Every Day is Mandela Day for knit-a-square

Historical content: This blog post is more than 12 months old, so some content may now be out of date.

Please use the main menu items on the side of the page to get the most up-to-date information.


Every day is Mandela Day for knit-a-square

What an honor for KAS to be mentioned in the same TV news piece as Nelson Mandela on the occasion of his 92nd birthday. For those of you who may not have seen this Australian Broadcasting TV news item last month, here is the link.

Ronda coined an instantly memorable saying as she was interviewed by Andrew Geoghan: "Every day is Mandela Day for knit-a-square" On the day that KAS was filmed at work, we passed the 100,000 square mark. How appropriate was that?

As Andrew says in a tribute to you, our generous KAS members, "the goodwill of people from across the world is being turned into blankets ... the generosity of Mandela day ensures these kids will stay warm this winter."

You do it for these little boys and girls, and the millions of children like them throughout southern Africa.

Welcome to our many new members since our last Square Circle early in July. It is so exciting to see both the subscribers for Square Circle and the Forum membership constantly growing.

Mandela Day inspires schools • Sizansane Day Care Centre, by Erin • Snapshots of love for and from our KasCommunity • Touching base with Ten Thousand Homes, Tshwane Place of Safety and Sedibeng • Our early adopters • Bajabulile Creche • A heartfelt request from Thuli Day Care Centre • News from KAS and the forum • Help win KAS $50,000 • Your International work • Stories further afield for next month

Mandela Day inspires schools

Following the Mandela Day TV news item, 25 people have donated to KAS by purchasing the Teacher's Resource. What is more exciting about this, is that means there are potentially 25 more schools participating in KAS now, which in turn means more squares, more people who are talking about the children and their plight, and more members for KAS.

If we assume conservatively that an average of 50 teachers, parents and children are participating from each school, that is 1,250 people who may knit at least one square and tell at least one other person. And so the message is passed and we make more of a difference in more children's lives.

We would love to hear from any of you who have introduced KAS into your schools. These children are from a school in Aurora, Ontario in Canada and we recently received their contribution. Thank you all!

More inspiration, surely to make 'Madiba' proud.

This school contributed a staggering 4,000 squares last year as a combined effort of their entire school community, have just contributed another 4,000 squares.

We believe that every KAS member would extend their heartiest congratulations to this school for this outstanding effort. We would like to extend our grateful thanks from everyone in KAS too.

Your squares have gone straight to Sister Sato's Vuselela Community Centre in Diepsloot.

Isn't it an inspirational thought - all this collaborative effort to make these squares currently jammed into these plastic bags but soon to be made into blankets to keep more children warm!

Mater Christi, Melbourne, Australia
Erica Smith, who contributed the computers to the Jabulani Khakibos Kids and has been responsible for our KasTracker software described later in this ezine, introduced KAS to her mother, Helen who teaches at Mater Christi here in Melbourne. I wrote about our recent visit to the school in All for Orphans.

Helen wrote about introducing the program to the third group of students this year:

"I was chatting to my Year 10 RE class about the upcoming event. Year 10 Religious Education is a bit of a hard call. They are not always fond of this subject and can become quite dismissive. I explained to them that that we had committed to send 1000 squares, one for every girl in the school. A question came from the back. "How many blankets is that?" I replied I hadn't worked it out but it would be a good number. It would take 35 squares to make a blanket. At this point I heard her grab a calculator and start tapping. I played the next remark out in my head…."What's the point of that, only a handful of people will benefit and we are going to have to knit for hours for almost no value. Why bother?" I girded my loins and readied myself to respond without being cross, when the actual words came to me. " That's only 28 blankets. That's not enough. Year 10 will have to knit two squares each. That would make a difference."

Does this young girl's response not inspire us to think about every way we can introduce KAS to our communities? We want to make a difference as has been most eloquently summed up by Dawne in her latest post World Humanitarian Day.


Sizansane Day Care Centre, Slovoville, by Erin

Slovoville is on the very outskirts of Soweto. It borders essentially the West Rand and Krugersdorp. The red brick houses used to be the mine workers houses when mining was still very active in that area. When the mines closed down, the houses were mostly abandoned and the 'squatters' started moving in.

A proper squatter camp has mushroomed up in between the houses, of course. It is a sad, dusty, derilect place. Just so depressing. Genuine, abject poverty.

Poor Ma Blossom [who runs the Sizansane Day Care Centre] is very, very tired. When we left I took her hand and said thank you so much for having us and promised to return with stationery items - which they desperately need. She just just said: "No, it's me who should say thank you, you have blessed us and I hope that God will bless all of you."

I have no idea who would take over from her and what would will become of these little angels, I just don't know, it is too sad.

This little girl looking up was such a character - she just attached herself to me when I walked in the door and followed me around like a tiny shadow the whole time. When I stood still, she leaned against my leg with her little arm wrapped around my knee. When I knelt down she immediately appropriated my lap. And she loved having her photo taken and kept saying, "shoot, shoot!" which means take a photo and nothing sinister!

The little baby I have in the baby wrap was just too edible. She kept looking up at me and when I looked back at her she would just burst into a beautiful smile. Oh my word! She was just an adorable tiny, little thing.

It's so true what I said about them having nothing. KAS is so much more than just a knitted blanket. These kids have less than nothing. Imagine then being given a bright, warm, happy blanket of your very own - something that you can have forever...so special.

You can see from this photo, that when we got there they were all very quiet and subdued. Not very smiley and a bit wary of us, but towards the end they were all smiles and chat and full of nonsense. It is incredibly humbling and undeniably uplifting at the same time.



Snapshots of love for and from our KasCommunity

Thank you to Chantal Bester and Netcare Hospital in Akasia, near Pretoria, who contacted Ronda to ask it they could participate in our project. They sent these very beautiful blankets.

This beautiful square was among many received from a very special KasMember who suffered great tragedy last year, losing her sister, father and son. She wrote: "Your children are very beautiful. When I see them smile, I know that one day I will smile again." We all hope very much that that day will not be too far off and that it will be comforting for you to know that your beautiful squares are going to make small children like these little ones at Bajabulile Creche, smile for you.


From Ronda: Vibrant South Africa

Introducing Diepsloot woman, Nomatemba. She is so talented and does all sorts of amazing craftwork and battles to sell her wares from the roadside ... especially since our illustrious city council bulldozed all potential selling sites in order to 'tidy up' for the World Cup. Vendors will not be allowed back there, although no alternative arrangements have been made.

Anyway, she beads anything - she says people can bring her lamps, bottles, pots, whatever - and she will cover them in beadwork. She buys her beads for R10.00 a throw, makes something and sells it and then goes back to the bead seller. She also cuts and paints glassware, and makes food nets/covers and shoes ... this little green and yellow shoe made for the World Cup was amazing, so strongly woven and pretty.

She is appealing for some kind of help - although I did explain to her that I would be unlikely to be able to do much off my own bat or KAS's.


Ten Thousand Homes continues

It may be a surprise to some of you who contributed to the initialld squares and blanket squares for the children looked after by Ten Thousand Homes last June, that the distributions continue.

Hayley who works for the charity wrote to Ronda recently and said:

It's been a while, I don't remember if I ever got the chance to tell you how wonderful it was finally meeting you, althought a short visit, it was still great putting a face with a name finally!

We are in the midst of handing blankets out, the kids have all been on school holiday so they haven't been to the feeding programs regularly, but I got one out to a precious little girl.

Hopefully on Monday, we can hand more out.

And Hayley wrote on her blog: Thank you knit-a-square for all the beautiful blankets, you've made so many children very happy.

A touching story from Tshwane Place of Safety

Last year we had a baby blanket challenge for Tshwane Place of Safety to knit and crochet 255 baby blankets for the babies they look after who have been abandonned. The KAS community rose to the challenge. I believe you will be greatly touched by the story of one of the babies from Almie Goosen who is their marketing executive. She sent it with permission to publish it and the attached story.

Dear Ronda & Sandy

Winter is on its way out and I’ve been thinking a lot about you and the KAS community (every time I used one of your blankets – I kept two for my nursery). So I thought I should just write a quick e-mail just to say HI and share this photo of two of the babies in my care with you.

Chaz is a very small little boy that touches your heart in a BIG way. He was born prematurely and then abandoned in the hospital. He came to me when he was about a month old weighing only 1.6 kg. Normally the hospitals don't discharge the preemies until they weigh 2+ kg but Chaz was losing weight so I took him. I really battled with him to get him to pick up weight so our health care manager (Karen) and a very dear friend of mine decided that he must go to our haven (for children with medical problems) until he was strong enough to come back to me.

Unfortunately that never happened. Chaz is now five months old and weighs 2.6 kg and still with Karen at the Haven. He’s been on so many different formulas and supplements to help him gain weight but we are lucky if he picks up 20-30 g every twoweeks. Then an amazing thing happened. Karen got a donation of 10 bottles of breast milk and out of pure desperation decided to give it to Chaz and for two weeks he gained 100g / week. But the moment the breast milk was finished he lost 800g in one week. So now we are earnestly on the hunt for breast milk (just in case you know about someone. . . )

Blessing to you and all at KAS.



From Sedibeng
We received this letter from Sedibeng SA Bophelo, one of the organisations we have provided squares to, to make up blankets for their children. We visited them in December last year and handed out many of your generous Christmas presents. They wrote:

Thank you for your wonderful support of Sedibeng. We appreciate your continued investment in our work and value your organisation as one of those who make a real difference in the lives of our people. Our clients, being people living with HIV and AIDS, orphans and vlunerable children including grannies benefit from your program. The grannies combined all the squares and made blankets for everyone. On 26 May, we had a distribution of 115 blankets. We appreciate and acknowledge your generosity. God bless you all.

You can read about Sedibeng at the bottom of the Square Circle ezine: Sew on and sew forth.




Our early adopters!


Adopt a Creche is our fund-raising program for individuals and organisations who wish to sponsor a distribution of blankets, hats, jumpers and KasCuddles to an individual creche in a shack settlement. The benefactor receives photographs of their creche and the children they have helped to keep warm. You can read more about the program in our Who is KasCare leaflet.

As we distribute to many creches throughout the shack settlements, we would like to offer creches for sponsorship, even when they have had blankets previously distributed to them. The population of the creches is itinerant and that means there are always new babies and children being looked after who need to be warmed.

Many of these children are themselves infected by HIV/AIDS, all of them are affected by extreme poverty and many of them are losing or have lost parents.

After we published this fundraising initiative in June, we received two enquiries from interested people through the ezine. We would be delighted if they or anyone else would take up the offer to adopt a KasCreche. Please email sandy@knit-a-square.com.

We are both excited and deeply grateful to our first 'adopters' and to list them with the names of their KasCreches.

Joe Zanthopolous, Melbourne: Itumuleng Creche, Protea South, Soweto.
Pam and Ross Robinson, Melbourne: Bajabulile Creche, Protea South, Soweto.
Pam Antink, KasMember UK: Portia's Creche, Cosmo City.
North Balwyn Chiropractors, Melbourne: Siyanquoba Creche, Soweto.

KasCreches to be adopted from this month: Thuli Day Care, KlipTown, Sizanani Day Care Centre, Sloloville (Erin's story)

Portia's Creche

Wandile handing out books to the little children of Siyanqoba Creche - with apologies for the blurred photograph using a borrowed camera.



Bajabulile Creche (ba-ja-boo-leee-lay)

This is one of the very poor day care centres that Wandile has found through her parish connections or from personal research.

Ronda, Wandile and Lindi took some of the beautiful soft toys you have sent with them, to distribute with the blankets and hats. Look how these little girls loved their 'babies'.

Ronda said the creche was extremely poor but the children were beautifully looked after by their carers, despite the evident poverty of their surroundings. We understand that often the children receive just one small meal a day - perhaps only bread and jam. It seems to depend on whether the small fee that are charged for the care of the children is paid or not. And that seems to depend on whether there is an 'earning' parent alive, or perhaps even a grand parent.

What continues to move us all is how beautifully these children respond to their gifts - how cheerful they are despite the tenuous quality of their lives. So much besets them and their future, and yet they smile. It touches one's heart.

And here is a legacy from the World Cup - the ubiquitous vuvuzela finds it's tiniest player.


A heartfelt request from Thuli Day Care Centre

Thuli Day Care Centre has touched us deeply. There were a number of heart-felt stories from here, not least of all from Paulina who runs this creche.

She named it after her daughter, Thuli, who is very unwell. Her illness renders her unable to walk or talk. Recently she had surgical intervention but this has just further incapacitated her so that she cannot move at all. She spends her time crouched in this chair. Paulina has no government support at all for her situation and her daughter is in constant pain.

Ronda was very keen that we might find sponsorship for this creche, not only to help the children, but to fund a wheelchair for Thuli. If you are interested in helping us do this, please contact me direct at sandy@knit-a-square.com. You can download the Adopt a Creche form here.

This was our first KasCuddle distribution to a creche and they were hugely successful. The women loved them and requested more, but for slightly older babies between two and nine months. We all pass on our congratulations to Helen Flagg and her church group whose initiative this was.




News from KAS and the Forum


Members of KAS and the team on the ground in SA have been involved in a trial of our new software KasTracker, which Erica from Melbourne has so kindly donated her time to construct. In essence it is a simple way for you to record your name and the number of articles you have sent (squares, hats, jumpers etc) which allows you to print out a label to attach to your parcel/s to send to South Africa.

When they arrive there, Ronda is able to use a barcode reader which automatically reads who the parcel is from and how many articles are in the parcel, at the same time sending you an email which tells you that you parcel has safely arrived.

Not only does this save hours of time for our KAS volunteers but you get to hear much sooner that your parcel has safely arrived without having to wait for me to post the lists on the website and send out an ezine.

It is very simple to use and does not require any complex knowledge of softwarel. You will just click on a link, enter your name and details and how many articles you are sending and then press print and that is it!

We hope to launch this in September, once we have ironed out any issues. All the postal instructions on the site, forum and elsewhere will change at that time.

If you have a computer and a printer, then this will help you, help us and make sure you learn of the safe arrival of your parcel much sooner. I hope very much that you will take up this great new system with alacrit.

Until we officially launch it and give you the details of how to access it, please just continue to send your parcels as normal.

KasPattern of the Month and KasDesigner Pattern

We have recently launched two new initiatives in the forum. KasPattern of the Month is your opportunity to send us your original square, hat, jumper or KasCuddle pattern and have it featured as the KasPattern of the Month. We hope to collect all these patterns over time and make them available to you both on the forum and as a downloadable book.

Please join in and submit your patterns. If you haven't joined the forum, now is the perfect time to do so. Rona and Kalai are going to run KasPattern of the month and are eagerly awaiting your creative, talented efforts. We will publish a regular list of KasPatterns of the Month.

This beautiful example of a GO-OVER™ pullover comes from Linda Maltby who is a very talented contributor to KAS. Perhaps this would be a wonderful first KasPattern of the Month.

KasDesigner Pattern has also been posted by Dawne in the forum. She explains all about the program too in All for Orphans.

We are delighted that a number of prominent designers have agreed to design a pattern specifically for KAS. This initiative was started by Zina of Another Long Yarn, and there is already a gallery of beautiful squares contributed to by Lucy Neatby, Kristeen Griffen-Grimes and Diana Troldahl.

Recently Ilga Leja has created a beautiful square pattern for us which will be posted shortly. Keep your eyes out for it. We are very grateful to all these designers for their time and inspiration.

Please drop into the forum to make suggestions as to your favorite knit or crochet designer who you would love to see create a pattern specially for KAS.


New Wish List Up

Kalai has just posted a new wish list detailing our current needs for squares, hats, jumpers/sweaters and KasCuddles. Please visit the forum for details.

Ronda has made a specific request for large plastic dust bin liners. We were given a large quantity of these which we have used up. If you have any to spare and can pop one in with your parcel, she would be very grateful. These usually do not end up in landfill in South Africa. Everything gets used, for ground sheets, storage or rain cover. We have heard too, that clever and enterprising shack dwellers plait plastic into shoes and rugs.


Help KAS win $50,000!

Last of our news from the forum and KAS , but by no means least. Our great USA contributors can help win KAS $50,000 by taking part in the Jo-Ann competition Craft for A Cause. Please take this opportunity to enter the competition. Imagine what we can do in South Africa to get more blankets more quickly onto more children with $50,000. Go KasTeam USA!

Your amazing international work

From Rebecca Langer in Germany - just beautiful. An incredible contribution from Norway. 70+ sweaters and hand knitted sox.

From our very regular and talented contributor, Paulette Pronk. Ronda wrote: Eight lovely panels of two squares each, with these little figures appliquéd onto them and lots of squares, to make up blanket packs around each set. Piles of soft toys, second hand baby clothing, several pram sets and sleeping bag type outfits. WOW - thank you Paulette.

Felted blankets ready for distribution, made by Ros Truelock with grateful thanks.


Focus on the elderly

We have long thought that KasCare's knit-a-square program is wonderfully suited to women (and men) who are elderly and even perhaps affected by dementia or Alzheimer's Disease.

A friend of ours, Allison Corke does part time public relations and fundraising for Otway House, a retirement home in beautiful Apollo Bay, on the coast of Victoria, here in Australia.

She invited us to visit when we were there in June. This inspired a great deal of thinking both about what a comforting and constructive communal activity it was for the women, but also how best to introduce the program into retirement homes universally.

We would love to tell you the full story of our visit in a special edition of Square Circle, dedicated to our elder KasMembers. But also to invite you to send us photographs and stories of either your involvement in the program in a retirement home, or anyone elderly you know who is knitting or crocheting for KAS. Perhaps you could ask them what it means to be doing something for needy children in a far off country and share their stories with us.

Please send your stories and photographs to kalai@knit-a-square.com. We look forward eagerly to your contributions as I am sure they will move and inspire us all. Thank you.


Stories further afield for next month

There have been several more distributions in this last six weeks which we are holding over until the next ezine. They include two distributions in one of the oldest squatter camps in South Africa in Kliptown. The streets are mean and derelict and the children in them display more obvious poverty. Yet the little nursery school looks almost middle class by comparison to some of the shack settlements in Soweto. Many of these little ones, who sing their hearts out for you in the next ezine, are infected with HIV/AIDS.

We also distributed in the Vaal Dam region which is about 1.5 hours from Johannesburg and the photographs are greatly touching.

Finally, I have come to the end of the ezine and realised that some of the square lists may be missing for the last six weeks. I will put up the ones I have for today, so as to not delay the publication of the ezine, and suggest that you check back over the next week for those that I may not have. I so look forward to the day, as I am sure you do and Ronda and her team too, when the lists have been supersceded by our new KasTracker!

We look forward to chatting with you in the forum between now and the next ezine with regard to the KasPattern of the Month and the new Wish List and of course Craft for a Cause. Please help us win that $50,000, we honestly need every cent of it to warm more children faster.

And we would warmly welcome more regular donations. As we increase our activities so do the costs of transport and cartage, duty and other costs associated with doing this work. Costs outstripped donations this month, so please take up our request for a small monthly donation. It makes such a difference.

Thank you and keep safe, Sandy, Kalai, Ronda, Erin, Lindi and Wandile.

PS. Ronda mentions many of you by name, in terms of the extraordinary talent, commitment, dedication, beauty of your contributions and kindness they are privileged to witness as they open your parcels. What we would like to do one day, when perhaps we have some extra resources, is to compile these comments and publish them with photographs. For now, please accept that your beautiful work and generosity is noted and inspires our volunteers, the carers of the children and we, who seek to document the work you do.