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Coronavirus. A community response to masks and scrubs.

Updated: Apr 8, 2020

At a time when people are afraid, isolated and are trying to cope with high levels of anxiety, when people are struggling socially, emotionally and economically, so many are choosing to look outward, getting creative and doing what they can to help others.

There has been an incredible community response across Northern Ireland to help front line workers. People reaching out, offering help, contributing their skills, willing to serve.

The response shows us something beautiful and inspiring about humanity.

There are so many ways to reach out and help others during this crisis, however, I have been genuinely moved by the response from our Shared Threads community of sewers. They didn't skip a beat. As soon as they heard there was a need for PPE, there were sewers who literally had sets of scrubs sewn by the end of the day. Even though our groups are unable to gather at the moment, each Shared Threads group has their own group coordinator and whatsapp group, so the infrastructure was there to communicate and plan. Groups immediately shared patterns, fabrics and advice and got to work from the safety of their own homes. You women are an inspiration.

Whilst Shared Threads is continuing to work at getting our period packs to those who need them, I am so thankful that so many sewers from this generous collective of over 200 Shared Threads volunteers are able transfer their sewing skills at this time to make masks and much needed scrubs for those who are experiencing shortages of PPE. And we are by no means alone. Individuals and groups across the country have responded in the same way and our volunteers are working together with these groups who are doing such an incredible job at coordinating and distributing these handmade supplies. See the links below.

a sewing machine

NHS frontline workers across the country have been reporting an urgent need for scrubs and many sewers are spending their time at home in lock down making them. The need is clear and the solution is simple. Sewers working at their kitchen tables are using whatever material they have to hand, even duvet covers. Cotton or polycotton, as long as it can be boil washed. You will find patterns through the links to the groups below.

handmade scrubs
made by Catherine, our East Belfast coordinator

To respond to many of your inquiries, I wanted to share with you here some helpful articles to read, some current guidelines and some links to connect you with some of the groups in Northern Ireland currently coordinating volunteers.

There are varying opinions on cloth masks at the moment. Obviously homemade masks cannot be regulated and officially made masks have to meet safety standards. Coronavirus is spread by droplets that can spray into the air when those infected talk, cough or sneeze. So, the WHO say that they can be useful if worn by people showing symptoms or those caring for those who have the virus.

You can read more about cloth masks in this BBC report by Michele Roberts, Health editor.

And this article in the Guardian shares the latest WHO guidelines on cloth mask wearing.

If you would like to get involved in a practical way with sewing scrubs or masks, I would direct you to these Facebook groups who are doing great work coordinating such a beautiful community response across Northern Ireland. You can also support these groups by following and sharing their page, and by donating material to them if you have it.

Scrubs NI

Masks for the Masses

Corona Virus Community Support Response

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