Lesley Kruger, with assistance from work associates, service providers, total strangers, is on a mission to make as many masks as possible.
Lesley Kruger, with assistance from work associates, service providers, total strangers, is on a mission to make as many masks as possible.

10MillionMasks: Insurance executive turns mask hero in the fight against Covid-19

By Kathy Berman Time of article published Apr 28, 2020

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What do you do when you are the chief operating officer of an insurance company and Covid-19 threatens your business operations and you are forced into self-isolation? Well, if you are Lesley Kruger, you just harness your organisational skills, find the right project to make a difference and set out to make face masks.

“I wanted to get involved with the fight against Covid-19 in any way I could. I called a local social activist to see if I could volunteer at a homeless shelter, and was told that volunteers were not being used. Thereafter, on the same day, I was driving to deliver food to a colleague when I saw a large flag flying outside a neighbour’s house. A friend of mine had just sent me a video made in the Czech Republic for Masks4All,” says Kruger. 

“I stopped my car and took a picture. I don’t know who lives there, but their patriotism brought tears to my eyes. The next day, I called around and was put in touch with 10MillionMasks. As I am not a seamstress, I was not sure if I could be of any help, but luckily I have been able to make a small contribution to the greater effort,” she adds.

"Small contribution" by Kruger’s standards includes a rigorous daily routine. An average day consists of working the telephone to stay in touch with existing members; chatting to new members and trying to source fabric and haberdashery donations. Then she starts her “real job”. During lunch and after hours, Kruger coordinates collections and deliveries – with assistance from work associates, service providers, total strangers and members of the greater Pretoria and Centurion communities who have jumped on board, based on social media and word-of-mouth, and their contribution has been inspiring.

“Our whole group is working together to achieve our goal – to make as many masks as possible. An undertaking of this size needs contributions on many fronts. From those who donate fabric, do the cutting, and sewing to those who do the packing, inserting labels and delivery – it is genuinely a combined effort. Even if it is not cutting, sewing or packing, help comes in all forms.

“A fantastic lady who is very gifted and creative, but can no longer sew as she suffers from a degenerative muscle disease which has affected her hands very badly – her hands, not her heart – lent her sewing machine to a stranger and is happy to do so if it helps,” says Kruger.

Her sewing machine went to a lady who was sewing masks on a tiny portable sewing machine. 

With no shortage of benevolence, another volunteer, who would love to sew but due to ill health and failing eyesight cannot, has contributed fabric (lots of it) and paper bags and is now the team’s official motivator and keeper-up-of-spirits. 

But Kruger’s legendary grit is best displayed by this incident: “I received word about a shelter for the homeless, which had been established in Lyttelton, Centurion. So I went to see for myself. I noticed that the residents were not wearing masks. I chatted to the person in charge, who informed me that it was not protocol that residents wear masks. I could not accept this answer and so, I went further up the chain and contacted the head honcho. He immediately agreed that the masks were necessary. We are currently working on an order for 800 masks for this shelter."

And when she is not out on the streets (in her mask, observing Covid protocols) she is able to coerce the best team for the job. For a consignment of masks for the Johannesburg Children’s Home in Observatory, she called upon the services of one of her clients in the security industry. 

“They collected the masks in Centurion and drove to Johannesburg to deliver them."

Ever mindful of the bigger vision, Kruger says: “During this time of uncertainty and fearfulness what makes me hopeful is that our efforts are enabling us to buy breathing room for our healthcare system and government to gear up to face the worst that is yet to come. The absolute outpouring of care, love and kindness is breath-taking and shows me that, when the chips are down, we all stand up to be counted. I am also encouraged by the decisive action our President took at a time when we needed him to do it most.”

“But mostly... I am buoyed up by phone calls from strangers offering to do whatever they can do – strangers becoming friends and allies in the fight against Covid-19,” she concludes.

10MillionMasks is an NGO that calls on South Africans to help get 10 million fabric masks to the people who need them. 10MillionMasks has partnered with Independent Media to drive the "Heroes don't wear capes, they wear masks" campaign.

Make your own mask:

Download and print our easy to use cut-out pattern for a face mask, follow the step-by-step instructions on how to make it. Then be a hero too, make your mask and wear it.

Then take a picture of you and your family wearing your masks, post it on IOL's Facebook page and you could stand a chance to win a R500 Loot voucher.

For more information and to be a part of the Heroes Don't Wear Capes, They Wear Masks campaign, please send an email to Lu[email protected] 

IOL

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