When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the USA in early 2020, there was an urgent demand for face masks to curb the spread of the disease. Sensing an opportunity for service, members from all three Sai Centers in Seattle sprang into action to sew and donate homemade masks. The Sai Sew Raksha mask service project was born, Sew Raksha being a play on the Hindi (Indian language) word ‘Suraksha’, meaning 'protection'.  

Initially, the mask service team collaborated with the Indian Association of Western Washington (IAWW). Sai volunteers dusted off their sewing machines and quickly churned out several high-quality masks using the IAWW kits. In just three weeks, over 400 masks were distributed to various healthcare facilities. 

In the next phase, the team procured their own fabric, optimized the design for fit and comfort, and identified organizations in need of masks. Again, sewing volunteers completed another 400 masks in under a month. An additional 100 or so masks were made from kits provided directly by hospitals and clinics.  

Several volunteers worked together to ensure the project went smoothly; everyone put their heart and soul into it. The material preparation volunteers worked diligently to put together the facemask kits; the sewing volunteers strictly adhered to sewing instructions to make high-quality masks; the Quality Check (QC) volunteer painstakingly examined every mask and fixed any defects. Finally, the distribution volunteers drove tirelessly to locations across Seattle to pick up and drop off kits and completed masks. All pick-ups and deliveries were porch-to-porch to ensure contactless transfer of materials and masks. 

Volunteers were grateful that the project gave them a chance to be of service and use their skills while in lockdown. One of the project coordinators reflected, “Suddenly, the incessant thinking about an uncertain future was replaced with cutting, sewing, organizing and planning for the project. I met incredible people virtually, within and outside the organization, working towards one goal. The passion, love, time and energy that all the volunteers have put in, is beyond extraordinary and humbling." Another stated, “This opportunity has helped us stay positively focused amidst uncertain times. It has allowed adults and young adults, even those without sewing skills, to contribute in a meaningful way."

The project is still ongoing and, as of the end of June 2020, a total of more than 1,280 masks have been donated. The Sathya Sai Centers of Seattle hope to deliver several hundred more masks in the coming weeks and beyond.