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A pandemic of kindness: Boise State donates face shields to Gorongosa National Park

Michel Sousa, a Boise State student from Mozambique, home to Gorongosa National Park. Photo by Morgan Weber.

Boise State has had a strong relationship with Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique in the best of times.

Researchers, students, and members of the local community have worked there for many years through the Gorongosa Restoration Project to support preservation of the park and its biological treasures.

Now, the university is helping in the midst of the pandemic. Boise State is providing 200 face shields to the park. The donation is a continuation of the volunteer effort that began on campus earlier this spring to 3D print the much-needed equipment. Park officials will distribute the face shields to healthcare workers who are fighting the spread of COVID-19 in the park and in surrounding communities.

“It is true that a virus can spread around the world,” said Michel Sousa, a Mozambican student who is pursuing a career in public health at Boise State. “But an act of kindness will also spread. Boise State is helping us protect 200 caregivers in Mozambique who in turn will help tens of thousands of people.”

Supporting local communities is one of the park’s missions. People who live in the neighborhoods next to Gorongosa Park lack running water, electricity and refrigerators, said Idaho philanthropist Greg Carr. He is president of the Gorongosa Project and recipient of a 2015 honorary doctorate from Boise State for his humanitarian work.

Some of Gorongosa National Park’s healthcare workers conduct mobile clinics in remote areas. Others work at fixed health posts. Work includes improving sanitation and hygiene practices by organizing and serving on community water teams, and supplying health and nutrition information to young mothers.

healthcare workers at Gorongosa
Gorongosa healthcare workers team teach hygiene in Mozambique. Photo provided by the Carr Foundation.

“We want our healthcare staff to be safe, wear masks and face shields, and observe social distance,” Carr said.

Carr plans to pack the masks “in a big suitcase” and take them to Mozambique in person on June 1.

A Boise State face shield kit includes a 3D printed headband and a laser-cut clear plastic visor that goes over the face.

Amy Vecchione, associate professor and head of Emerging Technologies and Experiential Learning oversees the MakerLab at Albertsons Library. When the project to help Gorongosa started, Vecchione heard from more than 214 members of the Boise State community, Treasure Valley organizations, businesses, and people throughout Idaho, all willing to share their equipment and expertise to create face shields. The College of Engineering and the Center for Advanced Energy Studies Technical Assistance Program at Boise State also supported the project.

Carr said he is grateful for the support.