HOPE moving to ramp up production of masks

In times of adversity, there are some who rise to the challenge to help others in need. The following is the latest in the Jamaica Observer series, COVID-19 Kindness.


WITH 20,000 cloth masks sporting the Jamaican flag and the organisation’s logo already sold, the Housing Opportunity Production and Employment (HOPE) Programme is looking for volunteers to help ramp up production.

The masks are being donated to the needy, helped in part by purchases made by companies as a way of giving back to the country.

“We are hoping to produce 2,000 masks per day. We believe that with an increase of volunteers we will be able to achieve this,” said national coordinator of the Housing Opportunity Production and Employment (HOPE) Programme, Colonel Martin Rickman. “We hope to welcome as many volunteers as possible. However, at this point, while still keeping within the safety protocols, we should be able to accommodate at least 40 persons.”

Efforts are being made to have some tasks done by interns working from home. However, whether working from home or in the factory, HOPE is assuring that quality standards will be maintained during production.

The masks are not medical grade, but are expected to offer some degree of protection with proper use.

“We ensure quality control throughout the entire process, from ensuring that the right materials are used and [that] the stitches and prints are done properly,” said Rickman. “We also monitor the time taken to produce these masks and ensure that the quota is met. In keeping with the guidelines provided, we ensure the work areas are well kept and cleaned. We also ensure that our interns and volunteers follow safety precautions.”

Volunteers need to be over 18, in keeping with HOPE’s mandate of being “a youth engagement initiative aimed especially at targeting unattached, at-risk participants 18 to 24 years old, who are not engaged in any meaningful way in Jamaica”.

All HOPE programme participants or interns have to be trained in the three core areas of citizenship, community service and personal development skills. These areas cover work ethics, respect, discipline, dress and deportment, financial management, and entrepreneurship skills, Rickman explained.

“It is on these core skill values that interns have returned to help in the fight against COVID-19. They work tirelessly to produce safe masks under strict guidelines of the Bureau of Standards Jamaica, The Ministry of Health and the HEART Trust/NSTA,” he said.

He added that youths who have volunteered to help in the fight against COVID-19 by being involved in the mask-making project are paid a stipend. Proceeds from sale of the masks are put back into production.

“The aim behind making these masks was to distribute them to the vulnerable, less fortunate and the needy,” Rickman explained. “What has happened is that corporate entities have supported this initiative by purchasing masks to help with the production and for it to be distributed for free. The donation cost is $345 [per mask].”

The masks, which come in yellow and black, are made of three layers of 100 per cent cotton insert, 65 per cent cotton and 35 per cent polyester. The HOPE logo and the Jamaican flag are embroidered or printed on the left-hand corner to spur “patriotism and hope”.

WhatsApp your COVID-19 Kindness stories to (876) 588-0159.

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