The COVID-19 lockdown is an extremely challenging time for our local communities, which rely heavily on the scuba diving tourism industry for income. Unemployment on the island is now widespread and with many families living paycheck to paycheck the sudden loss of income is a daily struggle. Although there are a variety of fruits and vegetable grown locally and fish is available, many items are not available on the island and need to be imported from the mainland - including drinking water.
Although the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 is extremely low in North Sulawesi, there is a lockdown in place and the message from the local government is, "Work from home, study from home, and pray from home". Since April it has also become a mandatory requirement in Indonesia to wear a facemask when leaving the house.
The fabric used for the masks was donated by one of Lembeh Foundation's long term supporters - to whom we are extremely grateful. Lembeh Foundation also funded the village sewing machine which is being used to make the masks.
The design that is being used includes three layers of cotton to provide better barrier protection. The pleated masks have elastic ear loops or strings so that 'one size fits all' and they are also easily washable.
The facemask initiative is one that satisfies a number of needs - income for the tailors and much-needed facemasks for those on the island. The masks are currently being bought by member organizations of the Lembeh Foundation: Lembeh Resort, Critters at Lembeh Resort and Eco Divers Lembeh for their staff and staff families. Lembeh Resort has already bought and received 300 masks, and more are being made each day to go on sale and provide ongoing income. Lembeh Resort has also pledged to continue buying masks once their own needs have been met, the additional masks will be donated to those most in need on Lembeh Island.
Due to COVID-19 every dive center and resort in the Lembeh Strait is closed and while some are able to maintain their staff during this period, this is not always the case. There are also large numbers of freelance staff on the island who do not have a permanent employment contract with any specific operator. The result is that there are now entire communities on Lembeh Island who are without incomes - donations are essential so that we can get help to those who need it most.
Tax relief is available in relation to donations made to Lembeh Foundation.