Wearing a face covering in shops and supermarkets in England became compulsory on July 24. When schools reopened in September, students over 11 years old were also required to wear face coverings in corridors and communal areas. These restrictions were intended to protect people from the coronavirus, but they further strained the supply of masks in England. Tzu Chi volunteers have been doing what they can to help.
Britain began suffering from a mask shortage as early as March. To help relieve the shortage, Tzu Chi volunteers in the country began making cloth masks at home and giving them away to help protect community residents from the virus. Volunteer Wang Su-zhen (王素真) of Malvern, Worcestershire, not only made masks to give away, but she also created an instructional video and provided materials for mask-making. Her thoughtful actions allowed more people to join in to help make masks and relieve the shortage.
Ms. Su of Manchester has been volunteering for Tzu Chi for over a decade. Because of her poor health, she avoided going out during the pandemic and thus felt bad for not being able to do anything to help others during this time. When she learned that she could make masks to give away, she realized this was a good chance for her to give. In a few months’ time, she made over a thousand cloth masks for adults, children, and even toddlers less than three years old.
Many other volunteers and community residents joined in Tzu Chi’s mask-making effort, but they couldn’t keep up with the demand. Fortunately, the Qing Culture and Art Foundation in Taiwan donated more than 20,000 cloth masks to Tzu Chi Britain from May to July. Volunteers visited post offices, train stations, and shops, and, after obtaining permission from people in charge of these premises, placed supplies of masks on site for anyone who would need them. Volunteers also provided masks to street people, refugees, and hospital workers.
When schools in England reopened in September, students over 11 years old were required to wear masks in corridors and communal areas. Tzu Chi volunteers delivered masks to various schools so that school staff and students could be better protected. St Anne’s RC Primary School and St Vincent’s Schoolhouse in Manchester, Nascot Wood Junior School in Watford, Hertfordshire, and Glenthorne High School in Sutton, London, were among the schools that received masks from Tzu Chi.
On September 8, volunteers delivered 2,000 cloth masks to Glenthorne High School. The masks were received by Debby Austin, the school’s attendance officer. Austin told the volunteers that her school had 1,700 students and 400 teachers and administrative staffers, but the government had only provided two small boxes of masks and other personal protective equipment. Volunteers were happy to help the school better equip themselves for the coronavirus.