Three Mumbai residents make and donate face shields to essential workers; rope in stranded migrant workers to ramp up production
As residents of Mumbai stay indoors amid the lockdown to stem the spread of coronavirus, Krysyn Rego and his team go to the workshop he set up at Corona Garden in Bandra to produce face shields
As residents of Mumbai stay indoors amid the lockdown to stem the spread of coronavirus , Krysyn Rego and his team go to the workshop he set up at Corona Garden in Bandra to produce face shields.
The coronavirus cases in Maharashtra crossed 7,600 on Sunday, with Mumbai alone reporting almost 5,200 of these cases. Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray also stressed that the high-risk group has to kept safe. Along with his brother Shayne Rego and friend Ardelia D’Cruz, Krysyn started making face shields at his residence on 11 April after working on a prototype with the help of a friend in Bangalore. The city had reported 1,182 cases that day, with reports claiming a shortage in protective equipment available to the healthcare staff.
Having made 400 shields on their first day, the trio started giving these to frontline workers. “Protective equipment, including masks and shields, were not just in shortage, but also exorbitantly priced, if available. At the time of a pandemic, it is paramount that protective equipment is affordable and in the reach of anyone who is at risk,” Krysyn said. The reusable shield was, hence, priced at Rs 35 apiece.
The group has manufactured 11,000 pieces so far, which have been given to healthcare workers, police personnel, sanitation workers and people distributing food among the needy. With the five workers and a workshop space they were later given at the Corona Garden, otherwise used for weddings and small events, the team is now capable of producing 1,500 shields a day.
Amid the lockdown, procurement of raw materials remains a challenge, with suppliers fast running out of stock.
“People are often scared of running into trouble if they open their shops, but they still help out when we tell them about our work. But every time one supplier runs out of stock, we have to look for the next source,” he said. Moving around the city, however, has not been an issue, with policemen at checkpoints not just allowing them to travel but also thanking them for the initiative.
As restrictions on movement within the city remain in place and owing to the lack of connectivity with authorities, organisations and people that need the shields, Krysyn turned to NGOs.
“Since we are just the three of us managing the procurement, manufacturing and distribution, the prudent idea was to focus on preparing the shields and the organisations already in touch with the healthcare and essential workers ensure that the equipment reaches them,” he said.
About 2,500 of their shields were distributed by the Golden Citizen Trust to hospitals, including Nair Hospital, and to other frontline organisations during the COVID-19 outbreak. The Rotary Club of Deonar also ensured that 1,250 shields reach personnel at Chembur Police Station.
In their personal capacity, the trio has donated around 100 shields each to the Bandra Police Station, Bhabha, Cooper and Kasturba hospitals and to local leaders. “Every three or four days, Shayne and I take around 100-200 shields in our car and hand them out to those working on the ground – police at checkpoints, sanitation workers and others,” Krysyn said.
The initiative is currently funded by Krysyn, his family and friends, with the aim of donating a shield for every shield sold. The limited funds, he says, come in the way of amping up production. “We are now adept at making this product and can produce up to 5,000 pieces a day. Churches have offered spaces to use as workshops and there are empty school campuses that can be utilised too. But it gets difficult to procure materials and start the very process of manufacturing, especially for big orders, due to the uncertain flow of funds,” he said.
The trio has now taken this initiative to Stanislaus School in Bandra, where migrant workers have been given shelter.
“Father Fraser from the school told me that the migrant workers have nothing to do, so we went there and trained 15 of them on Thursday. Such was their enthusiasm that they made 396 shields within one evening and even divided themselves into two groups and started a competition to see who makes the most shields the quickest. Even during their evening movie time, they sit and make shields,” Krysyn said.
He now stops by at the school every day to supply materials to the migrant workers. “On hearing about the initiative, they were overjoyed about doing their bit to help frontline workers,” he said.
Word of mouth, WhatsApp messages and social media posts have ensured that news about the shields developed by Krysyn and his team has reached many, with orders coming in from as far as Gujarat and Assam.
“We always got a positive response whenever we discuss this initiative. In fact, a 90-year-old lady in Bandra offered help and now does one step of the process to manufacture a shield,” Krysyn said. They have now reached out to the Maharashtra Chief Minister’s social media account to seek help, especially in making their product reach where it is necessary.
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