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Social Action in North Tyneside: making face coverings for the community

VODA’s SAINT (Social Action in North Tyneside) created a new project to make face coverings for our Good Neighbours beneficiaries and GP surgeries, which has so far seen almost 300 created by volunteers.

Usually our SAINT projects are carried out, in groups within the community, to benefit residents of the community. There is also an emphasis on benefits for the participants by holding our projects in a social setting making it easier to meet new people and perhaps form friendships.

Due to the changes in how we work due to COVID-19, we could not gather together to work on our project and instead the work had to be done from the participant’s home. On the positive side some of the challenges we usually face were eliminated by this new way of working – for instance people who are anxious about meeting new people, or have barriers to traveling, sometimes feel unable to participate in project. Carrying out a socially distant project has definitely been different but equally as successful.

The face coverings are primarily for our beneficiaries who have been shielding. Many have underlying health conditions and haven’t had the means to acquire a face covering before the pause in shielding. Face coverings are needed more than ever due to being mandatory when attending GP Surgeries, hospital appointments or going into shops and other indoor venues. We have also made a number of emergency face coverings for GP surgeries in the event someone turns up without a mask.

Jo Woolley, VODA’s SAINT Project Worker commented: “People have also told us they feel very anxious about going for the first time. We hope our face coverings will help alleviate some anxiety and feel a little more protected when stepping outside after so long in doors.”

Whilst this primarily appears a sewing project, roles for volunteers were specifically designed to include more people by opening it up to sewers and non-sewers alike. Giving people with different skills the opportunity to take part – participants are cutting out pattern pieces or sewing up the masks. The project attracted 28 volunteers in the first four weeks and the initial target of 200 was quickly surpassed.

Whilst volunteers are taking part from the comfort of their own home this is still very much a community project and their commitment is astounding. Everyone has taken this project to their heart and contributed in so many ways, including:

  • Donations of fabric
  • Volunteers using their own materials
  • Volunteers enlisting new volunteers
  • Mums and daughters working together to make masks
  • Donations of masks made before the start of the project
  • Volunteers have shared tips and patterns with the other volunteers

Speaking of the numbers achieved, Jo said: “Whilst we set an initial target of making 200 face coverings the project was not target driven. We didn’t want people to feel pressured into thinking they had to make or cut out lots of face coverings. We took the approach of many hands make light work and asked people to make a ‘small commitment an enormous contribution. Volunteers including retirees, those who are shielding, furloughed, still working or not working have made a real commitment to the community. This project is social action at its best.

“Our volunteers continue to give back to the community with commitment, enthusiasm and good humour…and as a result they have far exceeded our target in such a short time.”

To find out more about this project contact jo.woolley@voda.org.uk.