A humble PPE initiative to support NHS frontline staff has quickly become a hub of pop up face shield factories involving 22 schools, one university and 3 commercial businesses across Berkshire.

Raising £28,000 for materials through GoFundMe and delivering over 30,000 shields to date, the partnership has certainly made a difference to almost 500 organisations desperate for vital protective equipment. The shields have been welcomed by hospitals, hospices, care homes, GP surgeries, schools, councils, supermarkets and many other organisations who care for vulnerable people.

With a modest ambition of 200 shields, Head of Design & Technology at Reading-based independent school, Leighton Park, Mark Smith, was aiming to do what he could to help from his workshop over the Easter break.  . Using the DT department’s laser cutter to create re-usable plastic headbands out of polypropylene stock, the team attached disposable PVC sheets donated by the school’s stationery suppliers.

The generosity of the community was matched by the enthusiasm of other schools and organisations.

“I’ve been going into work on this during the evenings as the business is too busy in the day,” said Matt Bargus, 3D CAD designer at Neal’s Export Packaging,. “I really hope it makes a difference. It is a clever design and if it just saves one person it will have been worth it.”

At Denefield  School production accelerated from 200 face shields on day one to a regular daily output of 500.

Bernadine Blease from Berkshire Healthcare responded to their delivery of 500 face shields with the message, “A huge ‘Thank You’ from all at Berkshire Healthcare. I think you could see from the smiles, how happy our teams are with the visors. They like the minimalist design as it’s less hot than the foam-type head bands.”

Gareth Williams, Chief Commercial Officer at Choice Care Group, said: “This pandemic continues to be a running challenge for our homes, but these selfless acts of kindness from the local community are what keeps spirits high and momentum lifted. We all make a living by what we do, but we make a life by what we give. The school should be very proud of that.”

Founder of the initiative Mark Smith said, “It’s such a community effort. I think everyone wants to play a part where they can.”

The work of the face shields initiative attracted the attention of the Mirror, thanks to the pro bono endeavours of Mark Leftly and Christine Longworth at Powerscourt and national television coverage on BBC One’s documentary series, ‘Britain’s Volunteer Army’ presented by Ross Kemp.