When COVID-19 struck Singapore in January 2020, one of the first areas in the world hit by the outbreak, the government and its citizens rapidly mobilized to put preventative measures in place and to create initiatives responding to the coronavirus.
Of these initiatives, Girl Guides Singapore (GGS) participated in a community-led project with a national level collaborative platform called “Masks Sewn with Love”, where community volunteers aimed to sew more than 50,000 reusable cloth masks for children, the elderly, homeless, public service frontliners, cleaners, and domestic workers. 12 Guide Leaders, including Commissioners, volunteered on the project. Together they helped donate 1,200 masks, and hundreds of home-baked cookies, to non-profit organizations across Singapore.
However, when it came to distributing the masks, the GGS team noticed that some key vulnerable groups, such as the visually impaired had been missed out from the beneficiaries list.
This forced the Girl Guides to think out-of-the-box. They came up with the idea of making masks for everyone at the LightHouse School for the Visually Impaired, one of 20 special education schools in Singapore and with whom GGS holds an existing relationship.
Although thrown into the deep end with the coronavirus crisis, the Girl Guides exhibited the leadership mindsets they’ve been taught as guides, identifying the opportunity to leverage their relationship with the LightHouse School in order to take swift action. With fabrics donated by members of the GGS Executive Committee, they were able to sew over 300 masks within just two weeks.
The mask-making project was well received by “very passionate” participants who took the lead again in December 2020 to sew Christmas masks for St John’s Home for Elderly Persons. Since wearing masks is likely to be the ‘new normal’ for the next couple of years, GGS is encouraging all their Girl Guide members to be more environmentally conscious about their mask making. Many having never sewed before now know how to sew their own sustainable reusable masks avoiding further use of disposable, non eco-friendly masks, and the damage they are having on the environment.
Looking ahead, GGS aims to expand this initiative to another two Member Organizations in the Asia Pacific. A replication of the LightHouse School project is in the pipeline, with plans in place to teach 8,000 Girl Guides how to sew masks for their communities.
Through this experience, the Girl Guides of Singapore demonstrated resilience in the face of adversity. Equipping themselves with the tools needed to become agents of change and, as the coronavirus situation develops, scale their efforts to create an even bigger positive impact within their communities.