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Police officer supplies village with homemade masks

Sunday April 19 2020

Police Constable Caroline Makena

Police Constable Caroline Makena display masks she sews at Tot Police Station in Elgeyo-Marakwet County on April 17, 2020. The masks are distributed free to the public to combat spread of coronavirus. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

EVANS KIPKURA
By EVANS KIPKURA
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An officer at Tot Police Station in Elgeyo-Marakwet has received praise for using her spare time to make free face masks in the wake of the dreaded coronavirus.

Ms Caroline Makena, 29, who has been serving at the station located deep in Marakwet East since February 2016, has become the talk of village because her craft which she uses to help local residents.

During a visit to the police station on Friday, the Nation found Ms Makena hard at work sewing after returning from a routine patrol.

The police constable, who is also the only female officer there, said she had been pushed to employ skills she learned before joining the service after noticing that locals were struggling to get the masks.

“I asked a matatu driver to bring me a mask from Eldoret after failing to get it in the nearby shops and he brought two which cost me Sh200,” says Makena.

After examining the masks, she said she immediately knew she could also make them because she had been a tailor before.

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“With the skills I had acquired in tailoring and dressmaking at Meru National Polytechnic before joining the police service, I knew I could make the required three-layer masks to save me from buying them,” she said.

She then bought pieces of the canvas carrier bags and borrowed a sewing machine and got started.

Ms Makena said with the urgent and dire need for masks in Tot area, she decided to produce them because it was hard for such essentials to reach the people owing to the remoteness of the valley.

“Surprisingly, when I visited the nearby hospital three weeks ago when I started making masks, I was told by health workers that they don’t have even a single one to protect themselves,” she said.

Ms Makena requested her boss at the station to allow her to make masks in addition to her normal duties and he consented.

“A friend lent me a sewing machine to use it until we combat this virus and I used a section of our Children and Gender office as my working place. I then bought 100 shopping carrier bags and added the tetron cloth material and a canvas one,” she said.

She said with the help of her friend, Ms Esther Morangiri who lives in the station quarters, she produced 50 masks on the first day and started distributing them free of charge to boda boda riders and women in the market.

“This is a purely voluntary work which I fund it using the little amount I can save from my daily expenditure. To me, human life comes first,” said the officer.

She has also started training women in the market on how to make the masks they can sell cheaply.

“When officer Makena visited me and asked if I was interested in making masks, I gladly accepted. I have learnt the skill and I can now produce more than 50 of them per day,” says Caroline Jepkosgei Kibor, a tailor at Tot shopping centre.

Ms Kibor says she sells the masks at Sh50 to those who can pay and supplies others free of charge to members of the public who cannot afford them.

Elgeyo Marakwet police Commander John Mwinzi applauded the officer, saying it was high time members of the public join hands with security officers and administrators to fight Covid-19.

“I am glad an officer in my area of jurisdiction has been smart enough to come up with such an idea. Together we will win the fight with such little skills and effort,” said Mr Mwinzi.

Tot sub -county  deputy County Commissioner Leenus Rotuk said they will find ways to help Constable Makena produce more masks to cover the entire Kerio Valley region which is still grappling with insecurity issues.

“The fight against the novel coronavirus is a multi-agency operation that brings together all members of our security team, the administration and members of the public. Together we believe we can win it,” said Mr Rutok.

When Constable Makena was transferred to Tot, it safe to say she wasn’t the happiest human being in the world.

 “I came to Tot when cases of insecurity were high. There were frequent attacks, killings and cattle rustling in the area which posed a great challenge to me as a female police officer,” she says.

She said she would sometimes cry throughout the night, asking herself why they had to move her from a safer Kaptagat Police Station in Keiyo South to Tot which to her seemed very insecure and extremely hot.

But soon, Ms Makena, who was born and brought up in Moitena village in Meru County, embraced the place and the challenge thanks to encouragement from her colleagues.