#GetBehindTheMask Launches to Support Vulnerable South African Communities

Airbnb has announced the launch of #GetBehindTheMask, a host led movement to support communities struggling with the impact of COVID-19. In partnership with the Western Cape Government’s Maskathon and Afrika Tikkun, the initiative will kickstart with an Online Experience on how to create face masks, alongside a call to action from the host community to challenge others to make masks. In addition, a relief fund will support tourism entrepreneurs who participated in the Airbnb Africa Academy and who have been hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis.

With South Africa moving slowly out of lockdown, there is an opportunity to support struggling tourism entrepreneurs and township communities through this difficult time. All South Africans are required to wear a protective face mask, but not all have access to them, and tourism has come to a standstill. 

The spirit and creativity of the Airbnb community never fails to inspire, even in times of crisis. We want to support this commitment from hosts on Airbnb and champion the tourism entrepreneurs who help vulnerable communities and who will help lead South Africa through this crisis.

Brian Chesky, Airbnb Co-Founder, CEO and Head of Community

At the forefront of the campaign is Tamryn, a host on Airbnb since 2013, who will demonstrate creative face mask making skills through her Online Experience. Participants will learn how to cut, design and assemble masks with colorful patterns, and Tamryn will donate two masks to communities in South Africa most in need for every person booking. There will be several Experiences each week and Airbnb will offer coupons to the first 100 people who book so they can enjoy the Experience for free. For more information, see here. For those who cannot join, Tamryn will share an easy to follow, ready made mask pattern and instructions.

The face mask idea was also inspired by hosts like Maria from Khayelitsha who participated in the Airbnb Africa Academy program. Despite not being able to host due to lockdown, Maria is committed to helping the most vulnerable by calling on all other hosts in South Africa to “get behind the mask” and to start sewing.

Cloth masks, when combined with the golden rules of hygiene and physical distancing can help to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection. We therefore welcome Airbnb’s Get Behind the Mask initiative to make more masks available to communities in the province, and their support of the Maskathon campaign.

The global COVID-19 pandemic has seen a major outpouring of kindness and support and we thank all of those, like Airbnb, who are working to help us flatten the curve and mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in the Western Cape.

Alan Winde, Western Cape Premier

To further support the #GetBehindTheMask campaign, the relief fund will provide much needed support to tourism entrepreneurs who participated in the Airbnb Africa Academy; a development program focused on giving under-represented and under-resourced communities the tools and resources they need to participate in tourism. Airbnb will contact eligible participants and invite them to apply for a relief grant of up to R20,000 which, if successful, will be awarded within four weeks. Since the launch of Airbnb Africa Academy in 2017, 220 people have been trained, with 70 percent of them being women micro-entrepreneurs. These funds aim to help more people realize their entrepreneurial ambitions*. 

The Airbnb Africa Academy is a program that very much aligns with what we stand for and it’s fantastic to see how Airbnb is committed to supporting these hosts who have little to no income right now.

Alef Meulenbergi, CEO of Afrika Tikkun

Anyone who would like to #GetBehindTheMask can do so by making masks and challenging others to do the same, joining an Online Experience, or simply donating directly to Afrika Tikkun. All donations will assist in getting masks to communities who need them most. More information on the Airbnb Africa Academy Fund and #GetBehindTheMask, can be found here.

* The funds from Airbnb are split into two parts: 1) donation to Africa Tikkun that will go directly towards the making of masks to be distributed to vulnerable communities, and 2) a relief fund set up for participants of the Africa Academy – these funds will go directly to eligible participants.