From the start of the pandemic, volunteers at Colchester Islamic Community Centre (CICC) came together to set up CICC Sewing-Bees and have been hard at work hand-crafting reusable face coverings to distribute, free of charge, to vulnerable people within the Colchester community. The idea for the project was sparked during the first lockdown, following a call to check on the welfare of a CICC member. The member had tested positive for COVID-19 and the whole family had to isolate. At that time, it was difficult to find facemasks, as they were in short supply, and those available were expensive for people of restricted means. A call for volunteers was put out and the CICC Sewing-Bees was formed. After extensive research on what types of fabrics would be suitable for protection and breathability, appropriate fabrics were sourced, initially from members attics and storage cupboards. But supply soon ran out and fabric needed to be bought – not so easy during lockdown. The team of 12, began sewing masks, setting themselves a target of 50 masks.

With their hard work and dedication, this target has been repeatedly exceeded and more than 650 masks have already been donated between C360, Colchester Food bank, Colchester and Braintree Homeless Shelters, First Stop Centre, Beacon House, Firstsite, Refugee Action Colchester and children and adults with special needs. Volunteers have stated, how being part of the Sewing-Bees has been such a meaningful experience; and one noted how happy it made her feel to contribute positively to society. Another volunteer described how great it was to come together, to make a difference by “limiting the virus spreading in our community & to save lives”. We are delighted that the Sewing-Bees continue to this life saving work with their motto ‘Stitch to save lives and livelihoods’.