From retired fashion dressmakers and sewers for the first time to faith groups and teachers, the Guardian spoke to some of those who work in the manufacture of PPE at home.
“Our youngest volunteer is a six year old boy suffering from cystic fibrosis, he is sewing under the supervision of his mother. The oldest is a 91-year-old woman who just wanted to do her part, so she’s adding buttons to all caps, “said Susan McDonnell, who leads a group of about 700 people across Somerset sewing on scrubs. and toiletry kits for health personnel.
“Some people in the group cannot sew, but I have not turned anyone away, we will find them jobs to pick up orders or sort things out,” she said.
Taunton, where McDonnell lives, housed a Pierre Cardin shirt factory, and many factory workers have come out of retirement to use their skills and industrial sewing machines to make clothing for health workers.
The group installed a small warehouse at a local driving school, which emptied due to the cancellation of lessons. From there, materials are sent to volunteers who sew at home, and the finished scrubs are collected and sorted, with driving school staff responsible for deliveries. They can deliver up to 200 scrubs and 1,000 bags per day.
The fabric comes from donations from the local population, purchases by volunteers and fabric suppliers offering discounted rates.
“Our volunteers have gone to great lengths, giving so much time and money even if they are not very well off. It’s a reminder that not everything is fatal, good things happen, “added McDonnell.
In Redditch, Sarah Baker, a seamstress, had to close her workshop when the pandemic canceled all her work. “With the balls and the wedding season, it’s normally the busiest time of the year, but all my work has stopped, even to shorten the pants,” she said.
Her last client before the shutdown was an NHS nurse, who told her about the shortage of scrubs and asked if she could do one. She found a model online, checked and approved it, and joined a national group called For the Love of Scrubs, which coordinates sewing volunteers nationwide. His scrubs are mainly sent to the local hospital where his son was born.
“It’s fantastic,” she said. “I am very happy to support them. It sounds like a war effort, we all do what we can. “
Others make visors for health workers. At the Chiltern Academy in Bedfordshire, Dan Pallett, professor of design and technology, discovered a growing movement of teachers across the United Kingdom using their resources to make PPE, and decided to join him. Colleagues from neighboring schools have offered to help, and the group now has nearly 20 staff, from PE teachers to administrative staff.
PPE was mainly given to local hospitals and nursing homes in and around Luton, but also reached health workers in Glasgow and the ambulance service in the east of England.
Pallett is supported by Discover Islam, a grassroots Luton organization that facilitates and highlights the contributions of the Muslim community to society in general. He raised more than £ 20,000 to support local people during the coronavirus outbreak and paid for almost all of the equipment for the 7,500 visors produced at Chiltern Academy, as well as the daily lunch for Pallett volunteers.
Sufian Sadiq, president of Discover Islam, said: “We came across Dan’s work and we could see that it was difficult because you cannot buy all the plastic from school budgets. He has the skills, the will and the volunteers, but what he didn’t have was the resources. We said that we would provide everything they needed in terms of funding and equipment to allow them to continue production. We are so happy to be able to contribute. “
In Ramsgate, Kent, Chatham & Clarendon High School has worked with local firefighters in the past four weeks to make more than 20,000 visors, which have been sent to prisons, hospitals and doctors’ offices in London to Exeter. .
“It started with school staff and students, then alumni and retirees. Then other schools donated materials and their staff also wanted to get involved. There are a lot of locals out there who want to help, even if it just leaves tea and coffee, “said Thomas Brewin, school design and technology manager.