Keralities would not have forgotten the Chekkutty dolls, the small cloth dolls with a smiling face that stood out as a symbol of hope during the 2018 floods. The dolls, which were made from damaged cloth to help out the flood-struck weavers of Chendamangalam handloom, were the brainchild of Ernakulam native Lakshmi Menon. She is now back with an innovation which is the need of the hour. Lakshmi has made bedrolls named ‘Shayya’ to be used by COVID-19 patients in First Line Treatment Centres as beds.
The bedrolls are created from the scrap that accumulates while making Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that would otherwise be thrown out as garbage.
Just like mats in appearance, the ‘Shayya’ are suitable for one person to comfortably lie on. It is made by braiding the leftover pieces collected from tailoring units which produce PPE in Kerala. After making braids from the pieces by hand, these are joined together in the similar fashion of a cloth mat. 35 metres of such braids will be required to create one bedroll.
Lakshmi, founder of Pure Living Foundation, came up with the zero investment innovation at a time when the Kerala government has started hundreds of First Line Treatment Centres (FLTCs), considering the spike in the number of COVID-19 patients. She now supplies the ‘Shayya’ or bedrolls to panchayats free of cost to be used in such FLTCs instead of regular mattresses that are often hard to disinfect.
“Through some of my friends, I got to know that units making PPE are struggling to dispose of the waste generated. It is during this time that officials of Amballur panchayat approached me, asking if we can supply some beds to the FLTCs. I was already in the process of making bedrolls with cloth at that time, but then this idea of making similar bedrolls using PPE scrap struck me and it has now become fruitful,” Lakshmi tells TNM.
Lakshmi says that these bedrolls can be easily disinfected after use with a soap solution and can then be used by others. “The material is also very comfortable as there is a fluffiness to it due to the small air space created while braiding the plastics together,” she adds.
She explains that units which make PPE supplied her tonnes of materials free of cost. “Not only is this waste management, it also creates an essential material at minimum cost,” Lakshmi says.
Though Lakshmi started the project only a week ago, she has already given employment opportunities to 10 women who lost their jobs due to the lockdown.
“At present, I'm supplying this free of cost to Amballur panchayat, but I pay Rs 300 per day to each employee from my own pocket. But many others, even from Bengaluru and Assam, have contacted me asking if I can make it for them. I have asked them to look for local PPE making units so that it can be made locally,” Lakshmi says.
Lakshmi is also training Kudumbashree units in Ernakulam so that they can replicate the model and supply similarly made bedrolls to more FLTCs.