Ruati stitching face masks for health workers in Texas, US Credit: EastMojo image 

Imphal: A Manipur-native woman has joined millions across the globe as a maker of face masks in the United States to support the acute shortage of personal protection gear for those health workers on the frontline against the deadly novel coronavirus.

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Meet Ruati Buongpui Johnsen, a 50-year-old woman from Manipur’s Churachandpur district and now settled in Houston, Texas in the US. A mother of three sons and married to Thor Johnsen of Norway, Ruati is setting a noble example by stitching face masks and distributing them for free to COVID-19 fighters, including healthcare workers, post office staffers and city workers in Texas.

A full-time homemaker who enjoys growing microgreens in her garage and greenhouse, Ruati started her mission to fight the deadly virus after she learned from her friend, who is a nurse working in a local hospital, about the healthcare workers being compelled to used disposable face masks due to shortage of PPE.

Ruati Buongpui Johnsen hails from Manipur’s Churachandpur district 

Speaking with EastMojo via social media messenger, Ruati informed that she felt for her home state Manipur when she heard the news of coronavirus pandemic in the country.

“The first thing that struck my mind after the pandemic outbreak was whether my state (Manipur) has enough gear.What would happen to the people, especially those living in far-flung villages, if the virus spreads?” Ruati said.

“When I see people walking on the streets without any protection, my heart cries. That’s why I try my best to help people who don’t have masks by giving them one because I know that if they are protected, then their family and friends are also protected and vice versa from the virus,” informed Ruati.

A family picture taken last Christmas 

“My mission right now is to help people as much as possible, especially those healthcare workers who are facing unseen threats every day from the virus,” said Ruati.

So far, Ruati, who studied fashion designing in Delhi before she moved to Tokyo as a fashion logo designer and later to the United States, has given away more than 200 face masks to the frontline workers in her city.

Each mask has a vacuum cleaner bag as a filter and can be reused after washing with hot water. “For better sealing to the nose and chin, I use two wires on the mask,” she said.

A healthcare worker wearing a face mask stitched by Ruati Buongpui Johnsen

Apart from helping the healthcare workers in Texas, Ruati is also reaching out and making masks for nurses hailing from Manipur working in New York City area.

“I hope we can make a difference in people’s lives. We should stop being selfish, and start helping each other by becoming more humane and save humanity from this pandemic,” she added.

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