As an air traffic controller based at our Swanwick Centre, I usually manage aircraft in a very busy sector of airspace (Channel Sector). However, as millions of people across the world are put on lockdown, the number of flights across the UK has dropped dramatically and I’ve been put on furlough, along with a number of my colleagues.
It’s unusual to have time off like this and I wanted to try and fill it doing something meaningful. A friend told me about a community group looking for volunteers to make urgently needed personal protective clothing for the NHS and care homes, so I got stuck in.
The Hursley community group raised the money to buy official ‘scrubs’ fabric and set about cutting the patterns for the much-needed garments. The group were then tasked to make 1,200 items of which I made just over 80.
Since signing up, my house has been covered with scrubs material and sewing odds and ends! I was given 80 pre-cut scrub trousers and had to think how best I was going to achieve what was needed. I had a clunky start but in a week I’d made over 40 pairs. My partner who is also a controller, was roped in and pressed each seam as we went.
We made thicker red scrubs for Winchester Hospital’s intensive care unit, and some blue, lighter weighted scrubs for Adelaide House NHS Community Hospital.
I have always been able to sew, since I was a teenager and did A-Level fashion. I made my prom-dress, designed it myself and sewed it. The skills and time were there, so I thought why not offer to help.
And yes, going from fashion to air traffic control is probably not the norm. I actually ended up getting a law degree and was working in conveyancing law when I heard about air traffic control from one of my clients who was a Heathrow controller. His job sounded a lot more interesting, so I had a look at the website and applied – and the rest is history.
It’s hard to imagine how you can help during times of pandemic, it’s not something we’re used to, but a lot of personal skills can be put to great use and help the ongoing efforts. I certainly couldn’t have imagined that I’d be sewing scrubs for the NHS a few months ago while I was controlling aircraft, but I’m glad I can do something positive. No matter how small my contribution is, I know it will make a difference.
- Gina made 40 x red trousers for the Intensive Care Unit at Winchester Hospital and 42 x blue trousers for Adelaide Health Centre Southampton
- Took 9 days working 9+ hours at a sewing machine
- Sewed a total of 246 pockets
- 22 volunteers made 600 sets of scrubs (1200 items – both trousers and tunics)
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