Proving that 6 degrees of separation can result in constructive conversations.
As we begin this journey of ‘back to abnormal’ way of living, we are faced with new challenges and new goals. As such, its important for us to share stories like this to encourage more do-good. More awareness of how connected we actually are and if we just broaden conversations constructively - perhaps we’d be doing more good.
This story began when a friend of mine, Dharshni Padayachee mentioned her friend, Carrie (whom I had apparently met at a wedding last year) was doing some interesting work with regards to providing masks to communities in need by working with inner city suppliers. This is where the 6 degrees of separation begins and the start of proving the point I made above.
Carrie Pratt, is an independent consultant and social activist in the fields of leadership, learning and change. Through both Carrie & Dharshni’s passion for initiatives that address structural inequality - the conversation came up when Dharshni asked (roughly around the time Covid was emerging) Carrie if she knew someone who could make masks for a doctor-friend who needed them for hospital staff and patients (the doctor mentioned, is in actual fact.. my sister in law - funny that!). Turns out it really does come down to her husbands, sisters, cousins, friends, colleagues, friend. Who knew!?
The point is - by just expanding our conversations, we were able to learn more and share more and hopefully help more. So here is an incredible story showing exactly how one conversation can lead to another and ultimately result in the ‘do-good’.
Here is Carrie’s story:
The mask-making project is a story of the many interconnections that link us together in South Africa. It is a story that reminds us that when we work together towards a common goal, with everyone contributing what they can, we can accomplish far more than we imagine. It is a story that reminds us that the decisions we make today can not only serve to meet the immediate needs of this crisis, but they can start to create the kind of future that we want to inhabit on the other side of this crisis….
It is one of many such stories emerging in South Africa at this time….
This initiative started with a phone call from a friend – Mr. Johannes Morudu - who is the head of the Hillbrow Street Patrollers, a group of community volunteers who patrol the streets of Hillbrow early in the morning and late at night to help keep community members safe. Johannes told me that the patrollers had been asked by SAPS to help maintain physical distancing in places where people were queuing in the area. They agreed to do so, but they had no protective equipment. He asked if I knew anywhere they could get masks.
I reached out to alumni of the Nexus Leadership course at GIBS who had met Johannes and other members of the Hillbrow Street Patrollers on one of our class immersions. One of them knew a designer in Johannesburg, Romeo Nengomasha, who was in need of work during the lockdown and together with the alumni, we were able to raise enough funds for him to make 60 cloth masks – two for each patroller. That was when the first seeds of this project got planted.
During that time I was on a Zoom call about something else entirely with a colleague, Anthony Wilson-Prangley, who was busy developing a website about masks. (www.easymask.co.za) I followed up with him after the call to find out more, and from our conversation we emerged with an idea to expand the mask-making initiative to support
inner city tailors and seamstresses who had lost income due to the lockdown and to donate the masks they made to communities in need. The Gumboots Foundation agreed to manage the funds and we launched a Back-a-Buddy campaign.
Through the generosity of many individual donors throughout the world we raised just shy of R50 000. These funds were used to support Romeo and his team of seven staff as well as five independent women seamstresses. The masks they made were distributed through four partners we had relationships with and who we knew had strong local knowledge and networks in their communities; namely, the Hillbrow Street Patrollers and the Makers Valley Partnership in inner city Johannesburg and The Gumboots Foundation and Dr. Marianne Felix in Alexandra. These partners also educated people about how – and how not – to safely wear cloth masks.
Feeling that we had reached the limit of individual donations, we changed our approach to offer organisations the opportunity to purchase branded masks for R65. For each mask they purchase, an additional mask is given to us to donate through our partner organisations. These 3-layer masks of Scuba double-knit fabric with an inner polypropylene lining are made by Romeo Nengomasha and his team of tailors at RasNation.
To date though this project we have supported 12 tailors to earn an income during this challenging period and distributed 2917 masks through our partners in inner-city Johannesburg and Alexandra. These masks have been given to street vendors, the elderly, soup kitchen staff and recipients, people who are sick and other people considered most at-risk from Covid-19. We will have another 1126 masks ready for distribution in the next week and another 1400 are in production.
Making this happen took the generosity of many, many people. People who shared their contacts and those who contributed their design expertise to ensure the quality of our masks. People with permits who volunteered to transport fabric and masks. People who shared our posts about the project on social media. People who donated money to support the making of masks and The Gumboots Foundation that agreed to administer the funds. Organisations who purchased masks and our partner organisations who distributed them. People like you who contributed what they could to help to keep small businesses and local entrepreneurs afloat and to ensure that people who needed them received masks to help keep themselves and others safe.
If you would like to support small business and get more masks to people who need them,please consider purchasing branded masks for your organisation or initiative. And tell others about this opportunity. Contact Carrie at email@example.com for more information or to order.