WASHINGTON — A 14-year-old girl and her brother have captured hearts around America after video of a room he transformed for her sewing projects went viral.
She’s been making face masks in her spare time. Everyone wants one. Now, business is booming.
When Leon Irakoze, a 21-year-old junior at Michigan State, learned about his little sister's desire to sew fashionable face masks as protection against COVID-19, he immediately spoke with their mother about turning an old storage room into a studio.
With her permission, he got to work ripping up carpet to lay down wood-like tiles. He did everything for flooring to a fresh paint job in three days.
"In terms of building, I've never done anything like that before. This was definitely my first time," Irakoze said.
Video of the transformation has gone viral.
"I honestly didn't want her to see it until the very end, but she kept sneaking in to see the progress. I didn’t mind it," he laughed.
Elianne Nishimwe, a 14-year-old eighth-grader, was overcome with joy when she saw the room. She didn’t know what to expect.
"I was so happy. I didn’t even know what to say," Nishimwe said. "When I saw the room, I was like, 'Look, I have a little tiny happy place.'"
A self-taught seamstress, Nishimwe grew up watching their father sew. For the last three years, she worked in the living room at the sewing machine learning to perfect the craft. She said it’s been frustrating having to move the machine from one place to another, something she won't have to do again.
Since pictures of Nishimwe’s face masks, which includes 10 styles and a variety of colors and materials, went viral online she tells WUSA9 requests to buy them have been pouring in.
"I was like, 'What's happening?'" said Nishimwe with a big smile on her face. "I was just excited."
With the help of her sister, who also sews, the two set up a website this week for orders. Within hours, every face mask sold out, all 300 to be exact.
Nishimwe said she feels grateful to be of service, but admits it is stressful, but exciting. When she's not doing school work, she spends an average of 14 hours a day making masks -- something she calls a labor of love.
"I feel so happy to help people out," she said. "It makes me excited that I’m actually doing something that helps people."