SPAR Zimbabwe has contracted community development groups to make reusable, washable face masks. Working from home, the women of these community projects produced 1,000 masks, which were then distributed to people in need in Mbare, Chtinugwiza, and Mabvuku. This community outreach not only benefited the health and safety of shoppers and store team members but also helped create a source of income for the women involved in making the masks.
At the end of April 2020, as part of an ongoing effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in Zimbabwe, the Ministry of Health issued a statement requiring everyone to wear a mask outside of their home, and especially in public spaces.
This resulted in organisations and retail outlets putting up notices overnight with the message, “No Mask, No Entry.” For many people in Zimbabwe, access to a reusable mask is limited, while disposable masks are even more difficult to come by.
In some high-density areas, the “No Mask, No Entry” rule had the opposite effect of protecting people, as shoppers anxious to get into the store to buy basic commodities paid people coming out of the store to hand over their used disposable masks.
SPAR Zimbabwe sought to support the health and wellbeing of shoppers and team members by phasing the “No mask, No entry” message in over a period of a week. During that week, SPAR also ordered 1,000 washable masks from community development centres, whose usual livelihood of making art and trinkets for the tourist market had disappeared.
The order gave these groups a much-needed income and gave them the opportunity to develop their mask-making techniques. SPAR Zimbabwe has since received numerous enquiries that they have been able to pass on to these community initiatives.
Although the masks were intended to be handed out for free at store entrances, one of the young designers from the SPAR Zimbabwe Marketing Department, Odonnell Manengureni, came with a bigger proposal.
“I know how it feels not to have the basics in life. Working for SPAR and seeing all the good that we do for communities that are really in need, I felt it was also an opportunity for me to give back”, Odonnell Manengureni said.
“When I realised that SPAR had engaged women from Murehwa and Marondera communities to handmake masks, I thought of where I came from, and felt we could make a difference by handing out these masks for free to communities that could not afford to purchase or have one made.”
And so Odonnell and some members of his church youth group took it upon themselves to take the masks to the people who really needed them, bearing testament to the ethos of SPAR – “Better Together”. SPAR Zimbabwe has since ordered more masks and plans to do this exercise again soon.