A crowdfunding campaign to buy thousands of respirator masks for marginalized Albertans has reached its goal, raising more than $25,000 in a week.
The Alberta Activist Collective (AAC) launched its Mask Equity Alberta campaign with Protect Our Province — a group of doctors and experts — after realizing many Albertans could not afford N95 masks to protect against the virus that causes COVID-19.
"The protection of these devices shouldn't be completely based on privilege," AAC president Albert Nobbs told CBC News on Monday.
"We need to be making a better public effort to get these things to the people that don't have a choice otherwise."
The groups plan to purchase about 20,000 respirators through the Canadian Association of PPE Manufacturers, including about 11,000 that are functional but esthetically damaged.
According to the federal government's guidelines on mask use, medical masks and respirators — including N95 and KN95 masks — provide better protection than non-medical masks.
Prices vary, but respirators are generally more expensive and they can be harder to find.
Once the masks arrive in Edmonton, the AAC will distribute them to shelters, outreach groups, immigration centres and other organizations serving low-income Albertans.
Angie Staines, co-founder of the Edmonton-based outreach group Boots on Ground, said she is incredibly grateful for the generosity of more than 400 donors.
"It gives me hope for the world when we see people come together, knowing that there is this need and really stepping up," Staines said.
At least three times a week, members of the non-profit provide assistance and supplies to people living on the streets of Edmonton.
Staines said homeless Edmontonians need masks as they seek shelter indoors during the current cold snap. Disposable surgical masks are available in shelters, she said, but people often wear them for weeks or months, far longer than they are meant to be used.
"There is zero access to higher-quality masks," she said.
Though the campaign reached its goal, Nobbs said donations will continue to be accepted through GoFundMe.
"The need will never change, at least not in the near future, so we may as well keep going," he said.