by Amanda Eleftheriades-Sherry
These exceptional times are uncovering and creating local hidden heroes who are going above and beyond to help our communities.
Astronomy enthusiast, Joe Burns, is one such man.
His love of the stars had led him to join local charity Bellsmyre Digital’s Astronomy Club where he helped operate and look after their telescopes.
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit Bellsmyre Digital, like most organisations, moved their groups and activities online.
But with the desperate shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in local care homes and the wider community, project co-ordinator Kathleen Smith wanted to see how else they could help.
Helping out Locally
She said: “Working with Joe I knew he had a 3D printer at home so I asked him if he was up for getting involved to see what we could do and he said yes.”
Joe discovered a group in England trying to coordinate a mass 3D mask printathon and they provided him with an original design.
“At first, I was going to make the headbands for the Crowd3D project, I would have been printing them and sending them off to wherever the project was based and then they would have been fitted out with visors and distributed.
“I then figured I should do it locally and Kathleen helped get things started.
“So I set up a table in my kitchen for two printers, cleared and disinfected a worktop and started gathering supplies and got printing.”
His first prototype was sent off to Yorkhill Hospital for slash testing but failed.
Try and Try Again
Kathleen added: “We wanted to make sure everything was fully tested – the last thing we wanted was for our masks to put anyone at risk.”
The first and second designs were not quite right so Joe went back to the drawing board and added top covers.
This meant more workspace was needed for cutting and assembling.
“I re-purposed my spare room and its pool table, covered the table in plastic board and disinfected everything,” Joe added.
Once his third design was given the thumbs up Joe shut himself off from the world and started working flat out to produce the safety equipment.
He explained: “I’ve got to behave as if I’ve got the virus.
Everything in my house has to be fully disinfected, all of the masks and visors are disinfected and I’ve moved everything into my spare room for assembly.
“I’ve put a UV-C light in the ceiling and put that on before I start work, it helps sterilize the room.
“I then mask up and start assembling the pieces, each mask gets another dose of UV and then I put them in bags and they get another 10 minutes blast of the light so they are as sterile as I can make them.”
No Easy Task
It takes Joe 4 – 5 hours a day to make a batch of 10 plastic shields and it can be hot, clammy work.
To reduce the risk of infection Joe, who has a double cochlear implants and is hard of hearing, has been limiting his own social interaction.
He explained: “I don’t have to shield myself but when I started working on the face shields I didn’t want to take any risks of catching Covid and ruining my project
“This has helped me with lockdown, keeping my mind focused on something. “It’s a therapy for me because it means I’m doing something useful.
“I like making things, I’ve made telescopes and I’ve been itching for something to build on the printer.
“I’m glad I’ve ended up making face shields, knowing where they are going and how they are going to help.
“It’s always a relief when I have a batch bagged up and ready to go – it’s quite rewarding.”
Within days of putting the offer out to local community organisations Kathleen had received orders for over 100 face shields.
She said: “They have passed NHSGGC quality control standards and were commended by the testing lab on the standard of workmanship and materials.
“We’re offering them free to local third sector organisations.
“Most of them have offered us a donation and we can also supply them to small businesses and individuals – we’re suggesting a £10 donation which is half price what they are on Amazon.
“We’re hoping to get a place where we can make them on a bigger scale and get Joe some help.”
And in a beautiful irony, one of their first orders was from the local Citizens Advice Bureau to allow their staff to communicate safely with deaf clients when they re-open their doors.
To order face shields for your organisation contact Kathleen on 07757220799.