When staff and students at Our Lady of Mercy College Parramatta (OLMC) were encouraged to wear masks at school, the teachers were inspired to have some fun and make a difference with their new facial accessories. Teachers of Clare House at OLMC decided to purchase matching masks from the Hamlin Shop to wear on campus; in the process, they supported Fairtrade producers in Ethiopia and the work of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia.
Turning misadventure into opportunity
The College was advised by New South Wales Health to work remotely for a fortnight after a positive COVID-19 case. Upon the students’ return, Principal Marie Wood (Acting) initiated a range of social distancing policies including single direction walkways and the strong encouragement for staff and students to wear masks on campus. Teachers were advised to wear their masks while interacting with students and to take off masks while teaching if they were safely distanced from students. These new policies provided an opportunity for staff to bolster house spirit and concurrently support a good cause.
Gabrielle Scanlon, the Director of Mission at OLMC and long-time supporter of the Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation, purchased some face masks from the Hamlin Shop – in the process she inspired others to do likewise. “I had put a photo up… of the masks online. One of the teachers from Clare House saw the red ones and asked, ‘Why don’t we put in an order for the teachers of Clare to all have the same masks?’” recalls Gabrielle.
Looking good while staying safe
At OLMC, each of the eight houses have a designated house colour; Clare House’s red theme lends itself to exuberant displays of house spirit from its teachers: “The House Leader for Clare basically wears red every day – a lot of teachers wear [their] colour quite often!” explains Gabrielle. When students saw the teachers from Clare House wearing matching red masks, it was seen as par for the course. “It didn’t raise eyebrows because [the students’ thinking was] ‘Of course you would all wear red face masks!’ but they did start saying ‘Who made them? Where did you get them from? I love that material!’ – so it did generate some curiosity!” says Gabrielle.
Handmade in Ethiopia from cotton ethically sourced from Ethiopian farmers’ cooperatives, the Hamlin Shop’s face masks are comfortable to wear with a wire nose bridge two cotton layers. Available in 10 different colourways, these beautiful masks feature various Ethiopian design motifs and are printed using a traditional silk screen method with natural dyes. The masks are sustainable as well: they are washable and are enveloped in recycled packaging.
Supporting women everyday
Charitable initiatives are not a new thing at OLMC: staff and students devise their own fundraising campaigns for a range of social justice organisation. The work of Dr Catherine Hamlin and Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia is not new to the OLMC community either. “I’ve known about Dr Catherine Hamlin for years: my mum has always donated money to the Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation, so I’ve always known about the foundation,” says Gabrielle.
Educational speakers from the Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation have spoken at OLMC previously, teaching senior students about Catherine’s work and the plight of women in Ethiopia suffering from obstetric fistula. As Gabrielle recalls, students learnt about “what a fistula is and linked it back to some of [the school’s] mercy values: the dignity of women, treating people with respect etc.” As Director of Mission, Gabrielle has bought products from the Hamlin Shop as thank you gifts for various guest speakers that visit the school.
By wearing masks around campus every day, the Clare House teachers are not only showing house spirit, they are supporting fistula patients. The producers of the Hamlin Shop’s masks mostly employ women in a safe environment, 15 of those employees are Hamlin’s former fistula patients who are rebuilding their lives with sustainable employment from making masks. Moreover, a portion of the proceeds from each mask sold support the work of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia to eradicate fistula, forever.
Click here to purchase your ethically made mask today!
Learn more about how your community or workplace can support the work of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia here.