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Michelle O'Neill hails 8,500-strong army sewing up scrubs for health heroes

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Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill with the NI Scrubs team in Dungannon

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill with the NI Scrubs team in Dungannon

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill with the NI Scrubs team in Dungannon

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill with the NI Scrubs team in Dungannon

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill with the NI Scrubs team in Dungannon

The inspirational woman behind an army of sewers who have produced over 22,000 sets of scrubs for front line health workers said she has been blown away by the response to what began as a simple bid to help a relative in need.

Omagh woman Clara Maybin's effort to help provide a few extra sets of vital equipment for a Covid ward nurse has now spanned Northern Ireland. She has sewn together a network of 11 centres operating across the region, with more than 8,500 people now involved.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill paid tribute to the efforts of Clara and her team when she called in at the Mid Ulster hub of the network in Dungannon yesterday.

"This is an absolutely amazing project which started out with a few people just wanting to give back to the community," she said.

"It's turned into a network of men and women right across the country, all done for no profit. It's so uplifting to see what's being done here."

Clara said she has been on a roller coaster ride since starting in the middle of March: "A relation of mine who works in a Covid ward told me how short they were of supplies so I just put a plea out on my personal Facebook page, then on my business page and initially I was gathering second-hand scrubs from Botox nurses, dentists, people that use them normally but weren't able to.

"I drove around the country collecting them and got about 50 and sent them to the ward.

"In the end a lot of people said to me they could sew; I didn't know anything about that, but I gathered up a lot of people who could sew and it took off from there. Overnight it just spiralled and a day later we had 80 people in the group. Within a week we had 800. Now we have 8,500 and to date have made 22,500 scrubs, 80-90,000 scrub bags and masks as well.

"It's been crazy, but brilliant. I knew quickly I couldn't manage this myself so I've had people volunteer to manage certain areas."

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Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill with the NI Scrubs team in Dungannon

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill with the NI Scrubs team in Dungannon

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill with the NI Scrubs team in Dungannon

Clara explained how she has been juggling the project along with her work and family life.

She added: "I'm still working myself, online mentoring with businesses.

"I also teach in the tech in Omagh on Mondays and Fridays and I have two small children so it's been a bit mad.

"In a weird way, a lot of people who have been working with us are saying this has helped their mental health. It's given them something to get up in the morning for, something to focus on.

"There are a lot of messages from not only frontline businesses for doing this, but from people at home that it is has really helped them.

"We fundraise across the country to buy the material and fabric to keep this going. The response everywhere has been crazy."

Belfast Telegraph