Sarawak groups rally together to produce face shields for frontline staff

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Volunteers in Sarawak making disposable face shields

Vanessa Gillian Naen writes about how various groups in Sarawak are collaborating to produce desperately needed face shields and masks for frontline hospital staff.


Before I explain the purpose of this piece, a little note about the traffic on the roads of Kota Samarahan in Sarawak. The stress on the roads was the norm every morning on my way to work.

But the coronavirus onslaught on Sarawak – Kuching and Kota Samarahan have been declared “red zones” – has left the roads almost deserted. This is a rare phenomenon for Kota Samarahan ever since the government implemented the restricted movement order. Wouldn’t it be lovely to experience these empty roads every day?

With movement restrictions, people are forced to stay at home. No one is allowed to leave home without a valid reason. Frontline staff, however, have to work late to help curb the spread of the virus.

We too have brave, kind-hearted volunteers among us who willingly lend a hand to the frontline staff, especially the healthcare workers who badly need more personal protective equipment (PPE) in their fight against this pandemic.

To relieve the shortage of PPE, HAUS KCH, a local creative community hub in Kuching, has collaborated with a few other grassroots community groups across Sibu, Miri and Bintulu in a joint project involving the decentralised production of face shields and masks for frontline staff.

HAUS KCH volunteers visited inmates of Puncak Borneo Prison wh0 are helping with the sewing of protective gowns – Photograph: HAUS KCH Instagram page

Tapping into their expertise, they are 3D printing face shields and masks for frontline staff. Local makers such as Proteus at Digital Economy Hub, Creativeworks Technologies, The Learning Curve and Sarawak Multimedia Authority (SMA) have collaborated to make this project a successful one.

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Preparing disposable face shields

The volunteers face various challenges such as social distancing. Some volunteers are making these face shield masks from home, and this has led to the tedious process of restocking materials, to the extent the group now has to deal with an overproduction.

But nothing can break their spirit in continuing their mission and vision to help frontline staff. With the aid of technology, the organisation has been able to solve the problem of overproduction, channelling their communication into one platform, together with the health department.

To date, HAUS KCH has raised over RM20,000 through fundraising, which was beyond its target, and this has allowed the network to produce 30,000 face shields from all of Sarawak.

“The fight is not over, but supply for PPE in Sarawak is stabilising. Until the PPE production catches up to its daily burn rate, our volunteers across the state will continue to toil,” HAUS KCH reported.

With the restricted movement order extended until 28 April, let’s all hope the situation improves. Meanwhile, let’s continue to lend a helping hand to the frontline staff. It does not have to be through volunteering; just staying at home is one way to support those on the front lines. If you practise social distancing, you can break the chain.

But wait, look! Traffic during this restricted movement order…

On my way home from volunteering with HAUS KCH at 6.14pm on 15 April 2020

Where are you all going? Stay at home-lah!

Want to volunteer, pledge materials or to know more about HAUS KCH? Call or text HAUS KCH hotline at 016-846 2688 or visit their Facebook page facebook.com/hauskch or Instagram (@hauskch) page for more updates.

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#StayAtHome #JagaSamaDirik

Vanessa Gillian Naen, a graduate in politics and government studies from Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, currently teaches in an international school in Kuching. Last year, she attended an Aliran writers’ workshop with the theme “Writing for Change in New Malaysia”

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