Over the past few weeks of lockdown, we have heard stories of people doing wonderful things for the community. Another such story, which has been happening quietly in the background until recently, is the donation and distribution of face masks.

Since the start of the lockdown, there has been a lot of back and forth on this topic: should you wear a mask or not?

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has now recommended the widespread use of face masks. Mkhize is asking for members of the public to leave the surgical masks for the medical personnel and to wear cloth masks with three layers, while still maintaining social distancing and practising good hygiene.

But not everyone can afford to buy face masks, or even get access to them. Although several members of the public have been sewing handmade masks and have tried to make them as accessible as possible, there is still a huge need for them. Since the start of the lockdown many people have come forward to donate face masks, including a couple from America, David Altman and Mary Weatherford, a well-known artist. They were in South Africa when the lockdown began, and have chosen to stay in Hermanus even after being offered a flight home by the US Embassy.

David was in Hermanus Pharmacy recently when he saw some cloth face masks made by local resident, Cynthia Young. He noted that the masks were well-made and conformed to the recommended three layers, and were packaged with instructions for usage along with health guidelines in English, Afrikaans and Xhosa. He and Mary knew they could make a difference in the community by supporting this initiative and decided to buy 400 masks from Cynthia and donate them to emergency personnel.

When asked why they decided on masks rather than food or financial donations, Mary said, “My brother is an EMT in San Diego and I understand that health workers and law enforcement officials are at great risk from all the people they are helping. David and I are here as tourists and want to contribute to our local community which, at the moment, is Hermanus. If everyone covers their faces and washes their hands we have a better chance to slow the spread of the virus.”

Cynthia and her mom Beulah, with the assistance of Cynthia’s dad Ronnie, have been sewing non-stop since she received the order for the 400 masks. “We have chosen to keep our team small as we want to adhere to the lockdown regulations as much as possible to limit exposure,” she said.

So far, 40 of the 400 masks have been donated to Hermanus SAPS by David and Mary, while 160 have been handed over to Dr Salomé Froneman at the Hermanus Provincial Hospital, where she distributes them amongst the staff. Another 100 masks will be donated to the police station and the other 100 will go to either the Hermanus Provincial Hospital or the hospital in Caledon later this week.

“Everyone was incredibly grateful and many have phoned me and sent messages of thanks,” said Cynthia. “David and Mary have also now generously offered to pay for another 400 masks to be made and donated. The need is great, so their support is very welcome and much appreciated!”

Cynthia has also been involved in the Masks4AllOverstrand campaign which was initiated by Willem Kamstra when he saw the urgent need for masks in the community, especially for frontline workers and their families. Two local doctors immediately jumped in to help and together they started testing concept masks from research on the internet and other sources, before realising that Cynthia would be able to assist with material and manufacturing detail.

Willem was later introduced to Denise Eady, who is part of the Women’s Fellowship group at the United Church. At the time Denise already had over 30 ladies from her Fellowship group voluntarily sewing masks, but wasn’t sure where to distribute them.

“The problem for Maks4All is funding,” said Willem. “We would like to cover some of the expenses, such as the cost of the material, electricity, usage instructions, packaging and transport, as well as hopefully providing some income to the ladies who really need it. For this reason, in addition to donating, we will be selling the masks to the community. The money made from these sales will go straight back into Masks4All to help with the running of the project.”

The masks will be available for sale later this week at Green Ways Health Shop (Gateway Centre), Oasis Water, D’lish at CEM Motors (Voëlklip) and C Beyond Health Shop (Eastcliff Village Shopping Centre).

The team has already managed to make 1 000 masks to be distributed to emergency personnel and those in the community who need them most, including health workers at the Hermanus Provincial Hospital, Mediclinic and community clinics, old-age home carers, the homeless at Moffat Hall, taxi operators and to Shofar Church, where they are added to the food packages that are distributed to those who are struggling to feed their families in these unprecedented times.

If you would like to volunteer to make masks, please contact Denise on 082 902 1245. For those who would like to make a financial contribution or have questions about distribution, Willem can be contacted on 082 448 3685. Banking details are as follows: Masks4AllOverstrand, Capitec Hermanus, Acc no.: 153 689 2074, branch code: 470010, Ref.: make more mask.


Mask-makers in the Overstrand

Please just note that most of these ladies are working with materials they have at hand (the shops are closed, remember), so orders for specific colours or fabrics may not be an option. 

  • Amanda: 082 870 6744. Amanda works in Onrus. WhatsApp her to order.
  • Angela: 083 969 0687 / 062 289 3387 / cuoredaycare@gmail.com. Angela supplies the Hermanus area.
  • Cynthia: Cynthia supplies the Hermanus area. Find her masks at Green Ways Health Shop (Gateway Centre), Oasis Water, D’lish at CEM Motors (Voëlklip) and C Beyond Health Shop (Eastcliff Village Shopping Centre).
  • Susan: 082 294 3412. Susan works in Sandbaai. You can buy them from Sandbaai Kafee (opposite Sandbaai Hall). 

• Vainquer Bags: The Vainquer Bags team supplies Hermanus, Sandbaai and Hawston. You can buy them from Sandbaai Superette, Sweetland Hermanus or from Billy Booysens (065 810 4516) in Hawston. For every mask the team sells, a percentage is donated to a charitable cause. Visit https://www.facebook.com/vainquerbags/ for more information.

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