They worked from home over a period of ten days.

A Johannesburg couple have cut and stitched together 538 face masks at their home in Mayfair over a period of 10 days for donation to people who cannot afford a mask.

Noorjehaan Patel, 52, and Munaf Patel, 55, used Shweshwe material (a South African dyed, 100% cotton, material) provided by a fabric wholesaler to make the masks which they started sewing on Thursday, March 26.

Noorjehaan Patel, a self-employed dressmaker, told Wits Vuvuzela, “Some people can’t afford to buy masks and they struggle so we wanted to help when Ayesha asked us because we can sew.” The couple have also made an additional 2000 masks for another company.

Ayesha Dadabhay of D I Dadabhay Fabrics & Wool based in Newtown, approached the Patel’s to make the masks after watching Youtube videos on how to make masks at home.

Noorjehaan Patel cuts the ShweShwe material into rectangles and pleats each rectangle making the masks thicker. Munaf Patel hems each side of the masks and sews the elastics onto the masks. Photo: Zainab Patel

“There’s such a shortage (of masks) so we rather make the fabric masks so people can wash it and reuse it instead of just throwing the other disposable masks away,” Dadabhay told Wits Vuvuzela.

South African minister of health, Dr Zweli Mkhize is recommending the use of cloth masks for all people not working in healthcare.  “Cloth masks: they can be effective also noting there is also short supply of surgical/n95 masks therefore not necessary to wear unless you’re in a highly infective environment (Frontline healthworkers),” Mkhize tweeted on April 11, 2020.

The 538 masks made out of 100% ShweShwe cotton fabric in bunches of 50. These masks were made to donate to those that cannot access or cannot afford masks. Photo: Zainab Patel

Dadabhay has already donated 200 masks to the Teddy Bear Foundation including masks sewn by the Patel’s, which will be distributed out at their offices at the Charlotte Maxexe Academic Hospital in Parktown.

The Teddy Bear Foundation is an NGO that provides a variety of services for abused children including forensic medical examinations, counselling and psychological testing among others. Given that the majority of the children assisted by the foundation cannot access digital platforms, the foundation is not able to provide therapy digitally and have to continue with in-person services during the lockdown.

Dalene Bishop, Fund Developer at the foundation, explains that, “we’ve had to continue providing services, we’ve had to protect our staff and the children that come to the Teddy Bear clinic with masks and sanitisers.”

The Teddy Bear Foundation is hoping to make more than 400 masks with the help of volunteers and donations of materials. “And thanks to Dadabhay’s, we are now in a position that we can give them (volunteers) the material and get them to continue making masks for our children to protect them,” said Bishop.

The Teddy Foundation will continue to assist children with masks even once schools open by handing out masks as well as educating teachers as to how they should put the masks on. They will also be providing a handout with the masks on how to use the masks in both English and isiZulu.

FEATURED IMAGE: Face masks are being made with fabric to give to disadvantaged people as protection against the coronavirus amid the shortage of surgical and N95 masks. Photo: Zainab Patel.