“When our country registered its first case of coronavirus, we asked ourselves the question, what can we do to contribute to our community?” says Kandass, head of a counselling and guidance centre for young people in Guinea’s coastal zone.
The Guinea government has taken strict measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, including travel restrictions, installing hand-washing devices and enacting a nightly curfew. On 18 April, the wearing of face masks became compulsory in a bid to curb the spread of the disease.
As the demand for masks spiked, prices rose and they became increasingly hard to fine – for people from poor communities, it was impossible to find any they could afford at all.
“That's when we contacted by Plan International to help in the manufacture of multi-purpose masks that could be used by all members of society, from children and adults alike. This was a way we could help the community protect itself against this pandemic,” explains Kandass.
Plan International supports the centre which provides vocational training to girls and young women to help them into work. One of the courses offered is tailoring, so the young seamstresses were call on to undertake a life-saving mission and start producing face masks.
Nearly 27,000 re-usable face masks will be produced and distributed free of charge to people in the coastal zone. The sewing project is an unprecedented task for the young apprentices says Kandass, who explains how the production line has been put into place in record time.
“To facilitate this production, the centre reorganised itself to put in place the measures needed to avoid contamination. We have a total of 25 girls in this centre, given the number, we divided the group into two. The first group comes in the morning from 8am to 1pm and the second group from 1pm to 5:30pm.”
The size and poor ventilation of the centre wasn’t ideal, so Kandass made a request to the local authorities. “We were in our centre, but since the announcement of the barrier measures, we asked the prefecture for a bigger room and our request was heard. Now we have moved to this cultural hall which is well ventilated and very adequate for our girls.”
Once made, the face masks are handed over to a local development committee which is one of Plan International’s working partners. They are responsible for distributing the masks free of charge to vulnerable families and providing training to ensure sure they are used correctly.
Kandass also wants to get involved in the raising awareness in her community, and hopes that once the order is completed, she will be able to lead an awareness raising team who will go door-to-door to teach residents how to use the masks properly.
“After this stage of production, we will go to the field for awareness sessions especially on the wearing of masks, because we have noticed that many people still do not know how to wear them correctly. We will also go to families who do not have access to television and radio to explain to them the way this virus spreads and involve the children who can sometimes be forgotten.”