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!
Thank you Leanne. I am now worried that I might have sent my box of toys without my name inside. Nothing like a scare ! Anyway they will be appreciated by little ones in SA. I am looking forward to hearing the sum earned for our Gogos. I do hope it means they get a little more. they do a stellar job . Estelle's friends do an amazing job, they must be so fast !
Another lovely update, Leanne. I love reading your accounts of life at KAS SA. They're so interesting.
It's been some weeks since my last update from the barn and I apologise for keeping you in the dark! My excuse is that I've had painters in the house and everything has been a bit chaotic. My knitting, however, has benefitted enormously from the extra time at home. I managed to get 25 striped beanies off the needles and was delighted to deliver them today along with some new squares.
There was a lot of activity at the barn as everyone is waking up to the fact that this is the first really cold winter we've had in three years. I spotted a couple of visitors walking in with big bags full of blankets and beanies as I arrived. It's great to see how word of Knit-a-Square is spreading locally. I'm sure we're experiencing an upsurge of interest in knitting and crocheting. Whether it's because people are being inspired by others who are knitting for charity or because they themselves have felt the cold and want to help those who are less fortunate, there really does seem to be a movement afoot.
One visitor's story intrigued me. Sunel was talking to Anne and caught my attention when she said that knitting squares for Knit-a-Square had kept her sane while she was in India. It turns out that she and her husband spent four years in New Delhi with the diplomatic service. She had a car and a driver, but it didn't make getting around any quicker. The traffic was so bad that she would have gone crazy sitting in the back seat if she'd had nothing with which to keep herself busy. As it was, she was already a committed KAS member and found relief from her frustration through knitting. Every nine months, when she and her husband returned to South Africa, she brought with her the fruit of her labour. Now, with her husband retired, she has taught herself to loom and looks forward to being even more prolific in the future.
Also visiting today was Sister Sue from the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital. She has, for years, played an important part in our work, handing out baby blankets and beanies to premie babies at the neonatal ICU. Many of these babies would go home wrapped in newspaper if it weren't for the blankets provided by Knit-a-Square. We greatly value Sister Sue's dedication and availability to distribute on our behalf.
We also had a meeting with a team from a company who want to include Knit-a-Square in their social responsibility programme. Mpact Recycling participate in several other projects which provide them with their BEE [Black economic empowerment] points so aren't looking to earn points from their association with us. Instead, they are just seeking a way to unite their employees in a feel-good community project. We agreed that they will sponsor the sewing up of 50 blankets by the gogos, then run a distribution on Mandela Day to hand out the blankets to an impoverished creche near the company premises. If all goes well, they will extend their involvement by knitting and sewing up blankets themselves in preparation for next year's Mandela Day.
Turning to the Knit-a-Square website, Ronda assures me that the problem which took it down has finally been resolved. Sandy was in a panic, thinking that much of the content had been lost for good. She was struggling to get help to retrieve the missing items. Then one of our forum moderators, Andrea from Canada, got in touch and offered her assistance. Between them, they managed to work out what had happened and recover everything. We are looking forward to having the website fully operational again. It's a vital way for knitters to find us and read about how they can get involved.
Well, I know those of you in the northern hemisphere are probably consigning your knitting to the cool of the evening or pairing your square-making with a refreshing iced drink on the patio, but for us down south it's perfect woolly weather! Your boxes and parcels are very welcome as we head into the coldest time of the year. And a special thanks for all the adorable soft toys that have come in—they will be treasured by the children who receive them!
Thank you once more, Leanne, for your precious updates.
I'm sorry to hear that the winter is going to be so cold. I have several blankets that I'll try to send of very soon.
Our weather here in central France has been dismal....rain, rain and more rain. Today is the first very warm day we've had for ages and tomorrow the temps will be much higher.
my granny greeners have been quite productive handing me squares. So I need to do a round up and get them out to KAS. I'll hopefully have another blanket ready to go. I'm pretty sure I'm on target to have sendt 10 blankets worth this half year (the upside of being ill in April! )
Well done, Mary...and your Granny Greeners!!
Thank you so much, Leanne for this very interesting and informative update. Thrilled to hear all is not lost on the website.....and thank you to Andrea and Sandy for all their work in getting it back on track.
I would also like to thank Linda and Valerie for all their efforts with the KAS Pattern book and the 'French section'.
Hoping you can all hear my round of applause. :))
Great news that a company is going to sponsor 50 blankets. That will be a help to Ronda and the Gogos ! It is always such a worry to see they are reimbursed for their efforts. I was in Delhi a few years ago now and the traffic was horrendous ! An Indian friend of mine grew up in Delhi and she says it is much worse then when she was a child.
"Polar air" is what the weather office is calling the icy wind that blew into Gauteng province last night, and it made us all don extra layers to attend today's opening day at the barn. As we stood in a circle for prayer, the thing that was uppermost on all of our minds was the need to get blankets out as quickly as possible to all the children who are suffering in bitterly cold conditions.
As it is, our stock of blankets is at an unprecedented low. We've had a couple of large distributions in the last month and not a lot of completed blankets have come in. Feeling anxious, Ronda pulled out the gogo book to tally up the number of blanket packs that are currently out with gogo groups, as this would indicate how many blankets we can expect to get back over the next month or so. It was with relief that she discovered a whopping 500 blankets are due to be collected soon, and this number doesn't include the blankets which were sewn up by two groups outside of Johannesburg who will be taking care of their own distributions. So, despite an apparent dearth of stock on the shelves, production is progressing as strongly as ever.
I managed to collar Thomas before he had to go out with Mabel to distribute blankets to Protea Glen. Thomas is, of course, our driver and is described by Ronda as "a most delightful man". In a quiet voice, he told me that he is a man of God and a signatory at his local church. At nearly 50, he is married with a son and two daughters, the youngest of which is still at high school. After working for 27 years with OK Bazaars, which later became Shoprite Checkers, he was retrenched and is currently unemployed. He and his wife are being supported by their son, although he also has a couple of back rooms which he rents out to make extra cash.
Thomas loves his work at Knit-a-Square. "I'm creative," he says, "and I like to be involved with making the blankets." When he is not driving, therefore, he helps the volunteers to fill bags with blanket packs, lay out and photograph completed blankets, then bundle the blankets into bags for storage on the high shelves. He especially enjoys attending distributions, where he helps to wrap the children in their blankets, hand out fruit, and take photographs of the event.
Of course, Thomas also comes in on a Monday, the day before opening day, to collect post from the post office with Ronda. This is, perhaps, where he has made the biggest difference. Thanks to his quick grasp of how the system at the post office works,he was able to relieve Ronda of all the checking of parcels, leaving her free to do the payment at the counter. Thomas then loads the van with the parcels and delivers them to the barn, where he offloads them ready for the volunteers to open the following day. Everything is done with kindness and courtesy, too, making his presence with us a joy.
It was Thomas who directed us to the Kgatontle Day Care Centre in Braamfisherville, Soweto. After doing a distribution there, we received this beautiful letter in response:
Thank you Knit-a-Square South Africa.
Knit-a-Square South Africa! Wow, no words can really explain the joy you guys brought to us,the endless smile you put on our faces. You truly gave us a reason to smile, now the kids will wake up looking forward to school with their warm beanies, hand-warmers and warm blankets and toys made with unconditional love. No words will ever be enough to thank you.
Indeed these items have been made with love and prayers, it clearly shows us that you deeply care. God is indeed great and able all the time.
From Kgatontle Day Care Kids, teachers and the principal.
Thank you, thank you and thank you. May the good Lord continue blessing you so that you continue blessing others.
Kind regards, I. Thobejane."
Surely, it is heartwarming to receive such letters! And it is equally heartwarming to see who else is touched by Knit-a-Square. Today, Estelle's sister-in-law Liz dropped in, along with two of her neighbours, Marioth an Jan. As part of Estelle's talented team of sewer-uppers, they wanted to see where all the action takes place, and were thrilled to be able to lend a hand with sorting squares. One of Anne's friends was also there for the same reason. Joan, who is an avid member of a knitting group and teaches knitting one morning a week to mentally-challenged adults at Cluny Farm, told me as she was leaving, "It's amazing what you do here. i thought i was just coming to have a look around, but Anne dumped a bag in my arms and told me to get working!" Clearly, she had enjoyed her visit
Thanks so much Leanne for bringing to us closer the life at KAS S.A. The need still is great . Don't you wish Nature could be controlled ?? NY City is steaming right now . Again, Thanks Leanne.
Thank you Leanne. I do so look forward to your newsletter, it truly gives that warm fuzzy feeling. I hope to send another parcel off soon. The sweet faces of the children are in my mind as I knit.
I love to hear how things are going in the KAS barn. I hope Thomas will be able to stay on, seems he is a blessing and arrived at just the time he was needed.
Will cross my fingers some of my parcels have arrived or will arrive soon as there are complete blankets in them.
Has been freezing here in Aus lately too, zero or less overnight and days that barely make two digits (celcius). At least we are past the winter solstice now and the days are gradually drawing out again.
I think about the children a lot when I go to bed at night as I have a quilt and 2 thick blankets on my bed, and think how cold must a child feel that does not have even one blanket.
Keep up the good work everyone!
Delightful report again dear Leanne ... as always, it gives me new insight even though I am right there in person. We are indeed blessed to have Thomas with us - he is an absolute darling ! Love to ALL KASpeople worldwide from a very icy cold Johannesburg, as Leanne has mentioned xoxoxoxoxoxoxo thank you all a million times for your wonderful support across the board.