Rio de Janeiro Samba Schools Make Medical Clothing to Fight Virus

15 April 2020

Groups known as samba schools in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, usually spend the year working to make beautiful clothing for the city's Carnival celebration. But members are now working to protect lives instead. They are making medical clothing for hospital workers who are treating coronavirus patients.

Dr. Wille Baracho recently carried cloth into the Unidos de Padre Miguel samba school in the Vila Vintem neighborhood. Inside, the sewers sat on plastic chairs and busily turned the cloth into medical clothing.

A worker from the Unidos de Padre Miguel samba school shows a medical scrub she is making in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
A worker from the Unidos de Padre Miguel samba school shows a medical scrub she is making in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The plan started when Baracho and one of his coworkers were at a nearby hospital emergency room. There, they saw a shortage of materials. Both also are part of the leadership in the Padre Miguel samba school and saw a chance to redirect labor. The city joined in, donating thousands of meters of cloth, and the workers set to work.

"We have some friends who died already, some who are on leave or sick with the disease," Baracho told the Associated Press. He added that he has found it more satisfying to produce medical clothing than Carnival costumes. "I think everyone here would say that. Carnival is a different happiness: fun, a pleasure. This is a mission."

The Unidos da Vila Isabel samba school also joined the effort, with two workers sewing in a storage building.

More will start sewing soon, both from Vila Isabel and others at top samba schools. People across the city are expected to join, said Eneida Reis. She is executive director of assistance at RioSaude, a public company that supervises the city's health divisions.

Every willing helper is welcome. At one Rio hospital treating COVID-19 patients, doctors and nurses can use 2,000 sets of scrubs every day, city officials say.

It is not Rio's first effort to use the spirit of Carnival toward combating the virus. The parade grounds where samba schools compete is known as the Sambadrome. It has started sheltering homeless people – who are considered especially at risk during the health crisis.

Rio has Brazil's second-biggest number of COVID-19 patients, with more than 1,000 cases. There are a few hundred more in the surrounding area, the state health secretary said.

For most people, the coronavirus causes few symptoms which leave the body in two to three weeks. But it can lead to something more serious, including pneumonia and death, for some. Older adults and people with existing health problems are especially at risk.

At the Padre Miguel workshop, Jucelia Abreu and other sewers feed cloth through their machines. Others from the samba school are doing the same at home. Together, the team makes around 450 scrubs each day.

"The directors asked us if we would be willing to volunteer, and I accepted," because it's very satisfying to help the people, Abreu said through a face mask. "We have to help."

I'm Jill Robbins.

The Associated Press reported this story. Alice Bryant adapted it for Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.


Words in This Story

samba –n. a lively Brazilian dance

sewers –n. people who sew things like clothing

costume –n. clothing that is worn by person who is trying to look like a different person or thing

mission –n. a task or job someone is given to do

scrubs –n. a special loose-fitting clothing that is worn by people who work in hospitals

symptom –n. a change in the body which shows that a disease is present

pneumonia –n. a severe infections of the lungs

mask –n. a covering over the face, especially to prevent the spread of germs