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The Youth Employment Service (YES) and Exemplar REITail are joining forces in a shared vision to protect vulnerable township communities from the spread of Covid-19 by creating and donating ‘home-sewn’ face masks.

The partnership will see a multitude of Alex-based seamstresses earning an income through the making of these masks. “We are proud of this partnership and the contribution to the protection of these communities while supporting and stimulating township economies during this very difficult time,” says Dr Tashmia Ismail-Saville, YES Chief Executive.

CEO of Exemplar, Jason McCormick states, “As a community-centric organisation, we want to ensure as many people as possible have access to masks to help reduce the viral load being shared in public spaces in order to help slow the spread of the virus.”

#MasksforGood is an awareness campaign being rolled out nationally to encourage as many South Africans as possible to “#maskup”. Masks are viewed as one of the effective tools to protect some of the most economically vulnerable citizens across the globe.

“As we navigate this pandemic, we are doing everything in our power to protect our communities. #MasksforGood is just another of the many steps we have already taken to protect those that don’t necessarily have the means to protect themselves,” says Jason.

Alex Mall in Alexandra, Gauteng will be the pilot project for the distribution of masks to the community. The initial roll out of masks is being funded exclusively by personal donations from Exemplar staff, including the CEO, COO and various others in senior management.

The first 20 000 masks are anticipated to be distributed by mid-April and thereafter a campaign will be driven via crowdfunding, giving South Africans who want to play a meaningful role in the fight against COVID-19, an opportunity to do so, as the initiative is rolled out across numerous other townships and rural areas.

Each participating seamstress is being supplied with 50m of medical grade cotton fabric, a pattern and instructions on how to sew the masks. Armed with only a pair of scissors and a sewing machine, they will be able to sew in excess of 1000 masks each. Exemplar will then buy the completed masks back directly from these township entrepreneurs, helping stimulate the local economies within which they operate. The re-usable, washable masks (with care instructions) will then be distributed to the vulnerable communities surrounding the various #MasksforGood initiatives countrywide.

Marketing Manager for Alex Mall, Lily Bophela, says the #MasksforGood initiative is a way to provide the community with protective face masks that will help limit the spread of the disease in Alexandra. “We are appealing to our community to #maskup and protect each other while protecting themselves. Each step we take to fight the spread of this virus will have an impact and we need to work together to keep our families, friends and colleagues safe and healthy,” concludes Lily.

YES is a pioneering, business-driven initiative which has partnered with government and labour to tackle South Africa’s youth unemployment crisis and drive youth employability. YES has already generated over R1.4bn in youth salaries across 35 000 jobs in its first year of operation. It is a not-for-profit company which has no government funding and has been supported by over 650 businesses since inception. Over 150 of these businesses have gained levels up on their B-BBEE scorecards.

Exemplar is a market leading retail REIT, managing 27 assets within township and rural areas, servicing between 10 and 15 million shoppers a month.

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