Lockdown Heroes: Himachal Pradesh Man Designs Face Shields To Protect Corona Warriors
Dorjee started with his village healthcare centre and now distributes these shields free across the state
Wangdue Dorjee says that he was tired of hearing complaints from people about the novel coronavirus, the threats it poses and how India is ill-prepared to tackle it. "They spoke about the shortfall of beds, personal protection kits (PPEs), medicines, ventilators, even as our doctors and other frontline workers carried on with their jobs with what they had," says the 40-year-old from Bir in Himachal Pradesh's Kangra district.
Merely mulling over shortcomings and not doing anything himself was not an option for Dorjee. "It is our hour of crisis and I felt that I should contribute in a way that would help the people on the frontline," he tells Reader's Digest from Bir.
A start-up owner belonging to the Tibetan community, Dorjee says that he started with a few ideas and zeroed in on making face shields for paramedics, nurses, doctors, police and others.
"I did a bit of research on the internet and learnt how to make these shields from YouTube videos and other sources. I had to improvise because I could work only with what was available to me," he says. That's the reason why the primary material for the first lot of his shields came from soft drink plastic bottles.
“From the very beginning, I intended to make these shields for our corona warriors. People like me and you can stay at home, practise social distancing and wear masks. Our warriors, though, need greater protection as they deal with potential COVID-19 carriers," he says.
The face shield, according to Dorjee, provides full-face protection and fits well on any adult's face. They are designed to guard against any fluid particles entering from the outside. "My shields are not clinically tested but if you see the design, you will find that they are pretty effective. Medical professionals are happy with them," he says.
Dorjee busy at work. (Photo: Wangdue Dorjee)
Initially, he distributed the shields among the local health centre workers, including doctors, and they appreciated them. As he started distributing them in larger numbers in the area, enquiries started pouring in from different parts of the district. These shields are distributed free, and Dorjee says that he has used up his own funds that he had reserved for his start-up called Tibet Foods.
As he looked around for better material to make the shields, he convinced the local officials to allow him to travel. He was able to get curfew passes to go to Palampur, 30 kilometres northwest of Bir, to obtain lamination sheets of superior quality, which are durable—and he stopped using plastic bottles. "That made my life easy. I could also produce more with lamination sheets," he says. He has distributed more than one thousand shields so far.
Local organizations have now stepped in to contribute to the project he calls, 'Salute to Heroes'. One of these organizations is the Tibetan Khampa Industrial Society based in Himachal Pradesh, is sharing material and volunteers with him. "Now with more volunteers joining in and with a few more resources, we will be in a position to produce more shields per day and transport them to many more parts of the state and also outside it," he says.
Even the state government has heard of Dorjee's face shields. Recently, Himachal Pradesh minister Govind Singh Thakur asked him to produce more of these so that they can be distributed in Mandi, Kullu, and Kangra districts.
"The fight has to continue until the virus is defeated, and every citizen has to pitch in," Dorjee says.