In the store, customers were urged to observe the one-metre apart rule in order to stop the spread of the virus, and a tall muscular entrance guard sanitised customers’ hands and the trolley handles.

Upon getting into the store, Bongani suddenly felt like a kid in a candy store. He had visited the shop a multitude of times, but on that particular day, it felt like his first time. The shelves towered above him like the Great Wall of China, and the wide empty aisles reminded him of images of the Nile valley that he had seen in a school textbook. He grabbed the essentials, which mainly consisted of cleaning materials and food, and filled his trolley. Another stout store worker moved around with a blaring loudspeaker, urging customers to speed up their buying in order to accommodate the thronging queue outside.

Upon approaching the array of till operators, an idea suddenly hit Bongani. It was regarding the attire of the staff. They were adorned in immaculate uniforms and peculiar masks that covered their mouths. It was meant to curb the spread of the virus.

“Next customer please,” a light-skinned cashier said, beckoning Bongani with her smiling eyes that gleamed of kindness. “How are you today?” she asked whilst proceeding to move his goods across the scanner.

Bongani was pleasantly shocked at such impeccable service. He quietly thought about how much those working at a time like that deserved a red carpet treatment for their dedication and commitment. The mask had captivated Bongani, so he took a picture of it as per her approval. His business flair had been sparked.

At midday, Bongani reached home after surviving the scorching heat. A vision of the face mask that the cashier was wearing was still etched in his memory, and that made his mind restless in a surprisingly pleasant way. He delivered the groceries to the kitchen, and head straight for the internet to research about prevention masks. The myriad of information he dug up was mind opening, and his mind-set was set on designing a more effective face mask to help reduce the spread of the virus.

“What’s wrong with the current mask being used, Bongani?” Musa innocently asked.

“It covers a smaller surface area of the face. I want to come up with a more preventive shield for the whole face,” Bongani responded, savouring the sudden flow of ideas rushing through his mind.

While working, Bongani felt it was no longer time to be asking what was being done for him, but what he was doing to improve the situation during the crisis. Musa, who was studying Fashion and Fabrics, advised him about how thicker cotton would help alleviate the passing of the virus. She drafted up a few sketches which covered more surface area of the face, and they both used them as possible solutions before settling on the final solution. Innovation combined with passion was taking over.

Movement in the community was restricted, so the following day, Bongani decided to sew what he had on paper on his mother’s sewing machine. This crisis needed the creativity and mobilisation of every resource they had. He used some t-shirts that he no longer wore to make his sample designs, and after that, he posted the pictures on the internet. Within a few hours, he got a multitude of views, including an investor who was willing to sponsor his project. Bongani was over the moon with joy.

“How did you know about this project?” Bongani asked his investor, who had already injected his first cash donation into Bongani’s bank account for the project to start.

“I’m Mr Mahofa’s brother, so my nephew shared it on Facebook, and it caught my attention,” the investor responded. “My fashion business acumen is telling me that it is a lucrative investment, plus it is for a worthy cause, so I’ll cover all the necessary costs.”

After a while, Bongani was exhilarated as he shuffled into the colourful exhibition of prevention masks that was organised and hosted by Mr Mahofa’s company. He felt elated as various stakeholders shook his hand, endorsed and funded his mask design, describing it as a vital and timely innovation.


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