Charity chief backs a healthy cover-up for Madagascar

Mask-making enterprise has dual benefit


Members of a Bushey family are making a global contribution to the fight against coronavirus, sewing masks in support of those at risk in Madagascar.

The Jacobs are spearheading a “mask exchange” programme operated by Mark Jacobs’s Seed Madagascar charity.

“Each mask we sell generates £5 and that £5 is enough to go out to Madagascar and pay for five masks locally,” Mr Jacobs explained. “We have been trying lots of different ways to get resources so we can support the preparedness work.”

More than 300 of the fashionable patterned and pleated masks have already been sold and his family is producing around 40 a week.

The charity has also commissioned 7,000 masks from local producers in Madagascar, among them a women’s collective Seed helped to create.

“The masks are the tip of the iceberg,” Mr Jacobs said. “We are producing radio shows every other day; we’ve spread information posters all around the communities; we are working with clinics to provide PPE; we have been installing water points.”

He said planning was essential to limit the spread of the virus — this week, the figures were 4,867 confirmed cases and 35 deaths, including two parliamentarians, although the true numbers were probably higher.

The pandemic has hit Seed hard with the charity forced to postpone one of its main projects, a school construction, because a key donor pulled out leaving a £15,000 shortfall.

Mr Jacobs, a St Albans Masorti member, has been trying to get the Jewish community interested in Madagascar for more than two decades.

Although it was often difficult to get people to engage with causes that were not Israel-based, things were starting to change. Many of those who had purchased masks were Hertfordshire Jews.

The initiative had given Seed “the opportunity to not only produce something that people need but also to engage those around us and make them understand that we are going through this pandemic together. It is global.”


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