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University of Regina business students, from left, Robyn Ham, Ryan Selinger, Jana Ham and Jordan Tholl produce and package face masks at Robyn and Jana's home in White City, Sask.MARK TAYLOR/The Globe and Mail

The organizers: Jana Ham, Robyn Ham, Ryan Selinger, Jordan Tholl

The project: Sask Masks

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March, twin sisters Jana and Robyn Ham saw their summer plan ruined but they still wanted to put their business training to good use.

The sisters teamed up with a pair of fellow business students at the University of Regina – Ryan Selinger and Jordan Tholl – and decided to start making and selling face masks to raise money for charity. It wasn’t easy.

The Hams had little experience sewing and they soon discovered that making up to 150 masks at a time wasn’t feasible. They solved the problem by reaching out to friends, neighbours and laid-off seamstresses, offering them $3 for every mask they could make. They soon had a roster of 36 sewers and quickly put together a makeshift production line stretching across Saskatchewan. All of their “Sask Masks” are made from 100-per-cent quilter’s cotton and they are sanitized before being shipped.

The four friends, who are all 22 and in their final year of studies, have made more than 3,200 masks and raised $35,000 for several charities including Regina’s YWCA, the Regina Foodbank, Carmichael Outreach, the University of Regina Student Emergency Fund, Variety-the Children’s Charity and Munch Catering, an organization that employs adults with cognitive disabilities.

“We’re putting a lot of what we are learning in class into practice,” Jana Ham said from her home in Regina. She added that while demand fell off after an initial burst of activity at the start of the outbreak, orders have been picking up now that businesses have reopened. “Our mission is to slow the spread [of the virus] and support the community. As long as masks are needed, and we generate some revenue to donate, we’ll stay relevant,” she said.

Ms. Ham added that they have found the experience both overwhelming and exciting. “It has definitely given me a purpose and kept me busy this summer,” she said.