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Indian expat Abdul Jabbar stitching PPEs for Dubai workers. Image Credit: Supplied

Sharjah: While many might have foundd it difficult to spend the long Eid holidays staying indoors in an effort to check the spread of COVID-19, an Indian expat in the UAE found it to be the most worthwhile break.

A Dubai hospital operation theatre assistant, Abdul Jabbar from Kerala set himself a target to stitch 100 masks, 41 pairs of leggings and 63 hoods for fellow workers engaged in the COVID-19 combat.

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The PPEs made by Jabbar Image Credit: Supplied

He said he took one day to cut the material for these items, while he spent the rest of the four days stitching them to perfection.

The Sharjah-based Jabbar has since mid-March stitched and gifted more than 1,230 pieces of such PPEs, including masks, leggings and hoods. This is in addition to the special hoods with inbuilt face shields as well as several shoe covers he has made.

Jabbar said he was initially motivated to make masks after he heard the Chief Minister of Kerala Pinarayi Vijayan urging people back home to stitch and donate masks.

“I felt it was a good suggestion and wanted to try and implement here,” said Jabbar, who himself is a COVID-19 warrior.

“It was not because our hospital was not supplying PPEs. No matter how big or small, every contribution matters at the time of a pandemic. So I thought of doing my bit.”

No training in tailoring

With no training in tailoring, Jabbar decided to try his hand at making these PPEs with his experience in mending torn clothes for his wife and children.

“He is a master of many jobs that he has not been trained in,” said his wife Rahiyanath.

“Long ago, he had tried to stitch dresses for us just by observing the readymade clothes. He did the same with masks and other PPEs also,” she said.

She said her husband dusted out her old sewing machine when the stay-home campaign began in the UAE.

“He has a knack for stitiching. He studied how a mask is made and started stitching them. Later, he brought samples of hoods and shoe leggings from the hospital and started making them also,” she said.

Safe and sustainable material

Jabbar also found a sustainable and safe way of making these PPEs by using sterile, water proof sheets that cover sterile items in the operation theatre. He also employs plastic-nylon sheets used in gynaecology wards, he explained.

“These materials were being discarded earlier as they are only used to cover other items,” said Jabbar who has now repurposed them.

He said he gifted the masks mainly to cleaners and security staff in the hospital.

Since the material is of high-quality, the masks can be even reused after washing, he said.

Long hours of dedication

“Initially, I used to make these PPEs after returning home around 11.30pm and during the morning hours. I used to leave for work around 2pm.”

During Ramadan and Eid holidays, he got more time on his hands to work on the PPEs. But he is careful about not disturbing others.

“He is very particular that the noise of the sewing machine should not disturb our neighbours on the floor below us during odd hours. So, he keeps the machine on the bed while stitching at night,” said Rahiyanath.

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Jabbar keeps the sewing machine on his bed at night, so the noise doesn't disturb neighbours Image Credit: Supplied

Jabber who came to the UAE in 1982 had hit the headlines in 2002 too when he made replicas of Dubai landmarks using plastic telephone cards. He said he is set to retire within a year.