Maverick Citizen

CORONAVIRUS LETTER TO EDITOR

A personal mission to help those in the frontline of the battle against Covid-19

A personal mission to help those in the frontline of the battle against Covid-19
A doctor at False Bay Hospital after receiving a face shield. (Photo supplied)

People from all walks of life are rallying around the desperate effort to help stop the spread of the pandemic and protect the lives of those most at risk.

On the evening of 28 March, I got a call from an old friend, Dave Gouws. His tone was urgent. “Sven, we need to help save doctors and nurses. I’ve just read how many were lost in Italy.”

One of the ways he thought we could do this was by producing and distributing face shields. He had seen a design from New York University that was effective and simple to make.

By the following day, I had figured out what materials I needed and started searching for suppliers. I asked, through social media, where I could source plastic sheeting, elastic bands, a laser cutter and a volunteer.

Sven ten Bokkel Huinink wearing one of the face shields he designed and had manufactured. (Photo supplied)

A couple of days later I found a company who had the plastic – the stuff soda bottles are made of – and 100% recyclable. I began harassing Mpact’s managing director Wessel Oelofse. “Hey Wessel, can I buy some PET (polyethylene terephthalate) from you? Hey Wessel, when can I fetch it? Hey Wessel …” 

On 1 April at 7am I texted him again. He replied: “Why the rush?” I texted back, telling him why I needed it. I had the answer I wanted by lunchtime and raced off in my small car to his factory in Paarl ready to fetch 209 kilograms of plastic sheet on a roll. I had no idea what to expect. The load was a lot bigger and heavier than I anticipated, but with the help of a forklift, the roll was squeezed into the back of my car. 

The next day we produced a few samples and took them around to a friend’s medical practice. He took one look and said, “Yep, fine with us. When can we get some?” 

Sven ten Bokkel Huinink’s tiny car groans under the weight of the roll of plastic. (Photo supplied)

In the meantime, I had found a guy with a laser cutter and eventually managed to round up five more people prepared to help out. It wasn’t fair to ask them to work without pay and I managed to raise a bit of cash. One of my kitesurfing buddies donated R5,000, we put some money in ourselves and off we went.

On 2 April we did our first deliveries after having produced around 250 of the plastic shields. We did drop-offs at the local ambulance service, False Bay Hospital, doctors’ rooms, you name it.

We were on a roll, producing and distributing as fast as we could. Word quickly got out and we began getting requests for shields from all over, including Zimbabwe. It was wonderful and gratifying for all of us involved.

Wessel told me that from 15 April, they too would start producing face shields. This was great news. We were just a bunch of cowboys filling a vacuum until the Wessels of this world got stuck in and started production on a much larger scale. 

We had a meeting and decided to finish our stock of PET plastic and then let the big boys take over. On Good Friday we tallied up the numbers and realised that we had produced and distributed, in only 10 days, more than 3,500 free face shields around Cape Town.

We would like to express our gratitude to our two main donors, Wolfgang Bergbauer and Bert Bolkenstein, without whom we wouldn’t have been able to do what we did. DM/MC

Sven ten Bokkel Huinink is a 54-year-old Dutchman who has worked in the intellectual property field. He loves animals and believes that Cape Town is the most amazing place on Earth.

Gallery

"Information pertaining to Covid-19, vaccines, how to control the spread of the virus and potential treatments is ever-changing. Under the South African Disaster Management Act Regulation 11(5)(c) it is prohibited to publish information through any medium with the intention to deceive people on government measures to address COVID-19. We are therefore disabling the comment section on this article in order to protect both the commenting member and ourselves from potential liability. Should you have additional information that you think we should know, please email [email protected]"

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