So how exactly did Loft 25 find itself involved in producing PPE for the NHS?
The voluntary movement began when medical professionals started turning up to Zhagam’s house, asking him if his company could produce much-needed PPE supplies on the nation’s behalf.
“There were doctors turning up to my house in Birmingham”, recalls Zhagum.
“Now, we’re by no means a garment manufacturer whatsoever, but they were desperate”.
Zhagum believed that he could help by sourcing the products in need; however, he soon realised that either stocks had sold out entirely, or that manufacturers had closed their factories as a result of social distancing measures.
“So, I had the idea that we could use volunteers working from home; hobbyists and seamstresses who are now off work and who would be willing to help the NHS”.
After reaching out for sewing volunteers, the Loft 25 team had more than 300 people sign up to help on the very first day. Zhagum quickly realised that he had an opportunity to give something back to his local community.
So, he began sourcing fabric from local factories and welcomed previous employees back as helpers to cut patterns ready for the at-home volunteers to sew together.
As the movement gained momentum, how has it been managed?
Managing 1,000+ volunteers cutting, sewing and delivering PPE for the NHS is by no means an easy task, and Zhagum knew that it would require some form of management.
As the very first volunteer on the project, Zhagum’s daughter was an ideal fit with lots of time to spare, having had her all-important GCSEs cancelled as a result of the national lockdown.
She has now been employed by the NHS Birmingham Community Trust, who are replicating the same model by using volunteers to sew PPE.
How has this movement impacted Loft 25?
“I didn’t think about money. I didn’t think about how I would fund it. I viewed it as the chance of a lifetime to do charity work”, says Zhagum.
In fact, Zhagum found himself putting all of his energy into this unexpected opportunity to help his community. He admits to having spent little time working on Loft 25 itself during the pandemic.
Despite this, with a strong eCommerce system in place and with initial supply chain issues appearing to be resolved as suppliers rally behind his efforts, he has seen an increase in orders and support from the general public.
“A lot of companies were looking at this as a business opportunity, they were looking for orders from the NHS or the government. We didn’t wait for any government schemes (or) funding. We just went and did it”.
Zhagum explains that for his staff, being involved in such a worthy and necessary cause has given them the motivation to do their work. “They feel like frontline workers and they’ve never had that feeling before”.
How can you support Loft 25?
If you’re local to the Birmingham area, then check out Loft 25’s campaign page. You’ll find details on all open volunteer roles that the team is looking to fill - from administrative assistants to delivery drivers.
Alternatively, if you want to support your own local NHS in a similar way, reach out to the team and let them share how you can set up a similar movement in your area.
Never has it been more important to give something back, and not to gain exposure or increase the chances of your businesses success, but simply because it is the right thing to do.
“It’s the volunteers that make the project. We just had the idea”.
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