This discussion aims to give you an up-close and personal look at what happens on opening days at the Knit-a-Square barn. I'm a partially-sighted volunteer who who attends with my guide dog Tango and my driver Bongi, who has also become a keen volunteer. While everyone else opens parcels, sorts squares and packs items ready for distribution, I listen and take mental notes so I can pass on something of the atmosphere on the ground. Enjoy!
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4 ways you can Help with the financial situation:
1. Make a donation: Use the Donate/Subscribe button on the top right. This will take you to a secure page.
2. Visit the KAS Shop: see link on top toolbar
3.”Use your stash; send the cash” [via Donate button]
4. Don’t send a parcel this month but donate the postage money
Small donation made through the donate button. I might go "shopping" later in the month. It is so much fun to purchase through the KAS shop !
As always Leanne, an excellent read - the report keeps everyone in the loop and at the heart of KAS! Thank you.
As explained previously, there was no opening day last week because of a lack of funds in the bank account to pay for fuel, the transport of the Soweto volunteers and tea. Thanks to the generosity of many members, donations have come in to help the situation. Things were still tight on Tuesday when I spoke to Ronda as Paypal had not yet released the funds into the Knit-a-Square account, but we are at least assured of their imminent arrival.
You will remember that we had a couple of really big batches of squares delivered to us from local schools over the winter. They came from the British International School and St Stithian's College. These batches helped keep us busy when the postal strike was on. Anyway, I learnt today that one of our newer volunteers, Liz, has four grandchildren at St Stithian's, which is how she came to know about Knit-a-Square. Four years ago, when the children were in primary school, she began knitting squares to help with the school's campaign, then, when the girls advanced to the high school and began knitting themselves, liz got in touch with Ronda to see how she could get more involved. She began collecting blanket packs of squares to sew up at home, helped by her sister, Patricia, who crochets borders around the edges.
Recently, Liz took a decision to start coming in to the barn for opening days. She enjoys the company of the other volunteers and is currently working on attaching the new labels onto blankets in preparation for distributions. I asked her what appeals to her most about working on the blankets; did she appreciate the blend of colours or the mixture of textures, for example?
She was quite definite about her response. "No, what really excites me is thinking about the children who will receive the blankets. I used to be a teacher, you see, so the children are really important to me. When I'm sewing up a blanket or attaching a label, I'm always imagining the child who will receive it and how he or she will feel."
Among the completed blankets that came in yesterday were some lovely Christmas ones. I gather Christmas was a theme a while back, and the volunteers were careful to pick out the Christmas trees, candles and stars, as well as appropriately-coloured plain squares [mostly red and green] to go with them. The Christmas blankets are all being kept aside for a special distribution, probably a Christmas in July as December is really too hot for handing out knitted items. We did a Christmas in July once before and it was very successful.
Speaking of themes, the moderators asked the volunteers to come up with some new ideas, so we ran a sort of brainstorming session. The ideas ranged from Star Wars and Frozen, the movie, to traditional African cookware and seasonal fruit and flowers. I know these sound challenging, but listening to podcasts by mothers of young children, I've become aware that the internet offers a virtually endless supply of new and topical designs. What is more, clever knitters are able to create their own designs by converting images into stitch charts. Many novel designs can be found on Ravelry, Knitty and other crafty websites. The great thing is, a blanket comprising 35 squares only needs a couple of unusual squares to make it distinctive and special, so whether members contribute intricate designs or plain-coloured squares that tie into the theme, the result is something to be treasured.
As for the postal strike, it is a dim memory but the effects are still evident. There was a small collection of parcels from the post office on Monday and the postmaster admitted to Ronda that there are still many parcels and letters from the time of the strike awaiting sorting at the central depot near the airport. He was concerned that there is little time for these to be sorted and dispatched before the flood of Christmas mail begins to arrive. We are trusting that the backlog will be quickly cleared and that any packages intended for us will safely reach their destination before the year is out.
We are still receiving many parcels without adequate details from the sender and want to ask members to please use the packing slip provided on the website. The packing slip contains an area for you to fill in how many squares, toys, hats, etcetera, you are sending, as well as fields for your name, email address and country of origin. These details are important to us, not only for record purposes, but so we can contact you directly with answers to questions and, occasionally, questions about what you have sent. If you want to include a message, there is a place on the packing slip for that too. Most importantly, the packing slip includes a cut-off section with the Knit-a-Square address clearly printed on it, together with a message to the post office indicating that the contents of the parcel are intended for charity and ought not to incur taxes or tariffs.
Finally, it seems that the Knit-a-Square song is getting some love on Facebook! Thanks to everyone who has shared it and brought it back to our attention. For those who have not seen it before, please visit the Facebook page or YouTube channel and take a look. Credit for the song goes to Gloria Grandy's brother, of course, and it is truly a delightful, catchy tune!
Another marvelous update Leanne.
Thanks so much.
Thanks so much Leanne, another delightful read !
Crossing paws that the funds are enough and the backlog is worked through before xmas!
Children in South Africa are encouraged to name their heroes and learn about what they do. Some commonly-named South African heroes are, of course, nelson Mandela, Charlize Theron, Miriam Makeba, AB de Villiers and Nkosi Johnson. But a new name has been added to the list, thanks to a child at St Stithians School whose attention was caught by her fellow learners' involvement in this year's Knit-a-Square knitting challenge. Ronda describes her astonishment and delight at receiving a phone-call from the girl's mother:
"She said her daughter had chosen me as her South African hero and wanted information on me for her speech. i was taken completely by surprise and felt quite honoured! The mother sent me an email with all sorts of questions about where I was born and what I liked to do when i was growing up and so on. I feel very encouraged to know that young people are thinking about ways to make a difference in the world. It makes me feel really positive about the future."
Ronda was in especially high spirits this week because her friend Pauline is visiting from Surrey in the UK. Pauline had brought with her a pile of gorgeous fabric quilts made by her sister Sue. Backed and batted, these quilts are perfect for children to sit or lie on at their creches. They must have added considerable weight to Pauline's luggage so we are very grateful to her for transporting them for us. Sue has been contributing quilts for a while now and Pauline is a regular and generous donor. Thanks to them both for their support!
We received some lovely squares, blankets, beanies and toys this week in the mail. Estelle took lots of photos to share on Facebook and Mabel organised the shelves. Themba and Vivienne delivered 120 blankets to Vivienne's home, from where they will be driven in her sister's car to a Soweto church for distribution to a gathering of children. Next week's distribution is being organised by Wandi, and the following week's, I believe, is being done by Mabel. Meanwhile, our gogo groups are busily joining squares into blankets which will be collected when they are completed.
Thanks to everyone who has made a point of donating money to cover postage handling fees. To those of you living in first world countries, the idea of handling fees must sound crazy, I'm sure. The fact is, our national postal service has been in disarray for years, resulting in enormous problems. The South African Post Office came under new management about two years ago and there is a concerted effort to improve everything from buildings, vehicles and computer systems to employment packages, but this means a whole new rates structure. We are required to pay R50,10 on every overseas parcel that is processed, big or small. It's hard on a charity like Knit-a-Square that receives so many parcels from overseas but all appeals for exemption have landed on deaf ears. We simply have to ride out the storm and hope that things will change as the post office achieves greater financial stability.
Meanwhile it makes sense to post fewer, larger parcels in order to save handling fees. Yet we don't want to throttle the flow of knitted items by suggesting that members post only once a year, for example. We depend on a constant supply of parcels to keep our volunteers and gogos busy. All we ask, therefore, is that you keep in mind the post office's rates and do what you can to work with us until things improve.
Further to the subject of money [when can a charity get away from this tiresome topic?], I'm happy to report that my campaign to knit 100 beanies to raise funds for Knit-a-Square is going well. I've had some generous sponsorships from, amongst others, members of Knit-a-Square and folk at my local knitting group which meets each Wednesday at a cafe for coffee and a chat. There are photos of all the beanies I've knitted so far on the fundraising website, which you can check out at http://www.doit4charity.co.za/Leanne.Hunt.
Finally, just to mention that one of our local stalwarts, Linda, came in yesterday with three lovely blankets that she and her friend Liz had made out of scraps. These scraps comprise squares that are damaged or full of holes [to the extent that they won't hold up in a blanket]; also, leftovers from squares that have had to be unpicked and resized because they are rectangular, and other such oddities. Linda and Liz have a knack of creating really beautiful designs out of multiple colours, textures and shapes, which makes their participation a real benefit to us. lately, liz has been unwell so Linda collects work for her to do. We wish her strength, comfort and a speedy recovery, and thank both her and Linda for their wonderful work.
Leanne, what a comprehensive report on the current news in the barn.
I am so happy to hear about the efforts to pay the handling fees. I know postal costs are on the rise everywhere, it is hard to imagine that there are fees attached on the receiving end also. My hope and prayer is that at some point KAS is no longer charged those fees.
I love the beanies that you have made so far on your fundraising page. Kuddos to you!!
Can't wait to see more of Linda and Liz's blankets. They are truly masterpieces.
Well done Leanne.
For anyone who isn't on PayPal, this is a good way of making a donation by debit or credit card. I calculated the exchange slightly wrongly. I sent 336 which I thought was £20 but £17.70 was deducted, so 125 or 350 would be nearer to £10 or £20.
Good luck with the fundraising. The beanies are lovely and bright.
That should be 175 (figures are not my thing).
Thanks Leanne for another 'inside' report from the KAS barn, your reports are always greatly appreciated. I love your beanie fundraiser, the beanies are beautiful, I hope you do really well! Sorry that I'm not putting my hand up to sponsor, but I have just contributed to the fundraiser on the forum that Anne has mentioned (Not just a fruitcake). Isn't it heartwarming that KAS folk around the world care so much about KAS? I will watch your fundraiser with interest :))