher at an international kindergarten there until 2016, when she decided to move to DC to learn English as a student in the ELC. She now uses her art and English skills in her volunteer work with individuals with disabilities at the Fairfax Community Center. Kim and her roommates are also involved with homelessness outreach in their community, and make and distribute sandwiches to homeless people every month. In fact, this is where they came up with the idea for their mask-making project: when social distancing began, Kim and her roommates switched from making food to making masks, hoping to continue their social impact.
“When we started making masks, our relationship and friendship became so strong and we bonded with each other,” Kim says.
Kim and her roommates buy materials at JOANN Fabrics and Crafts and sew the masks at home. Because elastic bands have been sold out at local stores, they have taken creative measures and now use bias tape to tie the masks. Each person has a different role in the production process, for example, cutting the fabric, making measurements, and hand-sewing. They make two versions of the mask: a regular version, and a version that includes a space to put a filter, for healthcare professionals’ use.
“I’m very proud of my roommates. It is time-consuming, but everybody is happy to make masks,” Kim says. “Usually we work from 6 PM to 1 AM.”
Thus far, Kim and her roommates have donated hundreds of masks to a number of hospitals and medical centers, including Inova Fairfax Hospital, Washington DC VA Medical Center, Virginia Hospital Center, Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters, Virginia Cancer Specialists, and the Brooklyn Hospital Center. They have also distributed to friends, family, and neighbors in the area, as well as on request.
“We want to make sure the project is very transparent and update our donations lists,” Kim says.
Kim’s roommate Joohyun Lee manages the project, and the group plans to make masks until the shelter-in-place is lifted in June, and potentially beyond.
“I really want to help people … I mostly pick the fabric and color-coding, it is kind of like art,” Kim says. “If I move to Chicago in August, I want to keep making masks and helping people.” Kim and her roommates are accepting donations to purchase fabric to make the masks. If you are interested in donating, please contact Kim at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Author Meena Raman (’20) is a graduating senior in Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business.