To the volunteers who helped make PPE for Aruban healthcare workers

by Suyin Ridderstaat

Even though we knew Covid-19 was heading our way, there was a difference in knowing and realizing. On Friday March 13, I was still working with the interns at the makerspace, Brenchie’s Lab, even kidding about it. Monday we were forced into realization and planning what to pick up to work from home. Here we were; suddenly home. While we all were still in a daze of comprehending what was happening, Metabolic Foundation came up with such a compassionate but also urgent initiative, to help make personal protective equipment for frontline workers.

We jumped into action by calling out to anyone who owned 3D printers and could start printing face shields for our hospitals and healthcare workers. So we began creating solutions before the escalation of the problem in Aruba, while in many countries they were running out of protective gear and many frontline medical workers had and still have no option but to put themselves and others in danger to be able to do their job and help. These doctors and nurses even make harsh but necessary decisions of not living at home to keep their families safe, being around death the whole time and away from their families.

In an article in Reuters on the 6th of May, the International Council of Nurses (ICN) stated that at least 90,000 healthcare workers worldwide are believed to have been infected with Covid-19, and possibly twice that, amid reports of continuing shortages of protective equipment. The 90,000 estimate is based on information collected on 30 countries from national nursing associations, government figures and media reports. The ICN represents 130 national associations and more than 20 million registered nurses.

As you can see, there is an urgency to provide protective gear, to keep our healthcare team safe as they look after our island population. So, all these volunteers had their 3D printers and working day and night. Over the period between March 22 and April 9th, 12 volunteers worked to make and deliver more than 1200 face shields and safety glasses to different health departments of Aruba. 

By March 27th, with help from Aruba DOET, we put a call out for sewing volunteers to make surgical caps and gowns. In total about 50 sewing angels volunteered to sew and provide almost 5000 caps and 500 gowns and protective suits for hospital workers. Many thanks go to Little Switzerland & Setar who donated 6000 bags to be sewn into caps, and Futura who paid for the fabric to make surgical gowns. And of course to the individual volunteers who produced around hundreds of caps, gowns and shields.

Volunteers came from all walks of life, young and old, with a variety of nationalities and many going through hard times themselves. These are people who kept sewing in the middle of events in their own lives. Some directly linked to the medical world by having a spouse or having worked themselves in healthcare, ready to sew. Some dusting off their hidden sewing machine and techniques all in the name of helping out. We had volunteers heading towards insecure financial times but still sewing on. We had a circle of sewing club friends of 20 years signing up and helping us. We had a volunteer sewing for us waiting to become a grandmother. Many faced their sewing machines breaking down but all fixed them and didn’t give up on sewing. One volunteer even had a 100-year-old Singer machine that she started to use instead to keep sewing. I had the pleasure of communicating with the volunteers and saw their determination first hand. 

Janine and Dilma and her family spent their days picking up the homemade caps and gowns and driving around the neighborhoods in Aruba, which are like mazes. In the most uncertain panic days of being homebound, they went outside anyway to pick up the gear the volunteers had made. Even though the volunteers never got to talk and see each other I could feel the team work and am proud of each of them even though I never met them in person. 

We at Metabolic Foundation would like to thank all of these amazing volunteers front he bottom of our hearts. Thank you for stepping up to the plate when it was most necessary. We were so successful that we could even stop for now and have our hospital stocked up with medical gear.

Danki, Thank you, Dank u, Gracias

Pieter Verduijn, Tony Sevold, Christie Mettes, Jair MacJannet, Angelo Dirksz, Rolf Frolijk, Mark Schevers, Geert van Mil, Orson Oehlers, Joey Oduber, Patrick Fortin, Michelle, Jacob, Ivonne Zavala, Raquel Zavala, Danielle Kole, Saskia Kole de Wolf, Yazmin Arregoces, Adriana Silva, Mari Heinze, Paula, Kim Klatt, Carla Martinus, Aliyuri Granda Navarro, Sra Yeixa Ascanio, Gehisa Sanchez, Claudia, Jacky, Naomi, Jhon, Katia Elguedo, Natalia, Ruby William, Anthony, Madelein, Nayibeth, Flor, Norjavis, Carrol, Mimi, Diego & Janneth, Jilly, Lenie, Simmonette, Zuzana, Rawatti, Verena, Doris, Prisca, Miriam Helder, Wendy, Jantine, Filomena, Dido, Yeimy, Tammy, Magdala, Angela, Giannetta, Susan, Maria, Jaysa, Mari, Senora di Seroe Blanco, Dalgis, Blanca, Inge Adriaan and Dilma, Angel, John, and Austin Arends and family.