How a refugee-run factory is helping the Netherlands meet its need for face masks
Author: Michal van der Toorn
This article is part of Changing the Narrative. Articles in this series are written by student or early-career journalists who took part in The Local’s training course on solutions-focused migration reporting. Find out more about the project here.
Why be dependent on factories on the other side of the world if you can produce face masks locally?
That’s exactly what Dutch entrepreneurs Jaap Stelwagen, Fleur Bakker, Johan Blom, and Naz Kawan thought in March. The Netherlands, like many other countries at the time, was dealing with a big deficit of surgical face masks.
Stelwagen, who lived in China, together with his wife who is originally from China, called several people there to ask whether it would be possible to get material. Bakker’s sister, a KLM pilot, managed to get hold of a roll of melt-blown fabric that you need to make face masks, and brought it to the Netherlands on a plane full of other health equipment. Later that month, on one of the few flights that were running at the time, two face mask machines flew 7,000 kilometers to Amsterdam.
But who would operate them?