Across Ireland, community groups and citizens are coming together to support each other and the most vulnerable people in their local communities.
The Sew Change has been established to assist people who own a sewing machine to produce masks for the most vulnerable in their communities. The project is actively including older people, through its partnership with Age Action, Alone, Third Age and Age and Opportunity.
Although many people have sewing skills, they have found it difficult to access high quality materials and an understanding of which style of mask is best for the current crisis. Another challenge individuals face is knowing how to get masks to the people who need them most. Many people who have sewing skills have found it difficult to access high quality materials. This project, funded through the Community Call Fund on ChangeX, supported by Web Summit, solves all these challenges.
Everyone who signs up will be sent a mask making pack, with directions, pre-cut cotton fabric, elastic and nose pins, alongside a stamped return envelope. There is enough material to sew 10 masks, makers can then keep three to four masks for themselves, their family and people in need in their local community. The remaining 6 or 7 are sent in the self-addressed envelope, which we will disseminate to families and people in need. Masks are then disseminated by the Irish Refugee Council. This project is working along We Make Goods buy-one / gift-one campaign to ensure that everyone in Direct Provision has two high quality reusable masks.
Niamh McKenna, Cofounder of ChangeX said: ‘The focus of this project over the coming months is to support older people to help others, by taking away all the challenges involved in making masks. We have heard from organisations working with older people that there is an enormous amount of goodwill and energy out there and this project aims to support that’.
Joan Ellison, Cofounder of We Make Good, who are making the packs said: ‘Our first target group is people in Direct Provision who due to their living situations cannot always social distance. Ideally people have access to 2 – 3 masks to allow for washing them between wears. This translates to 15,000 masks needed over the next few months. Sales for our buy-one / gift one campaign have been amazing. This project reaches out to other people who have a sewing machine in their backroom’.
According to Ciaran McKinney from Age & Opportunity says: ‘Older people have a vast array of skills and are delighted to be part of this project and put their sewing skills to good use. It’s also an excellent way for our older community to extend their welcome to refugees. Projects like this can literally stitch together communities’.
Liam Carey from Third Age Ireland said: ‘Many of our members are creating and making, and there is huge interest in using these skills to reach out to support people in Direct Provision and say ‘welcome, and take care, we are here for you. We are delighted to be involved in this project to enable our members to use their skills for such a worthwhile social cause’.
As is becoming increasingly clear from research, masks can be effective in protecting people and communities.
‘The common thread of this project connecting both the masks and the ways these are made is about helping people to help others in their community. I think for years to come we will remember that when things got difficult, the instinct of people was to pull together. This project shows that sense of community includes people seeking asylum, people are clearly saying you are also an important part of our community,’ Caroline, Co-founder of We Make Good said.
The project will be running for a number of months and aims to produce 4,500 masks for older people and people in direct provision. These will supplement the masks that the public have funded through the popular We Make Good buy one – gift one mask campaign.