Published: 16th April 2020
This NGO is engaging students and tailors to produce masks for everyone in Palamaner. This is how
The Bengaluru-based foundation has done extensive work in Palamaner like starting a military training facility for youngsters. This initiative is another way to empower its residents for the lockdown
Many states like Maharashtra, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and others have made wearing masks in public spaces compulsory. Perhaps it is only a matter of time before more and more states adopt this policy. Surely, masks are going to be in demand more than ever. Meanwhile, Join The Dots (JTD) Foundation is quietly working to make Palamaner, a small town in Andhra Pradesh, as self-sufficient as possible when it comes to masks.
Devi, Surekha, Shanthi, Barathi, Gowri, Veena, Supraja, Vijaya Lakshmi, Radha, Sailaja, Jyothi, Pushpa, Thilagavathi, Lakshmi, Kavitha, Maha Lakshmi, Sudhakar, Durga, Subramanyam and Mubina are the tailors
How they came to stitch
But that's not what they initially set out to do. The foundation, which was registered in 2015 and since then, has dedicated itself to educating and empowering the children of Palamaner, inquired from the police and MLA what the taluk really needed during lockdown and the Coronavirus crisis. Upon finding that there is enough and more food, they decided to focus on helping students. "As volunteers of an NGO, we were stuck at home and had to stop all our operations. This forced us to apply ourselves to the present situation," says Akshatha Jagadish, part of the Process Team and a driving force behind their mask-stitching initiative. Dhananjay Ramakrishnappa, Founder of JTD, adds, "We realised that the revision of class X students was taking a hit, so we helped schools conduct remote revision classes." It is after this that they switched to their next task, stitching mask.
Distributing masks | (Pic: JTD)
There are many students who have received scholarships from JTD in Palamaner and it was these students who rose to the occasion and procured the pure cotton that was needed to purchase the masks. The plan was to purchase and distribute this cloth among local tailors. One of their volunteers' mother is a tailor and through her, and their already existing network, they got in touch with other tailors in the town — as many as 12 of them. "We also shared with them the guidelines issued by the Office of the Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India on March 30, 2020 to make the masks so that they can be worn by the general public," shares Akshatha. The same guidelines also mention that if 80 per cent of the people wear masks, the infection can be successfully contained and that's what JTD intends to do in the mandals of Palamaner, Baireddipalle and Gangavaram.
Raghavendra Archakam is the leader of the Community Team at JTD who drove the project and Soumitha Bhaskara is taking care of tailor payments and overall well-being
Setting the ball rolling
So it was the volunteers of JTD who purchased 1,220 metres of cloth, at a regular discount, no more, no less. "We are aware that it is a tough time for all businesses so we intentionally did not bargain," says Dhananjay, and by we, he means the volunteers on-field. And one of their volunteers Devaraj Chekkala, who they call, "the most important force behind the project and the youngster who takes care of the logistics", delivers the cloth to the tailors on his scooter. We must digress here to tell you a little about Devaraj. Among the 200 students whose college education was sponsored by JTD, Devaraj is one of them. He has been working for the foundation for three years, said no to a lucrative offer from Wipro to pursue his dream of being a UX/UI designer. JTD helped him pursue a premium course in the same field.
Devaraj Chekkala | (Pic: JTD)
The mask is priced at a mere Rs 11.50, out of which, Rs 4.50 goes to the tailor and the rest to the cloth merchant. And if the tailors stitch up to their full potential and then some, they could earn Rs 4,000 in a week, which is how much they usually earn in a month, we hear. After 24 hours, 12 tailors, 20 volunteers and a lot of hard work, they were able to stitch 10,000 masks, which will be delivered in the next 24 or 48 hours with the help of the police or Asha workers. While this they have managed from internal funds, a social media campaign will positively get them more funds for this good cause, this they are sure of. So before they take the plunge, they want to ensure that they know what they are doing hence, the stitching of the first batch was a pilot of sorts. "Palamaner has a population of three lakh and our mission is that whenever anyone from the three lakh people walk out of their home, they should be wearing a mask," says Akshatha, as she signs off.
They track all work remotely through Scrum, a project management tool and they also have meetings over Zoom with the tailors
Meet the tailors
To find out more, check out ketto.org/facemasks-for-people-in-palamaner