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Covid-19: Deaf woman gives out clear masks to help community

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image captionJo wanted to help the local community after struggling to communicate with her own friends and family

A woman and her life-long friend are "bringing the gift of smile" to the deaf community by distributing hundreds of free clear face masks.

Wearing a mask is now part of daily life, but for people who are deaf or have hearing loss, they can prevent lip-reading.

Jo Milne, who was born deaf, is giving out masks to adult learning centres and schools from her home in County Durham.

She said: "Being able to see a smile really, really does go a long way."

Ms Milne, who heard for the first time at the age of 39, has also begun to lose her sight due to the rare medical condition Usher syndrome.

The mother-of-two said a clear panel in a face covering had made her a "lot more comfortable" after struggling to lip-read when with her own friends and family.

"But not only that, I wear them for my own children because when my children can see my face and they can see me smiling, they feel a lot calmer and happier knowing that I'm happy," the 46-year-old added.

image captionIn 2016, Jo and Amina embarked on a mission to help deaf children from Bangladesh

The non-medical masks, which are fitted with a clear panel, were donated by Jo's friend Amina Khan who lives in Bangladesh.

She said: "I am so happy, because just bringing the gift of smile from Bangladesh to all these people in the UK, I feel honoured to be part of the team and be a part of something positive."

The masks have been distributed in the north-east of England.

Claire Ramsay, deputy head of Northern Counties School in Newcastle, said: "Some of our children have found it really hard during these times with the traditional full masks that people are wearing.

"Because the children can see the lip patterns from the staff that they're working with, it's kept everybody really happy."

Ms Milne added: "Everybody is feeling very, very isolated in the current lockdown, but just being able to see a smile really, really does go a long way."

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