By Faten Omar
KUWAIT: People across Kuwait are contributing their time, effort and creativity to helping frontliners do their job. One young Kuwaiti woman decided to apply her love of crochet to creating ear savers as a thank you for medical staff forced to wear masks for hours at a time. Reem Bastaki, 30, an engineer who graduated from Ohio State University and works with Kuwait National Petroleum Company (KNPC), came up with the idea of creating ear savers for medical workers in Kuwait after seeing similar devices in the news abroad.
Speaking to Kuwait Times, Bastaki said that since the beginning of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) spread in Kuwait in late February 2020, and while watching the situation escalate, her heart went out to the medical workers and frontliners helping out.
“When I saw the ear savers trending around the world to help medical workers, I couldn’t help but spread the word and started the project immediately with no hesitation. I have a background in crochet and knitting, and I’m happy to offer the ear saver to all in need,” she explained.
“Ear savers are meant to protect the ears from the elastic band of the mask that tucks behind the ears. This band can cause irritation, especially after wearing for long hours. It basically stretches out the band so it is no longer in contact with the ear.”
Bastaki added that as a hijab wearer, she noticed that her friends and family were uncomfortable with working for long hours with face mask “With ear savers, you can wear the mask on top of the hijab instead of under it which makes it much more convenient for most people.”
The ear saver is made from 100 percent cotton yarn using crochet techniques and is easy to wash. Each order includes a message asking the user to wash the ear saver regularly and to remember that it is for personal use only. Bastaki has received many orders from Kuwait hospitals, health centers, co-ops’ workers, airport workers, departments within the Ministry of Interior, banks, people in home lockdown and others.
“I started the project on April 27, 2020 and to date, we distributed 560 ear savers where the total is 1,450 in progress, so far,” she said. “The ear savers are distributed for free for whoever needs them within Kuwait, and I’m not accepting any money even when it’s offered. Instead, I’m asking everyone who places an order to trade me with unwanted buttons of theirs if possible to continue producing more.” Bastaki was happy with the positive feedback she received where people started collecting buttons for her to continue the work.
Regarding the safety measures, she said “Safety measures are my top priority during the work due to the current situation of COVID-19, by following Ministry of Health instructions. All my pieces are sanitized upon packaging where I have my gloves and face mask on. I’m only accepting pick up orders and no delivery, taking into consideration social distancing policies and to limit contact with others.”
She concluded “I’d like to thank all crochet makers in Kuwait so much who supported this project and are helping me to cover the number of orders. This is the least I can do for my country who offered so much to me all these years, and I hope my small act makes a difference and makes someone smile today until we no longer need to walk around with face masks. Then maybe we can turn our ear saver into cup holders. Think about recycling!”
Several doctors were pleased with the straps that help keep the elastic bands of masks from rubbing their ears. Dr Muneera, a periodontist at Amiri Dental Center said that the ear saver is very convenient for those wearing hijab, especially as she now wears a face mask all day without feeling any pain.
Dr Wafaa, volunteer at Kuwait International Airport affirmed that the piece was a helpful gift, saying “It is really handy and useful for long working hours. It also makes you look neat. I’d recommend everyone, especially women that wear hijab to try it out, you won’t regret it!”
Arun Ravi, who works at the cytology lab in Al-Sabah Hospital as a Lab Technician and Dr Taiba Al-Hasan works at Faiha clinic agreed with the others, saying that their ear pain was reduced when wearing masks with ear savers.