Jerseymasks4all, a local Facebook group set up by Petra Leggett and Lindi Lawrenson, has helped hundreds of islanders obtain masks during this pandemic. Sophie Wilkinson spoke to Petra about the group and how it all started.
Hi Petra, you are the co-founder of the Facebook group Jersey masks4all, can you tell me how it all started?
At the end of the March I set up a Facebook page, Jersey masks, it was very quickly full of people desperate for masks. Initially, I just wanted to connect mask makers with those in need of a mask, but that was impossible at the beginning. We had such a high demand for masks and not enough sewers. Being from the Czech Republic and watching the benefits of mask-wearing I was motivated to run a page that helps Jersey people too.
At the beginning of April, I had a call from a lady called Lindi Lawrenson. She is the wife of a Paediatric at the hospital who posted one of the first online videos in Jersey, educating people about the importance of wearing masks and the evidence behind it.
(The video can be found on Youtube: https://youtu.be/vo5XIQlaFSA)
Lindi asked if I’d be interested in joining my Facebook page and her evidence videos and research and work together. I said yes immediately and we agreed to create a new Facebook group called Jerseymasks4all, which was inspired by the already created Facebook group called Masks4All with a headline: My mask protects you; your mask protects me.
Who’s involved in making the masks?
I was never going to be the sewer as I had no knowledge of sewing and didn't have material or a machine. Lindi was already sewing for the frontline workers. Once I started the Facebook page, a kind lady called Jane Woodrow got in touch and offered her sewing machine for the time of mask making, little did I know she has now gifted the machine to me, which is beyond generous and I am ever so grateful. We then created a post asking people to help us with sewing and quite quickly established a great team of about 30 sewers willing to donate their masks for free.
How does the group work?
At the very beginning, Lindi and I had the same vision - spreading the message of how important it is to wear a mask and also asking people to work together as a team. The ultimate goal was that everyone has at least one fabric mask. At first, we supplied the frontline workers, hospital staff, care homes, nurses in the community, those looking after children at school as well as people who were vulnerable, sick or elderly. Within a day we had hundreds of orders! We collected what we needed from sewers around the island - it was truly remarkable how well everyone worked together.
Whilst all of this was happening, we were already looking ahead for other ways to promote our masks and reach those who are not necessarily on our Facebook group. Lindi wrote newspaper articles, created mask making videos and I did a quick interview on TV.
We wanted to create banners and leaflets to spread the message on how to care and wear for the masks correctly, as well as other tips and advice. Richard Cornick, the owner of Bigwoods Premier Printers, came forward and helped us with 2 banners and 1000 leaflets at a minimum cost that we paid for ourselves.
You’ve been giving the masks away for free at various stands around the island, how did this come about?
We were offering masks made by the members of the Facebook group, wrapped up individually into a male, female or unisex bag with our colourful informative leaflet as well as the mask sewer’s name. We had a donation bucket which was optional for anyone wishing to donate towards charities in Jersey. This started at the two largest Co-ops on the island.
Our masks were wanted, makers were sewing, I was driving to collect masks and material, or they were dropped to me at my home. As soon as I had a good number of masks in stock, I would approach a business and we’d arrange days and times for our displays. We usually wrap between 150-200 masks per stand and drop off in the morning and collect before the business finishes for the day. Any leftover masks are then passed onto the next event, over and over again.
Our stands are placed at randomly selected locations to cover the whole of Jersey. We have done 8 stands so far and we are working our way to cover each parish at least once. We work around the weather if the stands are to be outside, or when are the business at their busiest times so we can help as many people as possible. We do not usually announce where we are beforehand as small businesses may have an issue with too many people turning up at once and it is still very important to stick to 2m social distance.
You received funding from the Youth and Community Trust, didn’t you?
Yes, we did! As the demand for masks was still high, we knew that we couldn’t fund our own material as well as the leaflets needed. An amazing lady, Gemma Rowley got in contact and told me to apply for funding from the Youth and Community Trust. Two days later I had all of the funds needed. This has enabled us to print a further 5000 leaflets as well as purchase materials for another 1000 masks. The generosity of the trust is truly incredible and something we could not carry on without, we are so thankful for their support. To date, we have given away almost 1000 masks and collected just under £400 for charities.