Located in one of the epicenters of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States, Dawoodi Bohras in New Jersey have come together to sew fabric face masks for first responders and healthcare workers serving on the frontlines of the global crisis.
What started as a humble grassroots project motivated by the desire to be good neighbors in a desperate time of need has transformed into a robust movement that has supplied hundreds of masks to facilities in need like the Capital Health System, Jefferson Torresdale Hospital, and Plainsboro Rescue Squad. Together, a group of twenty Dawoodi Bohra women in New Jersey have sewn nearly 700 cotton surgical masks at home in the short span of three weeks, and the orders do not seem to cease. As word of mouth spreads and the United States braces itself for the peak of the viral outbreak, requests from neighboring states such as New York, Delaware, and Maryland, along with growing New Jersey orders, continue to pour in. One of the sewists commented, “We heard the New Jersey Governor say that each mask saves lives. I love to sew, and if such a small act of kindness could save someone’s life, I have no reason not to help.”
The Quality Control Team is led by a bona fide garment industry professional and emphasizes the attention-to-detail and strict protocol to which each shipment of masks adheres. From ensuring only 100% cotton fabric is used to making sure each mask will snugly fit the person using it, uniformity and quality control are foremost priorities. They state, “The masks made are simple cotton fabric surgical masks sewn in the Deaconess pattern using fabric ties instead of elastic, so that everyone can have a snug and secure fit. There is a strict quality control protocol in place to ensure the masks are uniformly produced and laundered at home before being distributed to the facilities in need. Our volunteers have been trained to properly launder the masks at the hottest water and highest heat dry settings at home before handling with gloves and sealing in clear plastic bags for delivery. While we know the facilities to which we donate will sanitize the masks, it is important to us to ensure that everyone who handles the packages in between feels safe doing so.”
Their efforts have been lauded by healthcare professionals. A practicing pediatrician, uses the fabric face masks in her practice. She commented, “At a time of dire need of personal protective equipment (“PPE”) for the healthcare professionals, the fabric masks serve as an excellent adjunct to prolong the life of the surgical or N95 masks.”
Additionally, the VP of the Plainsboro Township Rescue Squad, mentioned that the current situation “has made things brutal” for his team, but voiced his appreciation when receiving a box of 60 masks for internal distribution. Such donations are truly making a difference for these smaller communities that are doing their best to combat the unseen, unpredictable nature of the virus.”
The project has been a venture in not only community service, but successful social distancing. The Video Conferencing Technologies that have become a ubiquitous cornerstone of quarantine life were used for: sewing workshops, one-on-one quality checks, sample reviews, as well as fabric pre-screening and approval. Collection of masks and distribution was also completed adhering to social distancing guidelines, ensuring contactless delivery of the final product.