For Malaysian schoolgirl, homework is sewing PPE gowns to help beat coronavirus

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    Nur Afia Qistina Zamzuri, a 9-year-old girl poses for a picture holding a personal protective equipment (PPE) she made for free to medical workers.

    By Ebrahim Harris

    SEREMBAN, Malaysia.  – For a nine-year-old Malaysian schoolgirl, the new coronavirus was hard to fathom. But Nur Afia Qistina Zamzuri knew one thing for sure: It was dangerous.

    So when she heard that a local hospital was looking for people to sew protective gear, she immediately volunteered.

    “I felt bad, so I told my mom I wanted to help,” Nur Afia told Reuters at her home in Kuala Pilah, a town in Malaysia’s southwestern Negeri Sembilan state.

    Nur Afia, who learned to sew at the age of five, can make four full personal protective equipment (PPE) gowns a day, parking herself at a sewing machine between playtime and attending online classes while schools are closed amid a country-wide lockdown.

    Malaysia, which until mid-April had the highest number of coronavirus cases in Southeast Asia, has reported more than 6,600 infections, including over 100 deaths. The country imposed movement curbs to stem the virus outbreak on March 18, though some restrictions were eased earlier this month.

    Since early March, Nur Afia has made 130 gowns for two nearby hospitals.

    Sixty more pieces are on the way, though this month has been more challenging as Nur Afia, whose family is Muslim, observes the Ramadan fasting month.

    Still, fasting has not stopped her, and she often starts sewing after the suhoor pre-dawn meal.

    Nur Afia picked up an interest in sewing after watching her mother Hasnah Hud, a tailor, making clothes in her home business.

    As Nur Afia’s skills improved, she begin earning her own money stitching together pillowcases and patching up torn clothes for the family’s neighbours and relatives.

    Hasnah said her daughter became more motivated after seeing photos of medical workers wearing the gowns she had made.

    “She said ‘Mom, I think I have no school work so I want to sew more’,” Hasnah said.

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