Interview with Ashleigh Linsdell founder of "For the Love of Scrubs" - International Nurses Day 2021
May 11, 2021
This week we had the pleasure of sitting down with Ashleigh Linsdell, founder of For the Love of Scrubs and Fresenius Kabi Clinical Account Lead.
Can you tell me about how you came up with the For the Love of Scrubs (FTLOS) initiative ?
“I am the founder of the campaign. It started out as a tiny idea to make scrubs for my work place at the time on the 24.03.20 as I could sew, and knew I was able to make scrubs we so desperately needed in A&E. I put out a call on social media asking for where people purchased reasonable cost fabric in a large scale as I was funding it myself and within hours I had thousands of volunteers. Within days we had raised thousands of pounds and had over 70,000 active volunteers Nationwide. To date, we’re the biggest organisation of its kind, ever.”
How did you feel about starting this initiative and working with others across the UK in making scrubs during the pandemic?
“It was, and still is amazing. Knowing that something this phenomenal came from such a tiny, somewhat naïve idea is just amazing. I use the same words because there are so few descriptive words to describe how seeing FTLOS grow from my idea to the incredibly selfless, charitable organisation is it now is humbling. People contact me to say I saved their life through the darkest times of their adulthood – I haven’t, but I gave them an idea to run with, to work toward, to participate in and to organise. People have made forever friends, they’ve even been successful in receiving paid work having lost their jobs. None of this turned out how I anticipated, but honestly, it is so much more valuable than I ever could have imagined. We have gone from only helping front line workers, to the homeless, to schools, to under privileged countries, to those in poverty and using food banks. FTLOS hasn’t just been about workwear for quite a while – we have raised hundreds of thousands of pounds which have been donated to other organisations in need such as the Royal British Legion. Our efforts have provided vital equipment for schools in need during home schooling days and have provided food for food banks, alongside sewing scrubs, face coverings and everything in between.”
How did you managed do FTLOS alongside your everyday job?
“This has been the hardest part. My life is nursing, but I’m a mum and a wife, too. I have a house and FTLOS took up every spare second I had in the beginning. It was hard to give it over to someone else to manage because I started this out of the desire to do good, to be a better person, but this whole project has made me discover that not everyone involved had the same morals and ethics, when fundraising in my name, with my photos, but not for FTLOS. My full time working husband did a lot to help, everything he could actually and now I have an amazing admin team who deal with a lot of the bits I either can’t due to lack of time, or can’t due to having no idea how to run a charity and all it entails.”
Since starting FTLOS, how many sets of scrubs have you made?
“We have made more than 2 million sets of scrubs with the ancills that go with them, including but not limited to scrub bags, headbands, surgical gowns etc and over 1 million fabric, reusable face coverings. Every single set has been donated and now that there is more control over supply and demand, some hospitals have come back to us and ask how they can donate them abroad – so that our next step, trying to help less developed countries that have been hit hard by Covid.”
Can you tell me about when you found out about your OBE?
“I cried. Honestly, a man emailed me from a .gov website address and my husband told me it was probably a scam, haha. He said that he had phoned a couple of times and left voicemails (that I hadn’t had time to listen to), after listening, I phoned him back and he was indeed a government official, asking if I was willing to accept the OBE I had been nominated for over 2000 times! I don’t think I have ever been so shocked. I had a weeks notice, of not really believing it until I received a call from the Press Office the night before the Queen’s List was published. I was then asked to interview on BBC news to share my thoughts, live. It still baffles me that someone as normal as I am would receive an award as honourable as this – but I received it in honour of others. Others who have tirelessly worked for the NHS and other front line workers to make a difference. Those who have shielded for a year out of concern, those who have lost friends and family and were desperate to help, and those who have sadly lost their lives. Even the NMC sent me a congratulatory letter, which I think was more shocking!”
What’s the future of For the Love of Scrubs?
“We are working away, to help anyone in need. We have diversified from our original goal, and now, naturally have less volunteers now people have gone back to work and school. We are in the process of setting up a charity organisation to help those who need assistance in things like period poverty, that is something we can directly help with, by supplying eco-friendly, reusable and washable cloth sanitary products, for free. We are also working with the Department of Education to bring back home economics into schools. What we realised is that this time we were lucky, we had thousands of expert sewers who had been taught to sew by grandparents and at school who donated their time and knowledge to help others. I am 30 and didn’t receive this education from my parents or school – I am fully self-taught. In 20 years, were this to happen again we wouldn’t have the thousands of older people who dropped everything to help, because they could and knew they could be of assistance. Sewing isn’t seen as a life skill anymore and as such isn’t taught, so could we do this again if we had to? I’m not sure.”