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Local Teacher Sewing for Victory!

While care workers are on the front lines of the war against Covid-19, local Design & Technology teachers are helping out on the home front.

Tamsin Mitchell, Head of Design & Technology at Glebelands School in Cranleigh, heard that local frontline workers were faced with a drastic shortage of scrubs, masks, and similar equipment, and decided to pitch in. Other schools are benefitting from her community outreach efforts, including St Joseph’s Specialist School and College in Cranleigh.

She has formed a group, NHS Sewing Cranleigh and Dorking, to mobilise local sewing enthusiasts. The group was created less than three weeks ago and there are already more than 65 members, who have together produced items for St Joseph’s Specialist School and College and more than half a dozen other local organisations, including care homes and medical practices.

The group’s members include 15-year-old Ellie McConaghey of Glebelands School, who is one of Tamsin’s GCSE Textiles students. She has set up her sewing machine at home and is learning first-hand the difference that practical skills can make in a crisis.

“It’s a good way to boost my confidence in sewing for GCSE Textiles,” said Ellie. “Making scrubs bags for the NHS helps them as well as myself, and I thought it would be a nice gesture to give back to the NHS. They are working so hard to protect us and risking their own lives.”

Other members of the Glebelands School community are also pitching in. Two Design & Technology staff at Tamsin’s school are helping to make clear protective visors. They are part of a network of schools across the country, where D&T teachers are volunteering to help with the shortage. Helping other schools and community organisations comes as second nature to those at Glebelands School, who frequently engage in local outreach.

“It’s a real community effort”, says Tamsin, who juggles her volunteering with her full-time teaching workload. “Everyone is stepping up to the plate and helping each other. In a time of need, it’s the practical and creative skills that make a difference.”

Tamsin saw the efforts of D&T teachers and technicians in making up the shortfall of protective equipment, and at the same time saw a Facebook post from a local nurse who works for the Royal Surrey County Hospital in Guildford. She contacted the nurse and asked if she could sew anything for her.

“She wanted scrubs bags, so people can change at hospital and take their uniform home in the bag and pop it straight in the wash”, Tamsin recalls. “Then I went online to see if I could get more people on board, and I found a national group called For the Love of Scrubs. They had subpages for local areas, and there wasn’t one for Cranleigh. So I volunteered.”

The group now makes scrubs bags, scrubs, gowns and masks, and have expanded to help Cranleigh-based organisations such as Knowle Park Care Home, and Cranleigh Medical Practice. Shere Surgery, a family court in West Sussex, and the Guildford Ambulance Service have also benefitted. The fabric is donated by the local community, and volunteers pick up and drop off items as part of other essential trips.

Tamsin’s group is part of a nationwide hive of sewing bees, all working to make sure our frontline workers have peace of mind. She’s concentrating on Cranleigh, though: “literally the whole country is covered with people helping out, but we’re keeping it small and local.”

Anyone in need of items or wanting to join the group should contact Tamsin through the NHS Sewing Cranleigh and Dorking group on Facebook.

“I love the fact that I’m connecting with the community in a way that I wouldn’t have done otherwise”, says Tamsin, who also volunteered to make bunting for local VE Day celebrations before the virus struck. “A lot of the people sewing for me are furloughed, and they love the fact that their skills are helping. We’re making frontline workers’ lives a little bit easier, relieving their stress, and helping stop the spread of Covid.”

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