Building on a Legacy, Siblings Sell Face Masks From Zambia to Support Hunger Relief

Special Interests:Coronavirus
World Food Program USA
August 25, 2020
Photo: Jen Miller

For the Barrett siblings, fighting global hunger has always been a family commitment. In 2008, their mother introduced them to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) – and her kids have been working hard to end hunger and support its efforts ever since.

“When I was younger, my mom showed me the shocking photo of a young child on her way to a feeding site next to a vulture during the Ethiopian famine,” said Ethan, now 19. “The photo had a profound effect on me.”

Photo: Jen Miller

The Barrett siblings as young children, asking for U.N. World Food Programme donations on stage at their father’s show.

The kids began their activism on stage. Their father was the bassist in the popular reggae band Bob Marley and the Wailers, and the siblings took advantage of musical breaks to deliver impactful messages about global hunger. They sold wristbands at concerts, and during their summers in Nantucket, sold shirts to help raise money and awareness for the U.N. World Food Programme. The siblings continued these efforts, among others, for eight years.

Photo: Jen Miller

Ethan selling wristbands at concerts as a young boy.

This spring, as COVID-19 pushed millions into poverty, the siblings decided it was time to reengage. After brainstorming, Ethan, Selah, 17 and Oralee, 15 – came up with an idea: to sell face masks to raise money for the U.N. World Food Programme.

“We came up with the idea at the beginning of quarantine, when everyone had so much free time on their hands,” Selah explained. “Our family friend Vanessa Diserio who owns Erica Wilson on Nantucket, has been supporting our efforts with the the U.N. World Food Programme since 2008. She connected us with Blue Leopard, who manufactured the masks in Lusaka, Zambia.”

The masks being manufactured by Blue Leopard employees in Zambia.

After months of hard work, the first shipment of masks recently arrived in the U.S. They are excited to begin sales, and they are donating 100 percent of the proceeds to the U.N. World Food Programme.

“We recently started our own company called Notes from the North,” Selah explained. “We’ll be using our Instagram (@notesnorth) and website (notesfromthenorth.net) to promote the masks and raise awareness.”

In addition to masks, Selah, Oralee and Ethan plan on adding another product to support the U.N. World Food Programme soon: scrunchies – an idea that came from Oralee.

The masks the siblings are selling to raise money for the U.N. World Food Programme

“I knew they had fabric scraps leftover from making the masks, so I thought using them to make scrunchies would be a good idea,” Oralee said. “Scrunchies are popular here so I think a lot of my friends will be interested.”

Working to support the U.N. World Food Programme is nothing new to the Barrett siblings. After all, they have been doing it since they were all very young. But this most recent effort is significant; because they are choosing to continue their commitment as they become adults.

Photo: Jen Miller

Oralee as a young girl, asking for donations to the U.N. World Food Programme at a popular sandwich shop in Nantucket, where the family spent their summers.

“I’ve been doing this for almost my entire life,” Oralee said, “and I do it because I’ve always loved the World Food Programme and want to help.”

“I think it’s safe to say I speak for Oralee and Selah and saying working to end global hunger is deeply important to us,” Ethan said. “It’s definitely something I’m passionate about and will continue to support.”

“Africa has always been very special to me and being able to contribute to the WFP school feeding program in Africa, has become an integral part of my life,” Selah said. “I look forward to continuing my work with the United Nations World Food Program.”

Photo: Jen Miller

The Barrett siblings wearing the masks they are selling to support the U.N. World Food Programme. From left to right: Noä, Ethan, Alistair, Oralee and Selah.