THANKS to Community Masks Cork, based in Carrigaline, hundreds of masks are being made and donated, mainly to vulnerable people, in the fight against Covid-19.
The group, which has 16 women sewing the 100% cotton masks, is an off-shoot of East Coast Masks in Wicklow, co-founded by Cork actress, Sinead O’Riordan.
“A number of us in Carrigaline were members of East Coast Masks,” says Clodagh King.
“I didn’t know anyone in Carrigaline making masks until I realised that myself and two other ladies here were in East Coast Masks.
“Sally O’Leary (from Carrigaline) set up Community Masks Cork. She has been doing Trojan work.”
Sally was asked to make a mask with a clear front for a service user in Enable Ireland, who communicates by lip reading and following facial cues. Clodagh says that Enable Ireland contacted her to say it’s a huge success.
“Sally, like the rest of us, is doing all her work as part of a community effort. A few of us have taken over the administration side of it, responding to requests coming in. It’s a bit overwhelming sometimes.”
The group has a facebook page with 226 members. For people who can’t sew but want to get involved, donations of money for fabric and elastic are being made.
“It has really taken off. Since last week, we sent out 200 masks to individuals and a number of places like Co-Action in Bantry and Bandon Hospital. We’ve made 600 masks so far and we have homes for all of them.”
The first lot of fabric was donated by Interior Solutions in Carrigaline. Jim and Elaine O’Rourke of Ballinluska Services, have also made a donation.
“We have a new sponsor, Andrew Rea, director of Simply Suits. He’s going to donate money to us for as long as we’re running. He has bought fabric and elastic for 1,200 masks and we’re sure we’ll find homes for them.”
The women are all doing the work from their homes.
“Some of the girls are putting in phenomenal hours. Walsh’s Pharmacy in Carrigaline supplies loads of little bags for us to put the masks in. The whole thing is spreading through word-of-mouth. We want to make sure that people at risk, who are cocooning and are not on Facebook, get the masks.”
Also, vulnerable children, with heart and lung conditions, who are in and out of hospital, are being catered for.
Community Masks Cork has a team of people to deliver the masks.
“They drop them off, all gloved up, without going into anyone’s house. Some of the donations of money are going towards postage and packaging. And we have people in Bantry and Bandon who deliver for us.”
Clodagh, who is sewing masks on her new sewing machine from the sitting room of her bungalow in Carrigaline, as well as doing some of the administrative work, is also homeschooling her two children.
She used to manage a community residential care unit for people with intellectual disabilities and is now a full-time mother to five-year-old Shay and four-year-old Daisy.
“I’m homeschooling them as much as they’ll accept it. It’s hard at times. Daisy is in pre-school and is looking forward to starting school. But Shay, who’s in junior infants, can get really upset as he misses his friends. We’ve tried the Zoom calls but he gets upset afterwards and says that his heart is sore because he wants to be with his friends.”
The children are proud of their mother’s work making masks.
“They’ve seen photos in the paper of people were masks and they say ‘look mommy, your product is in the paper’. I can’t stress enough that my role in making the masks is really small in comparison to the amount of work others are doing.
“As well as Carrigaline, we have people making masks in Minane Bridge and Crosshaven and there’s a lady in Aghada making them as well.”
Clodagh says that since Covid-19 restrictions hit Ireland, she was “really conscious that there are so many people out there on their own.
“There are people suffering with anxiety, people who don’t have online access. If there’s something small and practical that I can do to try and allay any fears people might have, and give them a bit of comfort, then I want to do it. I came across people who wanted to do the same.
“There was never any question of people paying for the masks. It never even came up in conversation. It was really fortunate to come cross somebody who’s willing to fund what we’re doing.”
Wearing masks is going to become more commonplace.
“But there are people who are using them incorrectly. They’re touching their faces. All that does is collect germs. You should put on the mask for, say, going to the supermarket.
“Afterwards, remove it and wash it. It should be washed after each use. There’s a filter pocket in the inside of the masks. Tissue or coffee filter is put in the pocket. After use, you dispose of the filter.”
Clodagh admits to “feeling a bit weird” when she wears a mask.
“People are looking at you. Are they thinking they must get a mask or wondering who do I think I am?”
But it’s about protecting others: “I would hate to think I could put someone in a vulnerable situation where they’d become unwell.
“I have a brother-in-law with MS and a friend with a heart condition. If they were to get the virus, it would be catastrophic for them.
“I have elderly neighbours in the park where I live. I would be devastated if I passed something onto them. If it means wearing a mask, I do it, rather than putting someone at risk.”
To contact Community Masks Cork find them on Facebook
Some of the girls are putting in phenomenal hours. The whole thing is spreading through word-of-mouth. We want to make sure that people at risk, who are cocooning and are not on Facebook, get the masks.