The Sanctuary Mask Initiative

Saoirse - Ethnic Hands on Deck traces its roots back to the Sanctuary Mask Initiative, a response to the urgent need for hygiene masks amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. We first recruited 20 women from five Direct Provision Centres in Cork, harnessing their skills to sew reusable hygiene masks. Providing each with a sewing machine, templates, and materials, within 12 weeks they had produced an impressive 9,000 masks. This initiative was a testament to our commitment to community well-being, with each person in every Direct Provision Centre in Cork City and County receiving three masks.

What is Direct Provision? Learn more here

Our work did not stop there; we partnered with community groups and donated masks to over 30 community groups in Cork. This extension of our efforts amplified our impact, reaching even more individuals in need within our local community.

Our efforts garnered local and national attention, with features on RTE News and the Nationwide television program. This recognition highlighted the significance of our mission and inspired us to envision a sustainable future beyond the initial initiative.

Fuelled by our belief in responsible skills utilization and community support, we embarked on a journey to establish Saoirse - Ethnic Hands on Deck as a social enterprise. Collaborating with agencies like the Cork Local Enterprise Office and Rethink Ireland, we laid the groundwork for a venture rooted in fairness and community benefit.

The name "Saoirse," meaning "freedom" in Irish, encapsulates our commitment to breaking barriers and fostering opportunities for migrant women. From these humble beginnings, Saoirse has blossomed into a movement that celebrates diversity, unity, and the boundless potential of its members.

Sanctuary Mask Initiative in the media

Providing Essential PPE in DP - The Sanctuary Masks Initiative
in Global Health, May 2022

Asylum seekers making masks in effort to stop spread of Covid-19 
in The Irish Times, April 2020

This is how Cork’s Sanctuary Mask makers are helping fight Covid-19 
in Yay Cork, April 2020

Sanctuary Masks - Protecting the Most Vulnerable
in UCC News, April 2020

Cork groups come together to protect most vulnerable in society
in Irish Examiner, April 2020

Women living in Direct Provision making masks for other residents and vulnerable groups 
in Cork Beo, April 2020

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