It’s something small and hardly noticed. And most of us who don’t have to wear surgical masks for excessively long periods of time may not even recognise it.
But the humble ear saver is a blessing for many in the frontline fight against Covid-19.
And now a group of volunteers wants to make it available to anyone who needs one, free of charge.
Calling themselves The Neighbourhood Spideys, the team of five students and alumni from Singapore Polytechnic wanted to do something for the community by 3-D printing ear savers.
Kym, one of the founders of The Neighbourhood Spideys tells The Pride that the team wanted to make sure that no one would be left behind.
She says: “We wanted to reach out to as many people in the community as possible. At the same time, we also hoped to spread a little community spirit by letting everyone know that they are not alone. Most importantly, we believe that this is a collective community effort and we welcome anyone who would like to join us in spreading a little community spirit!”
A little community spirit
Since starting the initiative in May, the team now has a volunteer pool of around 33 people. Most own or have access to 3-D printers while the rest help administration, publicity and outreach, as well as handling deliveries.
So why give themselves such a unique name?
Kym laughs: “One of our core group members, Gideon, got the idea from (Marvel’s) Spider-Man! More specifically, (from Peter Parker’s self-referential comment) ‘Just your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man’!”
“We liked the idea of being friendly and like your regular neighbourhood person who helps everyone whenever you have problems! Furthermore, just like Spider-Man, we believe in helping others from the shadows and putting the spotlight more on the act of doing good rather than focusing on the people behind the project.”
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Reaching out to frontliners
Within a span of one and a half months, The Neighbourhood Spideys managed to 3-D print two versions (one each for disposable and reusable masks) of the ear adapters and distributed over 7,000 units to frontliners working in the community.
These people include staff at hospitals and nursing centres, bus drivers, supermarkets workers and most recently, school employees and individual hawkers around Singapore.
But the group is not done.
Kym says: “We hope to reach out to more people in the next few months and we are also in the midst of experimenting with 3-D printing mask visors (like those they give out to primary school children).”
More than just the desire to help
One thing that really encouraged the team was finding out that there were many like-minded people looking for ways to be kind.
Says Kym: “We have seen many Singaporeans reaching out to us offering to help, either through donations or connecting us with more individuals and organisations or even by providing their 3-D printers for printing.
“Many Singaporeans actually are very willing to step up to help, but sometimes we just lack the ‘how-to’.”
Not that everything was smooth-sailing though.
Kym says: “Initially, many individuals and organisations doubted our intentions because we are young and willing to fund our initiatives out of our own pockets. Their first questions tended to be, ‘It’s free? Really? Why is it free?’.”
She adds that some organisations questioned the group’s intentions; others, especially those more bureaucratic and complex ones, had many rules and regulations to comply with and providing them with the free ear adapters was hard.
Says Kym: “I just think that the world needs to have a little more faith and not be so guarded and believe that people can do kind things simply out of goodwill.
“Personally, I have learnt that credibility is very important as well. We needed a platform that would support our credibility and thankfully SP was able to help us out with that.”
Raising awareness and outreach is key
The Neighbourhood Spideys welcomes donations in the form of money or filament rolls, but is asking for help in spreading the news so that the team can connect with more individuals and organisations in need of ear adapters.
Kym says: “Thus far, our publicity is done mainly through Instagram direct messages, e-mails and via personal contacts.
“It is hard to connect with people who need these ear adapters as not everyone is on social media. Hence, we would really appreciate it if anybody out there can connect us with people who need these ear adapters and help us spread the word!”
Keep spreading kindness
“We believe that kindness makes the world go around. And we’re really glad to be able use our resources and skills to do something small for our community and spread a little kindness!” says Kym.
“We’re not sure how far or long The Neighbourhood Spideys will go on for. But for now, we just hope to reach and help as many people as we can with the current funds we have.”
The team also wants to spread a little kindness and community spirit to let frontliners know that they are not alone. Says Kym: “We’re also looking at how we can get the public involved by consolidating their words of appreciation via an online platform, which we will pass it on to the people that are receiving the ear adapters.”
Know of anyone in need of ear adapters or if you have a 3-D printer and would like to help? Reach out to The Neighbourhood Spideys here.