Hundreds join mask-making initiative

Brabant's mask initiates
Photo credit: Omroepbrabant/Brabant Mondmasker Initiatief

People all across the province are stepping up to help prevent the spread of this novel coronavirus strain. For example, the Brabant Mask Initiative.

This organisation, based in Den Bosch, can now make 400 face masks and around 40 to 50 protective gowns per day.  The volunteer project hopes to triple production soon. A week ago, Marc Schoutens was still worried.

Together, with dozens of volunteers, he made hundreds of face masks. But few people wanted them. That has now changed. “A lot of people and organisations have come forward. They can use mouth masks and protective jackets,” he says. “At the moment we have more requests than we can supply.”

Volunteers lining up to help

There’s a need to scale up. Fortunately, in addition to buyers for the masks and coats, new volunteers are also coming forward. People who want to do something for the initiative are joining. Hans Smulders is one such example. He’s a reservist with the Ministry of Defence. He tries to arrange extra workspace and more volunteers through his network.

“We’re thinking about those people who are now at home now, due to the corona crisis. Or the veteran associations, for example.” And not just for making these masks. “Marc was worried about whether there was enough coffee and tea for the volunteers when the group grew. But he shouldn’t worry about that, of course. We’ll take care of that.”

Scaling up is the priority now. “There’s just not enough protection,” Marc says. “I hear stories of caregivers who are buying raincoats from Action, to be able to do their job with some protection.” That’s unacceptable, he feels. “My father lives in a nursing home; he’s being bathed by people without protection. Unbelievable.”

The goal’s to make more masks

So the goal’s to make more masks and protective gowns, even if they don’t have the CE mark. The Brabant Mask initiative adds this disclaimer to each item they produce. The fabric used has been tested by the Delft University of Technology though. “We don’t have time for bureaucracy,” says Marc. “In times of war, you have to think practically.” Smulders adds, “Anything’s better than doing nothing. We want to scale up quickly, and then you can’t always follow the lines.”

Marc believes with the extra space and volunteers, the production can be tripled. His plans are even bigger. “I now have four machines in China that can sew the face masks. We want to bring them here.” Although that’s not easy to do, they have big plans. “Then production could be at half a million masks a day.”

Volunteers make masks in Eindhoven

Self-sewn masks aren’t officially approved. But these are better than no masks at all. That is what Maarten Klinkenbijl, an Eindhoven businessman thinks. A few weeks ago he, therefore, started producing face masks with the help of volunteers in the city.

Brabant's mask initiate
Photo credit: Studio040

Due to the corona crisis, Maarten’s business – making fabric covers for festivals & events – has come to a complete standstill. That’s why he’s focusing on the production of face masks. He has the network and knows about fabric and sewing machines.

Maarten’s company Klinkenbijl doesn’t produce medical masks. He makes that very clear. “We produce face masks you can easily make yourself. The Belgian health federation says these face masks are really good. They’re meant for people who work as midwives or caregivers. These people have a lot of contact with others and need protection.”

Packages and instructions

The packages are available for free to anyone who wants to help with production. These can be collected from Inge van Liempd-Rijkers’s sewing machine shop in Geldropseweg. “A lot of seamstresses have already registered with me after I placed a call on Facebook,” she says. Extra instructions are given to the volunteers via an online video call.

Once the face masks are made, they can be returned to Inge’s shop. Then Maarten and Inge make sure they get to the right people. By regulating this themselves, they want to prevent unfair trade practices.

Source: and

Translation and compilation: Chaitali Sengupta, who gives Inburgering classes. Click here for more info.

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