With the onset of the CoVID pandemic and the initial lockdowns in Australia Morisset Rotary, like many clubs had to put their projects and fundraising on hold.
But feeling a need to do something to help, a team of Rotarians within the Club formed a group to make high quality handmade fabric masks.
Working socially distanced, masked and under a Covid Safe Plan, the group calling themselves the Maskateers, cut, pinned, ironed, sewed, looped and sealed hundreds of masks.  While we had remained strong as a club meeting over Zoom, these working sessions gave us the much-needed purpose and social bonding that comes from pitching in together.
Initially the masks were donated locally to organisations and church groups that worked with disadvantaged clients in our communities.
We realised that as well as making masks we needed to lend our voice of support to efforts to encourage everyone to wear masks and social distance.
We gained permission to sell masks on a stall in the local shopping centre, meeting two important goals at once, being visibly supporting mask wearing and raising some funds that would cover cost of making donated masks.
Recognising that daily commuters from our area to Sydney were a possible vector for the virus coming to us, we wanted to encourage mask wearing on trains and public transport. With approval from Dept of Transport and support of the local Station Manager we spent a number of mornings promoting and selling masks at Morisset Railway station.
While still focussing locally, our masks started to pop up as far afield as Darwin.
Australia quickly got control of the virus but we did not stop making masks. By that time the US was in serious trouble so we packed up hundreds of masks and sent them to a Rotary Club close to the border between Arizona and Mexico where the virus was out of control.
More boxes of masks were soon sent to Timor Leste, Papua New Guinea and India. In most cases, the donated masks were sent to a Rotary Club who had the local knowledge and volunteers to ensure they were given to the neediest in their communities.
We have kept our community informed of the project with social media and the level of engagement, comments and sharing of posts related to our mask making and donations shows that this project strongly resonating with our communities.
As a result of this we have received amazing offers of support from the public. People have offered to make masks, donated fabric, given us cheap freight rates and allowed us to use meeting halls as workshops without charge.
The project was also recognised in NSW Parliament when the Independent Member for Lake Macquarie (and good supporter of Rotary) Greg Piper MP, read a commendation to the club and this project in a speech to the house.
Most recently the founder and CEO of a local business (Bedhead Hats) selling hats for infants, children and adults donated over 3,000 high quality fabric masks for Morisset Rotary to include with our handmade masks allowing us to send more frequent and bigger parcels of masks. This same woman donates thousands of infant hats every year to charities and organisations that work with disadvantaged new mothers.
Always innovating we recently created a new design that not only minimises fogging of glasses but is quicker and easier to make.
Right now, we are negotiating ensuring exemptions for import duties to allow us to send parcels of masks to Nepal and Fiji both of which are experiencing serious outbreaks.
Morisset Rotary understands that these donations of a few hundred masks is a tiny drop in the ocean of need for countries and areas with large populations experiencing runaway CoVID.
But we also know that to every person who gets a mask, that otherwise might not have, the masks are important. We know that going to the effort to hand make masks on the other side of the world lets the recipients know that, whatever they are going through, they are not alone. It tells them we see and we care.
These masks are also a way for our Rotary Club to reach out to and give some material support to our fellow Rotary Clubs in areas not doing as well as us with the pandemic.
With donations of fabrics, labor and free working venues, our major cost now is freight. Aussie Post and DHL give us good rates where they can but if other clubs would like to help, cash donations to help with freight costs would be greatly appreciated.
Also, if other clubs are interested in making masks and looking for a start, we would love to share our design, templates, tips etc at one of our workshops if they would like to send a representative who can sew and teach their club.
For donations or to arrange a visit to our next workshop, you can contact us via our Facebook page.