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Square Circle, Issue #12 - Schools, Squares and Letters
July 25, 2009
We've hit the 20,000 milestone
Schools, Squares and Letters
What an achievement. The 20,000th square just short of 6 months after the Zanny's first square arrived in South Africa on January 26. That is an average of 666 blankets - 666 children who would have continued to be cold and unacknowledged by the world community but for your inspiring efforts.
As Ronda wrote on July 1, "it is absolutely freezing cold here – minus 1 or 2 degrees at night with the wind reducing that considerably for anyone without shelter – in fact, I can hardly bear to think of the THOUSANDS upon THOUSANDS of miserably cold children and adults shivering through the night."
Welcome to all our new members. I hope you will join our warm, friendly KAS community in the forum. Between us we will deliver more and more blankets over the years to keep these children warm and make their plight known.
SQUARE CIRCLE ISSUE 12
NEW TO THE SITE:
We asked for 200 and received 3,990!
Early in May Ronda made contact with Cedarwood School in Johannesburg. Cedarwood School describes itself on its website as "a small remedial school for children who have mild to moderate support needs which prevent them from coping adequately in a mainstream school environment." Their goals are wonderful and given what they have achieved for knit-a-square clearly adhered to:
To restore lost confidence and resilience
Ronda wrote: In May I was invited by Shannon Jacobs, a teacher at Cedarwood School in Dunmaglass Road near Kyalami, who is also the school l’s community service co-ordinator, to attend a Monday morning assembly at which I gave a brief talk. I showed the children some slides in the hopes of bringing awareness to them of the plight of so many of their contemporaries … and asked them to knit squares for our project.
At that time I set them a target of 200 squares. Imagine my surprise and delight yesterday (6th July) at receiving nearly 4000 squares which had been knitted by the children themselves, parents, relatives, teachers and the entire school community. The effort is ongoing and even the headmistress, Mrs Jayne Eurelle, assures me she is still knitting !
Ronda was handed over the bags and bags of squares at the next assembly she attended and she, in turn, presented the school a specially designed KAS certificate.
This beautiful blanket was crocheted by young Rhys Mitri (in the middle) and his family and he won the 'individual squares achieved' award.
Ronda brought the bags and bags of squares home (with the help of some young students who helped pack her car) to her somewhat over 'squared home" and she, her husband, Peter and Sonya bundled them into various size blanket packs according to colour and square size.
Re-enter Oliver from Hotel Hope. Oliver has been doing wonderful work, educating and counselling young pregnant women, who so greatly need this support, while in the process of completing his homes for orphaned children.
As a man of boundless energy, he also ministers to a group of families and individuals, including children, who survive by ferreting through dumps for food and material to build their shacks. He was so excited by the prospect of being able to give this group blankets. He has access to a sewing group of about 16 women who will sew the blankets together and then they will be distributed to this community. It is almost the exact number of squares required, so as Ronda said "Divine Providence was at work once more."
Click, click, click from Ozaukee High School
We received this great parcel of squares from Ozaukee high school in Fredonia Wisconsin, with the article (part of it printed below) from their school magazine. Ronda wrote: "Stunning article - highlighting exactly what I was saying about schools being a wonderful growth point for knit-a-square. This community has SO embraced the aims of KAS." Jane Krepsky, the high school secretary commented in her covering letter that it ended up being an inter-generational project as parents and grandparents pitched in to help.
Click, click, click. Approaching the conference room in the office, the sound greeting you is the soft, constant click of needles and the more animated chatter of voices. The ladies producing both of these sounds are taking time during and after school to think of others. They are knitting and crocheting squares, and in turn, helping a good cause. Mrs Krepsky, high school secretary, discovered the knit-a-square project through the comfort shawls that she knits. They send her emails concerning various knitting projects she can try and this project was one of them. Krepsky thought it was a valuable idea for the students and said it was “kids doing something for kids. ... The knit-a-square project began in October 2008 when two ladies, Sandy and Aunt Ronda, founded the idea to help keep orphaned children warm during the cold winters. In South Africa, over 1.4 million children are orphaned. These blankets are to help that population of children.
Getting more schools involved
These two stories highlight the great success of schools involvement in the knit-a-square program. Children have boundless reserves of energy and are naturally empathetic. And they benefit greatly from the act of giving. As has been shown in both these stories, it is a program that naturally includes the whole school community, staff, students, their families and friends. Debbie Posmontier, our pioneer of the school's program also described how it was often the children not so confident academically, who were good at knitting and whose esteem grew when they were able to teach others to knit.
To this end, we have been working very hard on completely revising the Teacher's Resource. It is now divided into four clear lesson plans with teacher's background information and student classroom discussions and activities. You can find it here. Every copy bought will go toward assisting knit-a-square to continue this work on behalf of our abandoned babies, children and orphans.
Teaching our children who have more, to give to those who have less, is a value that is greatly important. This is especially true when faced with the enormity of the problems that beset many millions of children in Africa.
Inspiration from the great Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela, South Africa's first black president, celebrated his 91st birthday on July 17 2009 and the Nelson Mandela foundation launched the inaugural Mandela day, not as a holiday but a day devoted to service, in his honour.
On the day 'Madiba' spoke of the collective effort to win the struggle. It is the collective effort that so amply describes the knit-a-square community. And while we have provided blankets to a relatively small number of children compared to the great number that need them, we have, between us, started a groundswell of awareness so needed to help these children into the future.
Moving words 1: Masoma's letter
Here is a letter that beautifully exemplifies 'the collective effort'. Thank you Masoma and your teachers, both for your involvement and for sending the squares and this letter.
Hey, My name is Masoma and I’m thirteen years old. My mom is Cameroonian and my dad is Nigerian but we live in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I just graduated from 8th grade at the Benchmark school.
All the 8th graders had to do an assignment called “The Burning Issue Project”. We had to pick an issue that is important to us or something we were very interested in. Since I’m from Africa I thought it would be only right if I choose HIV/AIDS.
I decided to take an action for this project and that’s when I found knit-a-square. I put a flyer up in the teacher’s lounge telling all the teachers about you and asked them to knit squares. Here are the squares they made. I hope you like and enjoy them, and the kids appreciate them.
I’m praying for every single one of the kids effected by HIV/AIDS and I hope you enjoy my efforts.
Sincerely from, Masoma
Moving words 2: Letter from Ronda
Written to the journalist Mr Maharaj, who wrote the article pictured above: “Light a candle against racism for Madiba” in the Sunday Times, Johannesburg.
"Dear Mr Maharaj
It is an occasion when each of us takes a step, through some act of community service, to realize the power in us to change the world."
Ronda went on in her letter to describe knit-a-square's goals and how you contribute to it from all around the world, and ended her letter by saying:
"We have one such distribution day planned for Saturday 18th July – Mandela Day – in the Phiri district of Soweto, starting at the Holy Rosary Parish Hall, and going on to Protea South – where we hope to distribute up to 80 blankets and items of warm clothing to the needy. These occasions are always a great celebration of song and laughter which underlines the fact that “it is more blessed to give than to receive.”
We are hopeful that due course we will be able to spread our efforts, not only to other centres in South Africa, but to neighbouring countries and Africa at large.
Kind regards, Ronda Lowrie"
We are hopeful that due course we will be able to spread our efforts, not only to other centres in South Africa, but to neighbouring countries and Africa at large.
Kind regards, Ronda Lowrie"
Mandela Day distributions
Euna of Parish proudly surveys the beautiful blankets stitched together by the ladies of Phiri Parish.
Many of you will recall that we gave our very first blankets to little Jamey and the abandoned twins Lerato and Tebago, on March 28 this year at Phiri Parish. Since then Jo and Lindiwe have handed over many hundreds of blanket bundles to the volunteers of Phiri, who have been sewing them together.
Their many 'stitches' are another step toward making a change in the children's lives in their community. It just keeps illustrating our collective effort, doesn't it?
Ronda recognised and was delighted to see the little girl (on the right), she had previously seen sitting outside on the kerb, the day of that distribution - and that we were able to give her a lovely blanket.
The parish was very run down two years ago, when Florence who is a regular volunteer for Soweto Comfort Club, and her husband, an architect, did a great deal of work toward refurbishing it. The community Phiri serves, none the less, suffers great poverty.
Protea South, Soweto
Ronda went on from Phiri Parish to Protea South on the same day with a massive bag of hats and a pile of blankets she, Erin, Sonya and others had joined.
Wandile, who has been very involved in organising the sewing of the blankets for the Protea South Methodist group, crocheted these felted squares together into this gorgeous blanket. She lives in the area in and is very involved in helping those with less then herself. She is on the right with her young grandson.
Three little boys wrapped up and warm!
Moving words 3: from the forum
As I was reluctantly putting away my knitting to go to bed last night, in the UK, it occurred to me that with us all around the world, there must always be someone knitting away at any hour. That was quite an amazing thought really – an unbroken chain of everyone working together for others. Caring hands all around the world! Pam
This little school is literally 50 metres from Zeverfontein Creche which we featured in Square Circle Issue 10. Zeverfontein is a 'squatter camp' that houses many refugees from other African countries to the North, but also South Africans from rural areas and it is extremely poor.
The words on the wall read " oh my God, I offer you my thought, my works, my action, my suffering, all my tensions of this day, 4 thy divine, Amen"
The children were wearing some warm clothes, but it has been a very cold winter and they spend the day with no shelter around them. While each one of them have a few warm items of clothing, most of them do not possess a change of clothing and so what they have, they wear all week.
When their clothes are washed over the weekend, they run around with few clothes on, such as this little girl.
The creche is run by Portia and she is assisted by her husband Arthur and two daughters, Ellen and Wendy. Ronda will return to this little creche as many of the 36 children who come to it, were not there on this day. She is also determined to find the little ones who were outside of the creche so that they too can receive blankets and warm clothes. These children are all poor, some are orphaned, some abandoned, many are affected or infected by HIV AIDS. When distributing to creches, Ronda does not ask or attempt to give only to those who may be orphans or abandoned children. They are all in need of warmth.
They took apples, bananas, cool drinks and custard and jam buns and a box of hand on toys from Erin's children.
It was very quiet while they ate!
They also handed out these lovely soft fleecy hats made by Sew On and Sew Forth, Centennial USA.
Moving words 4: from the forum
I like to think that people who wear or use whatever I knit are wrapped in my prayers for them, caccooned in prayers for hope, peace, happiness and success so it can be a form of prayer. But just the act of knitting, the rhythm of the stitches, feeling the yarn go through my fingers, the ever increasing weight of the project is comforting to me, too. Cindy
The 20,000th square
There was lots of excitement on Thursday 16 July as the team knew that the 20,000 square would be opened that day. Ronda wrote: We needed 35 squares to get to 20,000, so we chose a few random envelopes to open to achieve this. The first one was from Hedding Methodist Church, in which there were 20 squares, so then we needed another 15 ...
Jo was laughing at her daughter, Mpho, who was SCRABBLING to be the one to open the 20,000th square, and was grabbing the envelopes before anyone else could ... and at this stage we were at 19,995 with only 5 to go, so she KNEW she would find the square in the very next envelope. It turned out to be beanies and sweaters instead of squares!
And then bingo there it was, from Helen Flagg from Texas, a member of the forum and fittingly, among the first 8 people who so kindly donated to help us with the customs duty. Congratulations Helen and thank you. The square is on its way to Australia, as we intend to frame it. So it will be the only one of 20,000 squares that does not go into a blanket for a child, but we feel such milestones should be recorded.
The total to date is 21,666 squares plus another 700 squares Ronda picked up from Unity College. There story will be featured in next months ezine. We now have 22,366 squares and Thursday 23rd's total to add to that. We will be at 50,000 before we know it! Although Ronda may be a bit daunted at that prospect. As Kyla wrote in the forum: "stockpiling? that living room is full to the ceiling as it is! wherever do you plan to stockpile?"
Moving words 5: from the forum
It is 7:30 AM NY time and I am sitting at my desk at work with my eyes beginning to tear. Reading everyone's shared feelings about the creative process when it is used to serve others makes me realize that there truly is a "circle" of friends forming here in cyberspace. The irony that this group (and other square circle groups) have come together because of the suffering of little children is not wasted on any of us. The metaphors equating crocheting and knitting to active (and I might add universal) prayer and meditation underscore the bond that many of us are beginning to feel with the children in South Africa. I too think about who will receive the items that I make and give away to those in need and imagine these things as both physical and spiritual "cacoons" (great discription, Cindy!). I joined this group less than a month ago and already I have received much more than I have given. Thank you all. - Janet Emily
And now it is time to ask
We so greatly value the work we are doing with you to help these children stay warm and to raise awareness of their plight. There is so much more to be done, and it is clear that our resources are becoming stretched. It is true that we will need to find additional space to house the squares and help with the collection, bundling and distributions. Our wonderful Soweto Comfort Ladies have given up so much of their time voluntarily to help. Recently, I put a call out to the forum members to assist in covering some of the duty costs that have been paid by Ronda.
We received US$657 of which we will hold back $250 as our starting point for the Zeverfontein Creche Improvement Fund. In Australia we are working hard to get knit-a-square registered as a not for profit so that we can seek corporate funding. We hope that will be within the next two months. We recognise that for some of you it is already a sacrifice to purchase yarn and pay for the postage and would not wish to do anything that would detract from this valuable contribution. However, for those of you who are able to, we would be very grateful for any donations you care to make to assist us to continue to do this work and work toward further enhancing the deprived lives of the children.
You can donate here. through PayPal. Thank you for your consideration.
Ten Thousand Homes
The Ten Thousand homes project continues to build with some really creative and inspiring initial work. You are very talented knitters and crocheters and we know that the children will be delighted with their gorgeous blankets.
Nomvula's gorgeous blanket and initialled squares from Diane McTigue and some of Dawn Laverty's many squares, these one are for Cynthia Matsebula
There have been some logistical issues getting the items of clothing to Jen Price of Ten Thousand Homes and also co-ordinating the sewing up of the blankets, but Ronda and Jen are discussing the best way to do this over a period of time. It may be some months before all the blanket bundles are put together and sewn, but certainly by next winter all the children will have their beautiful personalised blankets and items of clothing.
Jen is an amazing photographer as shown here in her blog, so I am sure that we will be treated to a wealth of gorgeous photos once the blankets are sewn and the children have them. If you have time, there are some utterly heart-wrenching stories on the 10K blog which you can find on Jen's site, and it will make you glad, I am sure that you have contributed to some warmth and comfort for these children.
The Go Over - Anne Powell
Anne had written to say she was troubled that there was not enough attention being paid to the older children. Ronda had mentioned in a recent ezine that many of the knitted vests and pullovers were a bit to small to 'GO OVER' what ever the child was wearing. So Anne who is clearly of a very inventive mind has set out to solve this problem.
She and Zanny have been in 'cahoots' and the Go OVER jumper and vest patterns will soon be available in the forum and on the site. She wrote:
As I stared at the 12 square blanket I just put together, I realized - IT EQUATES TO A SWEATER!! Why can’t we make sweaters out of squares??. Picture this, ladies... Eight 8" squares would make the front and back of a sweater. Two 12 or 13"squares folded in half would make sleeves (haven’t worked out final sleeve length yet) When I lay out 4 squares, it looks like it might fit and 6-8 year old, with room for sweatshirts etc. underneath. We could downsize the sweaters by making 7"-6"-5" squares or upsize them by making the squares 9" or 10" and the sleeves in appropriate sized squares to fit.
Attached are two photos...One shows two 8x16" panels (front) and one 14" square panel (sleeve). The other shows what it might look like when assembled - except one sleeve is missing.
On the right (above) is Anne's 8 year old grandson modelling the finished garment. It looks great Anne. Watch the forum for the pattern.
Wanted media attention: 94.7 Radio Highveld
Knit-a-square got some great attention this month through 94.7 Radio Highveld's blanket drive. Radio Highveld is one of Johannesburg's most popular radio stations with a very wide audience reach.
Erin rang Justin (who was hosting the Blanket Drive show) and Ronda and the family went to meet their on-site 94.7 van to deliver them a pile of blankets. What is really powerful is that if a very popular radio station recognises the need for blankets within Johannesburg, then the KAS community can rest assured that we are putting our efforts in entirely the right direction. Ronda says the squares arriving from within South Africa are really 'hotting up'. It certainly can't be a coincidence. The power of the media.
Talking about media, Vogue Knitting America is due out on August 4, so look out for it everyone. Also we have a bit of local press next week, and we hope to have a spot on TV in the not too distant future here in Melbourne. It may be time to do a multiple letter approach to Oprah. That would gather many more thousands of knitters and crocheters, what do you think?
Moving words 6: from knots of love
Dear Ladies, My group, Knots of love, from DeRuyter, New York meets every Tuesday night at the Red & White Café. We are 8-12 women & teenagers who meet to exchange patterns & just knit or crochet. I saw your project on Lion Brand website back when you first were starting it & suggested to my girls that we make these squares to help out. I can’t wait to mail the box I have, so that you can put it together & give it to a child to help him or her stay warm. Thank you so much for all the hard work you are doing to keep these children warm. Sincerely, Mary
Note from me: Mary I edited out the personal information as I did not have a contact address to ask your permission. But this part of your letter none the less highlights the commitment of your group to helping others and sharing with each other and I hoped it would inspire others to form similar groups. Thank you.
The wonderful work you do
This has been a mighty ezine and although Ronda sends hundreds and hundreds of photographs of your amazing work all with comments attached, which I have included here, I have run out of puff and I think you may be glazing over by now too! I had put a few photographs together and it is always fascinating to look at your extraordinary work, a lot of which is beautifully showcased in the forum in the photographs. In fact there are 690 photographs there already.
If you are not joined it is worth it to look at the remarkable work everyone does. forum photos.
Here then are just a spattering of this month's arrivals:
2 boxes containing 199 squares from a Square Circle event held by Charlene Steward of Dewey & Le Boeuf, Washington DC. Super effort and by email today notice of another 600 on their way. 100 squares from Anne Powell (of Go Over Fame!), Canada. All exactly the same size, lovely patterns and colours, wrapped in 10s.
22 crocheted squares from Gay, Australia. An international collaboration: middle: red/white/blue squares at top of pic from Vina Staader, Australia and Ronda says she has put them together with the stars/stripes which came from Rachel Andrus the previous week, and included the initialed square for Siyabonga Mthabela sent by Suzan Moughtin which was navy and red, too. Dee McBee's watermelon squares.
Gorgeous crocheted squares
An amazing haul from Holland - lots of great contributors, thank you. Should inspire the rest of Europe!
Bernice from Ecru, 40 squares and a note asking us to let you know, but there was no email address. Hope you are subscribed Bernice and see that your squares are safely in South Africa. W.Dorothy's lovely teddy bear square in the centre.
From Granny Campbell, Scotland, 8 sweaters, 5 with matching beanies and 8 squares - second contribution. Meet "Atillia" - 4 days old here in her little hooded cardigan - which is what it is all about. Linda Maltby's beautiful work. Linda has donated a beautiful crochet pattern to KAS which is in the forum under patterns.
Moving words 7: from the forum
I was so excited when I read about KAS in the Lion Brand e-news letter. The plight of so many little ones in Africa has left me weeping on more than one occasion and left me feeling so helpless but then I read about groups of people who want to make and difference and I am hopeful once again. What a blessing! I was born, by God's grace in a country that has so much relative to a majority of it's global community and I am thankful. I hope that I, and my sisters and brothers in the USA, will continue to be thankful and willing to be strong and courageous and do the work alongside folks like you. Lynne
Next month we will showcase the truly beautiful work that is being done for the July challenge - Keep a New born Warm. Please join this challenge as there is still plenty of time to send a cot blanket to warm the 255 abandoned babies and toddlers being looked after by Tshwane Place of Safety. These blankets are more than warmth, they are a gift for life for these children who have had such a perilous start. You can find details of the challenge here.
And finally here are the lists of squares that have arrived in South Africa since June 25th. There was no count on July 2nd as Ronda was away. I have also put up the week of May 28th as for some strange reason it was missing! The Square List.
Have a wonderful month everyone. Please don't forget to think about the schools' program, you can read about it here. Stay safe and happy knitting and crocheting. I look forward to talking to you in the forum and making new friends in the coming weeks. Sandy
Moving words 7: a final word from the forum
‘A man died, and he arrived to find St Peter waiting up in the clouds. There were two doors in front of him. St Peter opened the first door. Inside was a long table with many miserable, gaunt figures sitting round it. Large pots of delicious-smelling stew were laid out on the table. But there was a problem, each of the guests sitting round the table was holding a spoon with a very long handle, making it impossible for them to dip the spoons into the dish and put them to their mouths. The result was that all were unhappy, hungry and frustrated. “What is this place?” the man said. “It is hell,” St Peter said. Then he took the newcomer to the second door and opened it. The scene was exactly the same … with one difference. Yes, the cauldrons of stew were there, and the long spoons, but all the guests looked well-fed and happy. “And what is this place?” the man asked. “This is heaven,” St Peter said. “The people here have learned how to help each other. The long spoons mean that they can feed people sitting further along the table, and they in turn can be fed by the other guests.”’
Doesn’t this little story show us how happiness can be found in life when we care for others, I imagined all of us around the world busy with our needles and building up friendships – and although the task may be enormous so many blessings are happening to each person involved no matter how large or small a part we play and how when we see the pictures of the children with the blankets and hats and the lovely video of the ladies singing, I can’t help but believe there are many blessings to come and pray that whoever comes into contact with Knit-a-Square and the Square Circle Forum will be inspired to help with this project or other similar ones so that happiness will continue to be spread around the world. Sue
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