Condo residents turn face mask makers

Health Ministry staff in Putrajaya modelling the fabric face masks made by the Armanian Mask Makers.

MOVED by a call for help, a group of residents living at Armanee Terrace Condominium in Petaling Jaya have been busy sewing fabric face masks to be given to nurses and hospital support staff.

“It all started when a resident, who is a professor and medical doctor at University Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC), mentioned of a shortage of face masks for their staff.

“So we mobilised a group among our residents to sew fabric face masks for the frontliners, ” said group spokesman and coordinator Ester Lye.

Although the masks are not foolproof, they still offered a layer of protection for hospital support staff such as security guards, cleaners, receptionists and maintenance staff as well as medical staff when they are off-duty, she said.

Lye said support staff also needed to be protected as they regularly came into contact with patients, sometimes becoming the first person a patient sees upon entering a hospital.

The group, dubbed the Armanian Mask Makers, comprised 24 local and expatriate residents. They included working professionals as well as stay-at-home mothers and grandmothers.

Nasrin is hard at work making the face masks using her own sewing machine.Nasrin is hard at work making the face masks using her own sewing machine.

While the sewing is done mostly by women, they are supported by their family members who help with the sorting, counting and packing.

“At the beginning, we worked with new and unused cotton fabric such as batik cloth.

“When those ran out, we turned to alternatives such as unused bedsheets and towels. For tiebacks (strings used to secure the masks), we used cotton tape, elastic band and later pre-loved fabrics.

“We prefer using 100% cotton for the masks as the fabric is more natural, breathable and durable, ” she said.

The Armanian Mask Makers are divided into those who sew, cut or those who can do both.

As there are over 1,000 condominium units across two blocks at Armanee Terrace, Lye said one unit at each block was designated as a drop-off and collection point.

The Armanian Mask Makers is a community-driven initiative with no profits involved.

Low helping to make the fabric face masks.Low helping to make the fabric face masks.

Besides contributing their effort and time, the residents also donated fabrics. Some even chipped in money to buy materials such as thread and elastic band, or to cover the delivery fees.

“All the masks are washed, ironed and properly packed before they are sent to their destinations via Poslaju, ” said Lye.

Trincy Low is happy that the project has allowed members to get to know their neighbours better, even if done virtually via WhatsApp.

Janet Suganthamalar said it gave her great pleasure to be doing something useful and relevant with her community during this MCO.

“It’s an amazing experience during these unprecedented times to team up with my neighbours to sew masks for our frontliners, ” she said.

Nasrin Aghamohammadi, who made masks with her daughter Sophia Zil Ikram, said the initiative showed the muhibbah spirit among them.

Harun Abdullah helps out by cutting the fabric needed to make the masks.Harun Abdullah helps out by cutting the fabric needed to make the masks.

Husband and wife duo Yumi and Shinichiro Kurihara, who handled the sewing and logistics respectively, were glad to have something to do to pass time and contribute towards a good cause.

One month after starting the group, Lye said they achieved their target of creating 2,000 pieces of face masks that were delivered to UMMC, Sungai Buloh Hospital, Klinik Kesihatan Che Yeh in Kelantan and the Health Ministry office in Putrajaya.

“The feedback we received has been positive. Those from UMMC said they loved their masks because they were convenient, breathable and stylish.

“As the hospitals and health clinics have sufficient disposable masks for now, we donated the subsequent batches of masks to the homeless, urban poor families and soon to the cancer wards of two hospitals.

“We worked with Hope Worldwide to let them identify the urban poor families and handle the distribution, ” said Lye.

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