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Rural teen joins virus fight by making masks

Junior Mbelekane and his granny Phumzile Mnisi are assisted by local youth to produce face masks. / Mandla Khoza
Junior Mbelekane and his granny Phumzile Mnisi are assisted by local youth to produce face masks. / Mandla Khoza

A 15-year-old boy and his 59-year-old grandmother are on a drive to help stop the spread of the coronavirus by sewing protective masks for free in Schoemansdal, Mpumalanga.

Junior Mbelekane and his granny Phumzile Mnisi, known tailors in the area, were approached by a resident, Lydia Sono, to design and sew masks to assist in the fight against the pandemic.

The village of Schoemansdal recorded the first local infection of Covid-19 while the Nkomazi municipality under which the village falls has nine active cases.

Sono said the masks are for elderly people who are the most vulnerable to the virus.

"When we sat with my friends and came up with the plan of having tailored protective masks we were informed that our government did not have enough to give to doctors and nurses and those on the frontline," Sono said.

"After health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize gave specifications we saw it fit to approach Mbelekane and his grandmother and they bought into our story to make masks after we provided material from donations we went to ask from community members.

"We are going house to house to deliver the masks, especially old people, and also educate them on how they can use them and also wash them each time they use them. We are also going to go to the pension paypoint and distribute there because we know by then we will have a number of masks."

Junior, a grade 8 pupil at Lugebhuta Secondary School, said his involvement was the only thing he could do to curb the spread of the virus.

"Since my grandmother taught me how to sew, I have been doing this for years now and I love it. When Lydia came to ask my grandmother I was the first to agree and told them to bring material and we started the job.

"We also had to get the specifications on how the masks should be designed to meet the health standard.

"We know people of my grandmother's age their immune [system] is said to be weak so we decided to start with them in terms of distribution. Since the weekend we managed to make about 130 masks. When I'm old this will be part of my proud moments to say I have placed my services at the community's disposal to help in the fight against the coronavirus."

His grandmother said she was happy to help the endeavours of the young people.

"This sewing feeds us, but let me say, when Junior told me that we are doing this for free, I was moved and realised that I have a caring grandson.

"When we had the coronavirus in this community we were all scared and after listening to the minister and others explaining on TV about the virus and ways to stop it I realised that what we are doing now is what the country needs each person to be doing."

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