Resident raises nearly £20,000 for NHS Charities – Melissa’s Story

| 05 June 2020

Summary:MTVH resident Melissa Santiago-Val Horwood initially planned to raise £500 for NHS Charities, by making masks for the local community. Now the fundraiser, CommunityMasks4NHS, has now raised nearly £20,000 and made over 3,000 masks.

In April, MTVH resident Melissa Santiago-Val and her friend Jane Horwood decided to set up a fundraiser, CommunityMasks4NHS, in response to the Covid-19 appeal from NHS Charities Together. They initially planned to raise £500 for the charity by making face masks for the local community in exchange for donations on their JustGiving page. Almost two months later, the team of volunteers have now made over 3,000 masks and raised nearly £20,000.

The team initially used their own materials and fabrics to make the masks and gathered locally donated materials and, as demand grew, they began raising money for supplies and postage.

MTVH supported this initiative by donating and sourcing fabric from local suppliers for hundreds of face masks. Along with the finance ial support, MTVH colleagues provided advice on how this type of project might run and other resources that can support the team.

Melissa gave special mention to MTVH Regional Community Co-ordinator Jade-Anne for “all the inspiring and completely wonderful efforts that she has made through MTVH to support this initiative, and also me as a tenant.

“From sign-posting confidence-building courses to sending links to help consider how we might expand the initiative post Covid-19, her support has been totally amazing.”

Melissa and Jane volunteered regularly for different organisations prior to the Covid-19 crisis, but CommunityMasks4NHS is the first community initiative they have led, which now comprises over 50 volunteers. Melissa is a former trustee and volunteer at local charity HomeStart and is now working towards providing free masks to all the families the charity supports, made with MTVH’s donated fabric.

CommunityMasks4NHS is a huge community effort that involves a large cross section of volunteers – students, teachers, retired people, those who are shielding, and a number of people who are furloughed or self-employed and want to contribute.

Melissa and Jane wanted to make this initiative inclusive for all types of volunteers, particularly for local community members who would like to participate but cannot easily access digital communication platforms. In response to this challenge, she has been calling those hard-to-reach volunteers and arranging for people to pick up and drop off materials to and from their homes. Those who are unable to sew can also participate by cutting, washing, and ironing materials for the masks.

There was an overwhelming response from donors and volunteers, and their Facebook page has been populated with photos of people who have received their face masks – including some famous faces like Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood and author Lucy Hawking. The masks have been sent to donors across the UK, as well as Portugal, Spain, and France. CommunityMasks4NHS is currently working on a documentary about their fundraising and mask-making efforts with local Cambridge filmmakers.

Donations to NHS Charities Together go toward various Covid-19 response activities including wellbeing rooms for NHS workers, tablets for patients to use to communicate with their loved ones, and games and activities for young patients.

Melissa believes that CommunityMasks4NHS has created “a sense of purpose for people within the community”, and she is now planning how this project can transform into a longer term social enterprise after the need for fundraising and face coverings is filled