In March 2020, when the (then) Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, made his announcement (from Washington) about the Coronavirus Pandemic and the need for lockdown, people experienced fear, isolation and many started panic buying. The necessary PPE was in short supply and any surgical masks available were rightly reserved for our front line workers. To fill the need for masks among family and friends I started making cloth masks for them. I designed a mask which people told me they found very comfortable.
Before long I was getting donations of fabric, reels of thread, stamps and even a sewing machine. Sisters in my Mercy community began to help with cutting, ironing and distributing masks, “We were all in this together.”
Sewing became my fulltime occupation especially when the wearing of masks in shops and crowded places became mandatory. As a ‘cocooning elder’ it gave me a purpose and a structure for my day. Boredom was not an issue and the days were often not long enough to keep up with the requests!
Having distributed the first 1,000 masks free of charge, people were anxious to give some gesture of support. It was suggested that they donate to a particular charity. To that end I contacted the Irish Motor Neurone Association (IMNDA) and they were very happy to receive any donations, as their income has been considerably reduced due to the pandemic. To date some 4,800 masks have resulted in a €5,000 donation to the IMNDA.
My best supporters are shop assistants, office workers, teachers and care workers. By all accounts my masks have made their way to Germany, Holland, Italy, England, Scotland and even to Mexico!
Sr Margaret Kiely RSM handing over a cheque to Katie Hallissey of IMNDA
Lately, the mask-making has entered the fashion stakes – my most recent orders are for weddings. People are requesting masks to match the bridesmaids’ outfits. I have also had requests to match people’s county colour!!
Besides providing me with a purpose, making the masks had an environmental benefit. Cloth masks are washable, re-usable and environmentally friendly. People don’t throw them away. This is definitely something worthwhile.
Though it may be that end of the pandemic may be in sight, thanks to the science, vaccination and good hygiene practice (wash your hands, proper cough etiquette and social distancing), I feel that we will continue to wear masks and observe the regulations for some time to come.
Monday, 21 June, is MND Global Awareness Day. Why not drink ‘tea’ in support of MND? Further information here.
Stay safe! Keep others safe!!
To make a donation to the work of the IMNDA click here.