Hockamasks Help Refugees

Students put traditional pleated, plaid skirt fabrics to new uses for health care workers

A couple of Hockaday School students responded to the pandemic by creating a nonprofit and giving it a four-word name that tells perhaps half its story.

To get a fuller picture of Sew Masks Save Doctors (SMSD), you might add something like Support Refugees and Hockaday Style.

“When COVID-19 hit, we knew we wanted to provide financial stability to vulnerable communities, especially the refugee community while simultaneously providing the PPE that frontline workers need during the pandemic,” co-founder Tia Hsieh said.

“Whether it’s refugee women, refugee children, or frontline workers, we want to unite the Dallas community during the pandemic.”

Tia Hsieh

She and co-founder Jade Nguyen had helped the refugee community previously through Heart House at Northwest Community Center.

In forming SMSD, they partnered with nonprofit Vickery Trading Company, which employs refugee women who sew masks from donated fabrics for healthcare providers and other frontline workers.

Since launching in the spring, SMSD has raised more than $11,000 and donated more than 800 masks.

To raise money, the students launched the Hockamask Project. The sustainable effort repurposes fabrics from donated school uniforms to make plaid, pleated masks like the school’s traditional skirt. Campus volunteers help collect and cut the fabric and elastic.

“We want to keep our business going and keep on selling our Hockamasks to create enough money for refugee women,” Hockamasks manager Riya Malhotra said.

Volunteers Reenu Malhotra and Emma Ortman

SMSD has also created a podcast to bring awareness to refugee women.

“We do refugee podcast interviews over their experiences, individual stories, and what they’ve gone through,” Hsieh said. “It’s not about the money we are trying to raise, but the stories we are trying to spread. Whether it’s refugee women, refugee children, or frontline workers, we want to unite the Dallas community during the pandemic.”

Hospital workers have been appreciative, SMSD director of communications Emilia Callahan said. “We send masks, and they send pictures of them wearing them, and it shows what a difference we’re making and how happy they are to be receiving our stuff.”

How to Help: Visit sewmaskssavedoctors.com to donate, volunteer, or make a purchase. Hockamasks are $18. Daisy masks are $12.99.


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