Ever since the state enforced a stay safe at home policy in Massachusetts, ISW member Malini Mohankumar has been finding ways to keep active and make a difference. Over the past several weeks she has led efforts to procure baby monitors for hospitals to use in their Covid wards, drummed up a coalition of helpers who have been stitching masks as part of Central Mass Sew We Care, and graduated to now creating full sized PPE gowns. Her efforts have supplied these products to hospitals, shelters, rehab, refugee and senior centers. We asked Malini to share some of her experience.
What inspired you to get going on these projects? In this testing times we are all trying to contribute in some way or the other. I strongly believe that this is the period for each one of us to mold our paths and grow at the same time. This period is filling many of us with fear and anxiety with all the happenings around us. While we cannot escape from the situation, we can take care of ourselves and try to fill our minds and hearts with happiness. I finding serving our community is one way to reduce stress, decrease loneliness and help take the focus off the current situation. It provides a new perspective and makes me feel healthier. It gives me a warm feeling when things go well and I savor it and consider it a gift for myself.
Volunteering brings a world of rewards that one never has expected. In our group, each of us is experiencing happiness and a sense of satisfaction. We aren’t keeping it to ourselves but spreading it wherever possible.
How did you come up with the idea of supplying baby monitors? Who uses them and how did our community respond? It was around midnight when the Milford Medical Center Covid19 nurse reached out to me and requested help finding 3 baby monitors as soon as possible. My friends and family helped me deliver the 3 baby monitors. A few days later we got a request from the Boston Medical Center for 55 baby monitors for its Covid Unit. When I approached ISW volunteers with this request, I got tremendous support from the community. They arranged around 5 monitors within a couple of days. When I approached a wider community online, I was surprised with their generosity and trust. They sent me brand new monitors even though I had not met them, nor did they know me. With their help we were able to deliver the 55 monitors. Shortly thereafter we got a request from St. Vincents Hospital in Worcester for 10 more monitors and we are working to deliver them too.
How did you design the face masks? were you able to get community involved and, if so, in what way?We worked with various medical facilities to get their specifications for fabric masks. Based on their specifications we designed a prototype and got their feedback. Each medical center had its own requirements and specifications. I spent time with nurses and other front line staff to get their requirements. We never say we are donating the masks but that we are “Gifting Happiness”. We make sure to personalize the masks as gits to the front line workers. In addition to regular cloth masks, we have also designed masks for special needs adults and kids with Autism, as well as ones for hearing impaired. We are working on a mask design for the visually challenged. Together with members of the Central Mass Sew We Care coalition, we have been working tirelessly for the past few months to produce masks, scrub hats, ear protectors and reusable gowns in a range of sizes and styles.
One of our volunteers, Manorama, has single handedly made over 1700 masks. We have 33 young volunteers who are helping their parents with cutting and sewing. They have also created handmade thank you cards for the front line workers to be included with the masks. In appreciation, several organizations have sent signed certificates of appreciation to the children. We also have got thank you cards, donuts, and flowers to the volunteers in appreciation of the donated PPE.
So far we have sewn 5582 fabric masks, 250 scrub hats, 250 ear protectors, 100 Hearing impaired clear plastic masks, and 25 reusable gowns.
Finally, you have graduated to larger stitching projects? How much time does it take to stitch a PPE Gown? Is there any special fabric required? Are the designs standardized? Who are you supplying the finished product? As all our volunteers are working from home and have their work and home obligations, we can only do 2 or 3 gowns a day. We use poly-cotton fabric for the gowns and 100% cotton fabric for the masks.
We have served 55 facilities ranging from medical and non-medical front line personnel, nursing homes, refugee, rehabilitation and senior centers, and shelters. We have another 21 facilities are in the pipeline.We cannot thank enough all the volunteers who have helped with Central Mass Sew We Care, for the long hours spent, sacrificing your time to help support the front line staff. We really appreciate the care you took to meet the requests, your invaluable sewing skills and expertise that has made this possible. We hope you have got some inner satisfaction knowing your efforts have made our community a safer place. Together we make difference!