One night in April, at the height of the coronavirus crisis in the UK, Tammy Marashi was sitting at the kitchen table with her husband, an anaesthetist at a hospital in Glasgow.
After a long shift, her husband was lamenting the critical shortage of personal protective equipment, or PPE, that NHS key workers need to safely treat COVID-19 patients. In particular, his hospital was in urgent need of protective face visors.
“He was just telling me, ‘This is awful — I’m going back to work tomorrow, and there’s no PPE, there’s no visors,’” Tammy says. “I asked him to show me how the visor worked, and I realised we had everything we needed to build one right under the kitchen sink. So I just sat down and got to work.”
A new way to pitch in
Tammy is the Managing Director of Smiley Stars Nursery in Glasgow, Scotland. And now, she organises a small group of home assembly lines making protective visors for NHS workers.
Tammy and the Smiley Stars Nursery team have been crafting homemade protective visors, delivering boxes of the critical supplies to hospitals and care homes across Glasgow. Since April, the Smiley Stars team have built and delivered over 550 visors.
Smiley Stars Nurseries operate two locations in Glasgow, and many of the parents in their community are key NHS workers at the nearby Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. When the coronavirus first spread throughout the UK, Tammy heard from her husband and the parents at her nurseries about NHS key workers’ dire need for PPE. That’s when she saw an opportunity to step up.
When the child care sector has already provided an invaluable service as key workers in the UK’s coronavirus response efforts, the efforts from the staff at Smiley Stars Nursery is yet another example of the sector going above and beyond in these difficult times.
All hands on deck
Tammy’s visor design came together from a few household objects: A plastic laminate sheet, a small tube of insulation foam, an elastic band from her sewing kit, a few staples and a bit of tape.
That night at her kitchen table, she worked with her husband to craft the first prototype face visor, which medical workers use to protect themselves from airborne virus particles when working with COVID-19 patients.
“Once we made a few visors at home, I took them into the nursery to ask parents what they thought. One of our parents, who is an anaesthetist, said it was exactly what he needed. He asked for ten more, because he was on call at the hospital for the next four days,” Tammy says.
The first day Tammy brought her prototype visor into Smiley Stars, her staff started making more on their lunch break. Over the following days, NHS workers would stop by Smiley Stars in the evenings to pick up their children, as well as boxes of homemade visors for themselves and their colleagues at the hospital.
Smiley Stars Nurseries have stayed open throughout the pandemic, supporting the local hospital by caring for the children of NHS workers. During the first weeks of the pandemic, Tammy worked 11 hours a day, together with her Operations Manager, to care for NHS key workers’ children.
“We looked at it like two aunties taking care of the children. We love the children. They’re gorgeous, God bless them,” Tammy says.
Getting the family involved
Now, most of Smiley Stars’ PPE production happens at home, around the kitchen table. Tammy’s family works on weekends, running a little assembly line between Tammy and her three daughters. Her 13-year-old, in charge of the laminating machine, scrolls through TikTok and practices new dance moves as she waits for more plastic sheets to come down the line. Together, Tammy estimates her family can make about 30 visors an hour.
“It’s a good bonding time — there’s a lot of banter and laughter in the process. I’m working on the TikTok dances with my daughter, but I’m not sure I’m ready to debut my choreography quite yet,” she laughs.
Soon enough, Tik Tok became a tool to help, too. Tammy’s 13-year-old and 24-year-old daughter made a Tik Tok video that serves as an instruction manual for making the protective visors. Their hope is that it will give others in the UK and abroad a way to help their key workers in the coronavirus response.
Going the extra mile
Smiley Stars’ work underscores the critical work that the child care sector has done to support other key workers in the wider coronavirus response. Their nurseries, like thousands of other settings across the UK, are helping NHS key workers show up for their shifts with a clear head and full energy. And as they deliver Tammy’s homemade visors to Glasgow’s hospitals and care homes, Smiley Stars is going one extra step to keep the rest of us safe.
But for Tammy, it’s all part of the job.
“It just seems like if we don’t do our job, we can’t get out of this,” Tammy says. “We’ve all got to pull together and play our part, and it’s been lovely to see how thankful everyone has been so far.”
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