Opening days at the Knit-a-Square barn in Johannesburg happen on a Tuesday and are always rewarding. With mail arriving continuously from overseas, and quantities of squares and toys brought in by local knitters, we volunteers get to experience something like Christmas every week! This blog gives you a glimpse into what happens after your parcels arrive. I hope to paint vivid word pictures of all the goings-on and to share the warmth we feel when we receive your wonderful contributions. Happy reading everyone!being
This week's top news is that we have reached our goal of supplying 950 blankets, beanies and hand-warmer sets to Tracy Timberlake for the biggest single distribution that Knit-a-Square has ever been involved in.
I met Tracy at the barn when she came in with her son to collect the final batch of bags. She is a petite lady with a trim figure. This is, I am told, thanks to the fact that she home-schools her children, does all her own housework, and loves to work in the garden. She is less than four weeks away from delivering her sixth baby, which makes her commitment to this project truly awe-inspiring.
I asked her to fill me in on a few details for the blog and her answer was, "Tell you what, I'll email you. I've got little ones waiting in the car." So here is what she sent me:
"On Saturday 6 April, Knit a Square blankets, hats, and hand warmers will be wrapped around an expected 950 needy children.
"The children are there because of the work of one man: Stephan Ferreira. Upon receiving a cancer diagnosis two years ago, Stephan decided he wanted to make what remained of his life count. He started by adopting a small feeding scheme for two months which served a meal to about 55 children on Saturday mornings.
"This grew very quickly, and within a short time, over 500 children showed up every single Saturday to receive a small food parcel. He refused to turn a single child away. Originally Stephan funded the cost of these food parcels himself, but as the numbers grew, he took to social media to ask for donations of food items, clothing, and toiletries under the banner “Charity Begins with Me”. You can read more about him and his work on the Facebook page under that name.
"Now, even though he is still undergoing chemotherapy, with the help of a few volunteers he hands out food parcels, and whatever clothing and other necessary items are donated, to up to 950 preteen children every Saturday morning. A number of older teens and women also come, and in return for helping Stephan, they receive a food parcel to take home.
"For most of them, these meagre food parcels are the only food they receive all week. They walk from different shack settlements up to 12 kilometres away. Most are filthy, ill and covered in sores and insect bites, and several are obviously malnourished and stunted. They wear dirty, torn clothing and only a few have shoes. They live without electricity, running water, or sanitation, and many are not able to attend school. Some have parents or adult guardians, most of whom are unemployed, many are cared for by siblings who themselves are just children.
"The gift of a warm, colourful blanket will brighten the lives of each and every child, and potentially save many lives. A harsh winter is predicted, with temperatures expected to fall well below zero most nights in June and July, and the shacks these children live in have no insulation or heating.
"Stephan is excited and grateful for this enormous gift to the children! For most of them, this will be the first new item they receive! To know there will be enough for each and every child and he won’t have to decide who most needs them is also a big deal.
"Thanks to each and every one who has supported KAS in this endeavour! Photos and a report will follow shortly after the distribution. For now, please keep the goods coming! The KAS Barn looked somewhat depleted after we loaded up the 540 blankets, hats, and hand warmers we collected this morning!"
We are incredibly grateful to Tracy for being the intermediary between Knit-a-Square and the feeding scheme. Our strength is in building a community of knitters, volunteers and gogo groups in order to keep the stream of donated blankets and other items flowing towards the children who need them. Partnering with people on the ground who actually work with vulnerable children enables us to keep our running costs down and accomplish more at the barn
Depleted though our stocks may be, Ronda assures me that we will soon be getting in 120 completed blankets from gogo groups. She says the gogos have responded enthusiastically to the new R15 per blanket and are working harder than ever. To avoid sloppy work, we have implemented strict quality control, sending back any blankets with inadequate stitching or threads not properly woven in. This is working well. The gogo s return well-constructed blankets and we have less fixing-up to do before preparing for a distribution.
As I write this, there is a consignment of blankets on its way to flood victims in Zimbabwe. Ronda found someone who is driving up with a truck and he agreed to carry one bag containing ten blankets. We are not, of course, an emergency outreach group, but it feels good to have something to offer to those who have lost everything. Along with the blankets, we send our love and prayers.
Tracy, thank you for helping us understand the needs of these precious children! I'll be praying for the distribution on April 6. God bless you and those who are making this happen!
thank you Tracy for doing this work for KAS!
Thank you so much for this report, Leanne and for sharing Tracy's email with us.
Tracy is one AMAZING lady....Stephan, one wonderful man and Team SA, the Gogos and fellow crafters around the world, the most caring, giving bunch of people that it has ever been my privilege to be associated with.
Opening day at the barn this week was busy and noisy. Some days are like that. People pop in with bags of blankets or squares and spend time chatting with Ronda or admiring the items that are being photographed. Tango, my attention-seeking guide dog, usually gets lots of pats and tummy scratches too, I have to add!
The volunteers were excited because the mass distribution we had been working towards went off well. Several of the volunteers actually attended the handout and witnessed the delight on the faces of the children who received their gifts. The distribution came at a good time because a cold front swept over the country on the weekend, bringing heavy rain and chilly temperatures.
Our next big target now is Mandela Day in July. The shelves are already starting to fill up again, thanks to some lovely parcels that arrived since my last visit to the barn. Speaking of lovely parcels, we have been overwhelmed by the amazing generosity of the Croatian knitters of late. Their passionate dedication to supplying gorgeous toys, blankets and other items is demonstrated in the regular delivery of big boxes crammed with colourful treasures. Thanks to all who participate in this well-organised effort. We truly appreciate your talent and hard work!
It was Nani's birthday, so we started the morning off with singing and the lighting of candles on her cake. Nani did an excellent job of blowing out all her candles at once, earning her a round of applause.
Molly came in for the morning to lend a hand at sorting squares. She has been a Knit-a-Square supporter for years and her special talent is combining oddments into creative masterpieces. Yesterday she brought in a whole pile of blankets that she and her friend had completed, some of them real beauties.
Wandi and Themba took the van out to Soweto to deliver blanket packs to a gogo group which recently renewed its connection to Knit-a-Square after a long break. I believe they were one of the first, if not the first, gogo groups involved in sewing up blankets. Having completed their first batch, they were about to get their "quality control" assessment and, all being well, receive payment. We trust that the relationship will strengthen again and that the group can benefit from putting their free time to good use.
Wandi and Themba also delivered about 25 blankets and beanies to Sister Susan for the premie ward at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital. These were extra soft, extra-small items which had been put aside over several months for just this purpose. Sister Susan is one of our valued links to babies in need and we are always happy when we can supply her with new stock. Without the donated blankets, babies of indigent mothers sometimes have to be sent home wrapped in newspaper. once again, thank you to our wonderful knitters and crocheters for sending these special items.
Meanwhile, the need for blankets, beanies, hand-warmers and toys for our pre-schoolers remains high. This is the age-group which is often neglected in terms of new clothes and toys to stimulate their senses. The bright colours, interesting textures and cosy feel of the blankets we distribute are therefore important for many reasons apart from simple warmth and we love it when members include details on their work such as pictures, words or decorative patterns.
Ronda told me that she was approached by someone from a real estate group which had been working on a knitting project and needed help with completing it. The estate agents had all collaborated in knitting strips about 1 metre in length out of chunky yarn. Now the strips need to be sewn together but no-one is keen to do it. Ronda said we could offer the work to one or two of our gogo groups, providing the company covers the expenses of paying the gogos and buying additional yarn to finish off the blankets with crocheted edges. It was agreed, and we are glad to be able to offer the gogo groups more work, considering how eager they are to do it.
Lovely to read all the news, Leanne, thank you. Nani's cake looks delicious, looks like a fun celebration. I love Molly's blanket.
Leanne, thank you for another informative report. I always enjoy reading about our KASsisters on your end. We are such a great team :))))
What a wonderful success the mass distribution was! Many children were warmer that night, thanks to the efforts of our crafters, our volunteers at the KASbarn, "our" Gogos, and Tracy and her super team!. Three cheers for everyone ... xo
seconded! and lovely blankets
Belated Happy Birthday wishes to Nani!!
Lovely to see Molly at the Barn again....what a treasure she is. :))
Thank you for this fab recount, Leanne. Once again, such an uplifting, informative share. You truly make me feel like I am there with you all.
So much good news....and reassurance of how important our crafting is for the children.