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Published Monday 4 Oct 2021

Local DHBs and community health providers make and distribute free cloth face masks to help tackle mask poverty.


Skilled sewer Kathy Samuel, 70, with some of the Pomare Sewing Group.

Local DHBs and community health providers have come together to make and distribute free cloth face masks to help tackle mask poverty.

Members of the Pomare Sewing Group, the Common Unity Project Aotearoa, plus local groups in Petone and Porirua, and in Rimutaka Prison, have sewn 4000 reusable masks so far as part of a project organised by Hutt Valley DHB and Capital & Coast DHB over recent weeks.

The project initially saw the distribution of 16000 disposable masks throughout Wellington, Hutt Valley and Porirua as a first phase response to the announcement of mandatory mask wearing as part of the recent lockdown.

Hutt Valley DHB and Capital & Coast DHB Māori Health Service Planning & Integration Managers Korena Wharepapa-Vulu & Anita Tagget helped co-ordinate the project.

The aim was to get as many masks out in to the community by using local community provider as distribution and collection points for those in need and help alleviate any mask poverty.

Phase 2 was about finding a sustainable alternative solution by approaching local community groups to source materials and sew reusable ones.

“We wanted to be able to look after our whānau, and our whenua,” Korena said.

Established community groups, such as Kōkiri Marae Health Services, Te Rūnanganui o Te Āti Awa, Pacific Health Service, Nāku Ēnei Tamariki and many other local providers throughout the region, all contributing to the distribution of masks through their services with a focus on supporting Māori, Pacific and disabled peoples.

Kathy Samuel, 70, got stuck into sewing as part of the Pomare Sewing Group with her mokopuna, Aaliyah Tamatea-Samuels, 22.

“I’ve always enjoyed sewing,” Kathy said. “After the last big lockdown last year, I was asked if I would teach them how to sew the masks.”

Aaliyah said she “couldn’t sew at all before I started here, and now I can make masks like a pro”.

Attaching elastic is the most time-consuming bit.

Pomare Taita Community Trust representative Twiggy Johnston said the key was encouraging community groups to support their own projects.

“We work with the community to hear their voice, to hear what they want.

“Especially for Kathy being right here. It’s great to have her expertise and for everyone’s wellbeing to work together.”