• Jules-Pierre Malartre

Saint-Lazare teen’s homemade masks meet tough healthcare industry standards


PHOTO COURTESY VICTORIA ZABIELSKI

Despite the scarcity of mask-making materials, Victoria Zabielski searched online for weeks before finding and securing a quality fabric for her washable, reusable masks.

As COVID-19 continues to drive the demand for certain products to the point of prolonged shortages, local residents have to resort to resourceful and creative ways to get the essentials needed to weather the pandemic.

Some residents come up with innovative ways to make the best of their time spent in social isolation by fabricating products that are in short supply, including masks and disinfectant gel. A student at Collège Bourget, Victoria Zabielski of Saint-Lazare, like every other high school student in the area, ended up with plenty of time on her hands this spring and she decided to use that time constructively. Seeing the shortages and high demand for masks, she opted to start making her own.

“We’re all stuck at home,” she told The Journal. “We finished school on the 13th of March and I can’t really imagine spending two months at home doing nothing. So, I saw what people were doing; frontline workers really doing their best, doing what they can. Most of the time you feel bad doing nothing, just being there, and seeing the numbers go up. You feel hopeless, useless. So, I saw people looking for masks, and I know how to sew. I thought I could start selling face masks.”

Victoria then placed a posting on the Living in Saint-Lazare, Hudson, Rigaud and Vaudreuil and Loving it! Facebook page, and the response was immediate. “People really appreciated it,” Victoria said. “I had so many orders the first week. It’s now like a full-time job.”

PHOTO COURTESY VICTORIA ZABIELSKI

The Saint-Lazare seamstress and future healthcare worker’s masks conform to the requirements of the by AFNOR Group, a French standards association.

The logistics of procuring raw materials proved to be difficult, given that many industries are shut down but Victoria was able to secure the elastics and fabrics needed. Her masks are not simple contraptions sewn together. Victoria fabricates them per the requirements of the AFNOR SPEC S76-001 standard. This guideline released by AFNOR Group, a French standards association, lists minimum requirements for the fabrication of general purpose woven masks.

Selecting the right fabric proved to be a challenge. “It took me weeks to find a good material, because you want one that is accepted, that you know works, and can actually protect you,” Victoria said, adding that she was eventually able to find the right fabric online. “Stores were closed or empty. Even now, I’m really limited in terms of quantity, colors and patterns.”

Victoria’s masks use a double-layered pattern, and they incorporate an entrance for a third layer, as some people elect to add a filtering element, such as a coffee filter to their mask.

As masks become more readily available in local stores, Victoria says that the demand for reusable masks is still high.

“People would rather buy reusable masks because they can wash them. They don’t want to go through boxes and boxes of [disposable] masks. Surgical masks only have that one layer of protection, and then you throw it out.”

Victoria donates some of her masks to front-line healthcare workers, including her cousin who works as a nurse. “She needs to wear surgical masks, but I’m planning on giving her a lot of the masks so that she can distribute them (to whoever needs),” Victoria said. She has also donated masks to other people in need.

She is pursing online schooling at the moment to complete the requirements for her high school diploma. “There are classes I still need to finish so that I don’t fall behind when it’s time to go to CEGEP.” Victoria has been accepted in Health Science at Marianopolis College this coming fall. She’s looking forward to pursuing a career in the health industry, and has certainly made the most of the pandemic by getting an early start on her career in healthcare.

In the meantime, Victoria will continue to offer her masks to local residents. You can order them by contacting her through her Facebook page by searching ‘Victoria Zabielski.’

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