Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 24 October 2020

Schoolboy in Jordan making 1,000 face masks for refugees

Mogtaba Fadol’s birthday coincides with World Refugee Day. This year, he’s helping displaced people in Egypt fight Covid-19

Ahmed and Mogtaba Fadol hold masks they stitched to help protect refugees in Egypt against Covid-19. Charlie Faulkner for The National
Ahmed and Mogtaba Fadol hold masks they stitched to help protect refugees in Egypt against Covid-19. Charlie Faulkner for The National

Mogtaba Fadol, 10, and his older brother Ahmed, 12 sit at their family dining table in the Jordanian capital deep in concentration as they snip and sew pieces of material together. The tabletop is barely visible beneath the different sheets of fabric – an array of colours and prints cover its surface.

Mogtaba turns 11 on June 20, which is the day the United Nations commemorates to raise awareness about the continued plight of refugees worldwide.

To mark his birthday as well as World Refugee Day, he has embarked on a project with the help of family and members of his local community, to make 1,000 face masks for refugees in Egypt.

“This period of time is very dangerous. Many people are getting sick with coronavirus so I wanted to do something to help,” Mogtaba tells The National.

Mogtaba Fadol, 10, stitches a face mask. He has no prior experience of sewing but his mother and people within the community in Amman, Jordan, are helping refugees in Egypt fight coronavirus by supplying face masks. Charlie Faulkner for The National
Mogtaba Fadol, 10, stitches a face mask. He has no prior experience of sewing but his mother and people within the community in Amman, Jordan, are helping refugees in Egypt fight coronavirus by supplying face masks. Charlie Faulkner for The National

His school in Amman – International Community School – encourages its pupils to become socially aware.

“We have this thing called the seven values in school which include things like compassion and respect, and it’s about creating peace.”

It has been a big learning curve for Mogtaba who has never sewn before.

“It’s tough but fun,” he says.

The decision to help refugees in Egypt came out of concern that many would not be able to afford face masks for every member of the family. In Egypt, a recent ruling made wearing masks mandatory in public spaces.

Egypt has recorded more than 47,000 Covid-19 cases and almost 1,700 deaths. In comparison, Jordan has recorded fewer than 1,000 cases and only nine deaths.

Mogtaba's brother Ahmed operates the sewing machine as their mother Rehab Khalifa offers guidance.

“Jordan is pretty safe right now, but in Egypt there are a lot more cases so it’s really important to help people there,” says Ahmed.

“And World Refugee Day is important because it reminds people of all the refugees in need and it’s a day that encourages people to offer help.”

The project gained support from the local community when the boys’ mother posted on an expat Facebook group asking for anyone with sewing skills to help teach her family how to make masks.

Ahmed Fadol, 12, is helping his brother Mogtaba, 10, reach his goal of making 1,000 face masks for refugees in Egypt by the time he turns 11 on June 20th, which is also World Refugee Day. Charlie Faulkner for The National
Ahmed Fadol, 12, is helping his brother Mogtaba, 10, reach his goal of making 1,000 face masks for refugees in Egypt by the time he turns 11 on June 20th, which is also World Refugee Day. Charlie Faulkner for The National

“The response has been amazing. Many people have shown interest and offered to help – even the sewing machine was given to us,” says Mrs Khalifa, who adds that a local business has offered to stitch 500 masks for a very small fee.

The mother-of-five has worked at UN refugee agency UNCHR for 16 years and says because of her work her sons have a good understanding of humanitarian issues.

“They came to visit me in Egypt in February so they’re aware of the refugee situation there,” says Mrs Khalifa.

“I’m impressed at how long they’re able to hold a needle and stitch for. I work from home at the moment so I can’t help until the evening time but the boys often want to keep going past midnight,” she says.

“It’s a small contribution but it’s about raising awareness.”

This year is a particularly special birthday for Mogtaba because his mother will be with him to celebrate.

“I’ve missed three of his birthdays because I often go and celebrate World Refugee Day with refugee children,” says Mrs Khalifa.

The masks will be shipped to Egypt on June 20.

Updated: June 17, 2020 01:00 PM

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