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Coronavirus: Homes across Northern Ireland recall Blitz spirit making scrubs and masks for our health workers

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Designer Chloe Dougan with one of the face masks being used for hospital staff

Designer Chloe Dougan with one of the face masks being used for hospital staff

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

Chloe Dougan with material being used to make scrubs for hospital staff and carers

Chloe Dougan with material being used to make scrubs for hospital staff and carers

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

Christine Henderson

Christine Henderson

Christine Henderson with some of the hospital scrubs she has made

Christine Henderson with some of the hospital scrubs she has made

Clara Maybin

Clara Maybin

Clara Maybin's uniform sets

Clara Maybin's uniform sets

Emer McAleavey

Emer McAleavey

Designer Chloe Dougan with one of the face masks being used for hospital staff

An army of volunteers has joined forces across Northern Ireland to sew for victory in the battle against coronavirus.

Thousands of stitchers are working night and day at their sewing machines, making vital scrubs and masks to protect our health workers who are putting their lives on the line to save ours.

They are using lockdown to help lighten the load on our vital frontline health service staff.

Among them is Christine Henderson (65), a mum-of-four and grandmother-of-two from Newtownabbey, who lost her cousin Linda Wilson (64) to coronavirus.

Linda was the fifth person to die from the virus here on March 25.

Christine runs her own alterations business and is on lockdown with her vulnerable 90-year-old mum, Reta Lyons, who she cares for full time.

She started sewing scrubs last Monday and has put in 14-hour days at her sewing machine, working as late as 2am to fulfil orders from desperate nurses.

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Christine Henderson

Christine Henderson

Christine Henderson

She said: "In the last week we have had three deaths in the family.

"My cousin Linda was the fifth person to die from coronavirus.

When I saw the appeal for scrubs on Facebook, the first thing I did was look under my bed, where I had a pile of new sheets still in the plastic wrapping Christine Henderson

"Her brother Graham who is 60 was found dead in his delivery van on Sunday and then Linda died on Monday and her uncle Joe Beattie (85), who had Alzheimer's, passed way on Thursday, so it has been a horrendous week.

"When I saw the appeal for scrubs on Facebook, the first thing I did was look under my bed, where I had a pile of new sheets still in the plastic wrapping.

"Nurses working with Covid-19 patients have been private messaging me asking for scrubs and I've been sewing night and day to get them made.

"The nurses are coming to pick them up and they are all so grateful."

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Christine Henderson with some of the hospital scrubs she has made

Christine Henderson with some of the hospital scrubs she has made

Christine Henderson with some of the hospital scrubs she has made

Christine said it helps to take her mind off things.

She added: "I am on lockdown with my mum, who can't speak or hear, and it has been hard, especially not being able to see my family and friends.

"People have been great to bring me fabric so that I can keep sewing and you do feel you are doing something worthwhile."

Emer McAleavey is a research fellow at the school of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Queen's University.

She is married to journalist Newton Emerson and the couple, who live in Belfast, have three children, Kate (10), Conor (8) and Ben (6).

I was working with Mary to see how we could help with the shortage of PPE and we decided that sewing face masks for frontline workers would have the biggest impact Emer McAleavey

Emer is working from home, trying to school her children and sewing masks in her spare time for a group set up by her best friend and fellow engineer Mary Murphy, called Covid-19 Cloth Facemasks for All Ireland.

She explained: "I was working with Mary to see how we could help with the shortage of PPE and we decided that sewing face masks for frontline workers would have the biggest impact.

"Mary is doing most of the admin work trying to link sewers with people in their area who need masks.

"I have sewed masks for friends and family and hope to spend this weekend sewing for frontline workers.

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Emer McAleavey

Emer McAleavey

Emer McAleavey

"I plan to spend four or five hours each day this weekend sewing and will try and do it in whatever spare time I have next week.

"I think a lot of people feel like they are putting themselves at risk in their frontline roles and I think it only seems fair that while we are sitting at home we can give them some reassurance by supporting them."

Joanne Chambers (41) runs Dolly Bird Interiors in Omagh and is married to Ryan McHugh, a psychiatrist and they have one teenage son.

Joanne said: "I know Clara Maybin who set up the NI Scrubs group and was happy to help although I am not a sewer and at the start I was very much winging it.

It is absolutely heart warming the amount of people who have volunteered; who knew that Northern Ireland has so many seamstresses and sewers? Joanne Chambers

"I did sew about 15 sets of scrubs and was working on them from 8.30 in the morning until 11.30 at night but now I am leaving it to the professional sewers and I'm helping out by coordinating groups in the Omagh and Fermanagh areas.

"It is absolutely heart warming the amount of people who have volunteered; who knew that Northern Ireland has so many seamstresses and sewers? It's wonderful to be part of it and it gives me some sense of normality to have a purpose and something positive to do at this time."

Chloe Dougan (28), who runs Call Me Sophia, a company making drag outfits, lives in Belfast with her partner Alan Alexander (28) a barman.

Chloe has been sewing scrubs from 7am until midnight most days this week.

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Chloe Dougan with material being used to make scrubs for hospital staff and carers

Chloe Dougan with material being used to make scrubs for hospital staff and carers

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

Chloe Dougan with material being used to make scrubs for hospital staff and carers

She has also got involved in fundraising for fabrics and is cutting out patterns for others to sew.

She said: "It has been a mad busy week and my hall is covered in material and I've been cutting out patterns and packing them up in bags sprayed with disinfectant for other sewers to pick up.

"I also got involved in helping set up a fundraising page and the response has been phenomenal, with £8,000 donated in just a couple of days.

"I am the sort of person who likes to see community helping each other so this is my sort of thing and if I can fund-raise, cut out patterns or sew I will do whatever I can to help. A lot of people are very scared and anxious at the moment and it is good to be able to play a part in helping."

Clara Maybin had no idea what she was unleashing in terms of community spirit when she put a post on social media asking for spare scrubs for a relative who works in the healthcare system.

The Omagh mum-of-two was inundated to the point that she set up NI Scrubs on Facebook which now has thousands of members in several branches across Northern Ireland.

It has taken on a life of its own and just gone crazy, with thousands of people now helping Clara Maybin

Clara (28), who runs her own social media marketing company So Social Marketing, has been running the group while working from home and caring for her two children Bella (4) and Maisie (2). Her husband Ryan works in food supply.

"I have cried a couple of times because of the sheer scale of the response and the messages I have received," she said.

Clara Maybin

"It has taken on a life of its own and just gone crazy, with thousands of people now helping.

"I've had messages from people saying how much it has lifted their spirits to get involved and others saying it has really helped their mental health at this time. And all because I put out a call asking if anyone had spare scrubs just over a week ago and it's been flat out ever since.

"I've even had messages from England asking how to set a similar group up there and offers of support from people in Australia.

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Clara Maybin's uniform sets

Clara Maybin's uniform sets

Clara Maybin's uniform sets

"It is great that we can all do something rather than sit in our homes worrying."

To support the groups, find an NI Scrubs group in your area on Facebook as well as the facemask sewing group Covid-19 Cloth Masks for All Ireland.

Belfast Telegraph