Women's group responds to COVID-19 challenge

Women's group responds to COVID-19 challenge

Thursday, April 23, 2020

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HAVING just concluded its six-week sewing and embroidery skills training for young women, with the next step being to prepare them for the busy tourist season, the St Mary-based Bonnygate Women's Group shifted gear as Jamaica had confirmed its first COVID-19 case.

As the country turned to containment mode, implementing various measures to curtail local spread of the infectious disease which has claimed thousands of lives globally, the heightened restrictions locally and worldwide put the breaks on the flow of tourists, and the women decided to use their needlecraft skills to respond to the ongoing pandemic.

The group, which teaches sewing and embroidery skills to mostly unemployed women and women who are survivors of domestic abuse, has started making cloth face masks that are fitted with charcoal filters.

Since starting production in March, according to a release from Digicel Foundation, the women have created approximately 700 masks and continue to meet their growing demand.

“Our training in hand embroidery, crochet and Hardanger is presently on hold, and individuals are working from home,” explained Shirley Duncan, president of the group. “A number of women have found new initiatives – one woman, [Melissa Wisdom-Douglas], started making masks.”

According to Wisdom-Douglas, who began making the masks at home with her mother, Michelle Martin-Brown, she wanted to ensure people have some amount of protection.

“The masks are designed with a charcoal filter layer. We can't go wrong with activated charcoal,” she is quoted as saying in the release.

The charcoal filter layer is intended to absorb contaminants from the air, the release said.

“The mask works both ways. If you are infected with a virus, your exhaled air will be filtered, and the process repeats itself when you inhale,” said Wisdom-Douglas as she shared her research. “We've also doubled the masks with a cotton material that is very breathable but tightly woven for maximum protection.”

With cases of COVID-19 on the rise, the Bonnygate Women's Group is looking to retool and share more designs for personal protective garments.

“It's not and cannot be same old, same old. Some of the opportunities will be volunteer-based but in times like these, those who can should,” said Duncan, who played an integral role in organising the most recent training for the women.

The group received the Digicel Foundation 15th Anniversary Grant in 2019 to expand its training capacity.

“We're grateful to the Digicel Foundation for their sponsorship and continue to stay connected with them as we innovate,” Duncan said.

If interested in purchasing masks from the Bonnygate Women's Group, they can be contacted at 876-329-1047.


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