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Square Circle, Issue #13 - orphans ... abandoned babies ... mothers in crisis ... how you help.
August 21, 2009
Issue#13 - orphans ... abandoned babies ... mothers in crisis ... how you help.
We have had many new members join us this month, welcome and thank you for taking up knit-a-square and our cause to make these children warm and create an awareness in everyone you know of their plight. We hope you will join our warm, friendly KAS community in the forum.
This issue raises too, the situation many young mothers experience. Aloneness and fear can partner them throughout their pregnancy, with little support or knowledge of their options.
There is news of Hotel Hope's intervention program, which is making great inroads into helping some of these young women.
We have much exciting news to tell, advice to ask, and all of it equally important, so I hope you will spare the time to read it. Mindful of the time it takes to read these 'bumper issues', we plan to send you short news updates in future, and look forward to your feedback.
The first Ten Thousand Homes blankets distributed to sister and brother, Zodwa and Mandla Phiri. Mandla looks like a king.
SQUARE CIRCLE ISSUE 13
Khethebahle Mthabela and her brightly coloured fabulous blanket, she looks so pleased with it too. Many of you will recognise these squares.
NEW TO THE SITE:
Rolling out the Ten Thousand Homes Blankets
It is all happening. What a story Ten Thousand Homes is. Jen Price, who works for 10K homes, contacted knit-a-square back in February to ask whether there would be some way we could work together for the children they care for. None of us could have known quite how this would all pan out.
But on reflection, we should be truly amazed that from this simple enquiry, so many things have happened.
Hundreds of you around the world got out your needles and hooks and purchased yarn with the single aim of making sure that these children had warm blankets, hats and vests.
You were galvanised by challenges on the forum and ravelry to create mini works of art of the children's initials. Kyla and Kalai organised lists and co-ordinated the forum.
Ronda, Lindiwe and Jo and the team collected collated and bundled nearly 3000 squares with the correct initials in them and set about arranging to deliver them to Jen and her team, some 300 kilometres away in White river, through the kindness of Lyn Coetzee and her friends.
The Ten Thousand Homes ladies started to organise gatherings to join and distribute them to the children in whose name the blankets had been made.
Siyabonga Mthabela (above) in a beautiful blanket. Thanks to Jen Price for these fabulous photographs.
Jen wrote recently, together with some photographs of everyone hard at work: Hello ladies! 8 of us got together on Friday night and completed 2 blankets! Is that good? I thought we would get more done. I see that it does take a long time to sew these. We will sew some more on Tuesday morning. I would really like to deliver at least what we have as soon as we can. . .despite our aching backs, everyone had a blast sewing them together! I already have ideas on gathering ladies from the communities to help in this. Thanks for everything.
And a week or so later: We got another blanket done this morning. The beautiful one for Nomvula. We all loved it and wanted that same yarn to make ourselves one . . . We have a work day on Friday so I'm going to put the squares out for people to sew. Little by little we're going to get there. Blessings, Jen
Then this week: Hi Sandy! It is exciting to start handing stuff out. . . we are finishing up the last blanket Ronda sent and looking forward to the next batch to start working on. . . . Our local contact in Kabokweni is going to gather some ladies together and possibly some of the older kids to help sew squares. I am so thrilled about this. It will help us to get these done and handed out even sooner! . . . oh the 10K Tuesday, all the centers we work with are through local people living in the communities. It's really great. They run the centers and we just try to support them and be a resource. There's some great people out there doing great things for the kids. They just need emotional, financial and spiritual support. Can't wait to read the next ezine and meet you next year!
Blanket packs prepared by the SCC ladies ready for delivery to Ten Thousand Homes and right, Ouma Matsebula and her square vest.
Ronda wrote yesterday that she has arranged to get more blanket packs up to Jen this weekend.
When first we thought of this idea it seemed incredibly simple. It is only with the benefit of hindsight that one understands the logistics of what is being achieved here and realises how truly incredible is the human capacity to collaborate, work together and create good.
This project seems to embody every aspect of the knit-a-square community and, as well, those organisations like Ten Thousand Homes who actually just DO things to help. Thank you so much for your efforts in achieving this.
Blanket layouts shown here include the initials for Bongani Sambo, Jabulani Mhlangeni, Jennifer Khembo, Knosinathi Ntimane, Tembo Xulu, Siyabonga Ndlovu and Manacoba Ngwenya
Wandile and Lindiwe entering a small community creche in the Protea South Settlement.
We are being led deeper into the heart of the 'shack settlements' as they are known in South Africa.
These are not areas that are immediately accessible to anyone as they have little or no infrastructure, no road maps or sign posts to guide you in and out. This is testified to by a High Court ruling a year ago that ordered The City of Johannesburg to provide evidence of: " plans to provide life saving basic services to the settlement including water, toilets, refuse removal, lighting and access road for emergency vehicles".
Wandile, who we introduced you to in the last ezine and who does a great deal of charitable work for the Methodist Church Parish in Soweto found a small creche of very young children, deep into Protea South, a camp in Soweto. She took Ronda and Lindiwe there to deliver blankets.
There were only 11 children there on the day they visited, but just nearby was another little creche, which they also visited. It was a freezing cold day and at the last creche, Ronda said the only warm clothing they were wearing was what she handed out that day.
A little group of children, with smaller children on their backs, was wandering along the road nearby. Wandila said she often walks around and asks these children questions about where their parents are. Most times she discovers the children are either neglected or orphaned.
These are the children who are falling through all the nets, such as they are, and with Wandile's help Ronda would like to find many of them over time to deliver blankets.
Here today - gone tomorrow
The shack dwellers live in a perpetual state of turmoil. None so better illustrated than this . . .
As Ronda said, "you could have knocked me over with a feather .... this is the site of the first Zeverfontein crèche we went to - GONE ! Newly painted jungle gym and all." They have apparently been relocated to Cosmo City - a 'little boxes' city but with schools and clinics, so at least we can imagine, for now, that our Zeverfontein children will have better bathroom facilities than they enjoyed at their demolished creche.
What this does demonstrate though, is the added benefit of what we do as it is portable.
Roadside traders beckoning Ronda over to inspect their wares.
We had apportioned $250 US dollars towards new bathroom facilities which would have cost $2000. So we will reallocate those funds to the Christmas Appeal. More about that later . . .
A visit to the twins, Lerato and Tebogo
There was a great deal of press about them at the time, but sadly their mother was not found. They are looked after by their grandmother. Recently the Soweto Comfort ladies went to visit them to give them a jumper each. While their home is a shack, it is kept very neat and tidy. There is no electricity, so for now the TV is just a piece of furniture.
Update on Hotel Hope
We get regular news of Hotel Hope and Oliver's activities as Ronda is on his Board. He has been very busy implementing the 'Pregnant Mothers in Crisis' program. While he waits for the refurbishment of the second Hotel Hope house his focus has been working with expectant mothers, who are mostly teenagers. He works with them in terms of adoption advocacy and their opportunities including training and rehabilitation.
A recent article written on Hotel Hope in The Blue Train Magazine said:
"Poverty even more so than HIV/Aids, is the leading reason for the high numbers of child abandonment in South Africa The figures are alarming ‑ by 2010 it is estimated that orphans will constitute between 9 and 12% of the South African population. This reality is one of the main reasons why Oliver Quambusch and his team have devoted their lives to creating a facility where children are loved, cared for and are more than just a statistic.
“The fact that someone’s parents have abandoned them or aren't able to take care of them doesn't mean they have to grow up in poverty. They need just as much love and affection,” says Quambusch, founder of Hotel Hope.
Hotel Hope isn’t just a catchy name that looks good on a signboard; it represents everything that the team wants to achieve. "We wanted a name with positive connotations and hotels are usually places people want to come to," he explains. Hotels also signify transition and, in Hotel Hope's case, a sanctuary where children can take the first step towards a better future. The philosophy of Hotel Hope is to be more than just an 'orphanage.' The aim is to set up family‑style homes for children. “It will be complete with God‑parents, aunties, uncles and grannies who will love and role‑model values to the children in our care,” Quambusch says.
The Hotel Hope 'Pregnant Mothers in Crisis' programme has been well received in Alexandra, a township located on the outskirts of Johannesburg. Quambusch and his team initially set out to host four workshops a year, but the demand has been so overwhelming that the group now meets once a month. The meetings are non‑threatening and inform women about pregnancy‑related issues. "The majority of women did not know their HIV status or where they were going to give birth. Many women also weren't informed about adoption," he says. The workshops have also eased tensions and enabled better communication between pregnant women and their families.
Keep a new born warm challenge
Erin, Daniel and Hannah at Tshwane Place of Safety
We recently delivered 35 blankets, a great number of jumpers, hats and vests and assorted baby clothing to Tshwane Place of Safety. What an amazing job they do to support and foster their babies. It is clear that they are very well supported too which is truly heartening to know. They were understandably concerned that photographs could not be taken of their babies.
In the meantime, we have had a heart wrenching plea from Oliver, who begs that some of the July Challenge blankets be diverted to the preemie unit and also the general maternity unit at the Johannesburg Hospital, which is where most of his 'mothers in crisis' give birth. These are desperately poor mothers (often extremely young) so to have a beautiful blanket to wrap their new born in, whether they keep them or give them up for adoption, would still be a 'gift for life' for the child. Oliver knows the staff and the situation very well and he says there is a desperate need there.
Ronda and I thought about the best work your work could do. We hoped that you would agree with us that this would be a very fitting way to distribute some of the incredible and loving work you have done, to wrap these little infants in your beautiful blankets.
We truly applaud the work of these wonderful children's charities, but we feel that KAS should be committed to the less formal end of the spectrum and continue to seek out babies and children who may fall through the net. Please rest assured that all the blankets you have so wonderfully contributed to keeping a new born warm will wrap a little one who would otherwise not have been warm.
It has been very exciting to have had some huge contributions recently from corporations in America and South Africa. Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP is a large multinational leader in the practice in law. They have an impressive record of community and pro bono service and last year, according to their website, devoted nearly 130,000 hours of work to pro bono projects around the world.
Camille Iann, who is the Director of Secretarial Services invited the secretaries to join together as a team for a common goal as a global secretarial project and to have fun and show off their talent. She wrote: Secretaries meet during their lunch time to knit or crochet and lessons have been given to those who did not know how to knit or crochet and wanted to contribute to this project. This project started in our DC (Washington) office under the guidance of Teresa Lloyd, Secretarial Supervisor. "
You are doing such a wonderful thing for the children and I wish you all the very best in the future. The squares leaving New York amount to over 600 and I know our DC office has sent over 300 already. We have more and more arriving every day and can't wait to send them to you. We as, a firm, are very proud to partake in this wonderful cause."
Ronda wrote to say that beautifully packed boxes of immaculate squares had been steadily arriving. Thank you to all of you.
Two companies in South Africa have also made sizeable contributions, Bigen Africa and Nampack.
From their website, we learned that the BIGEN AFRICA group is a formidable entity in Southern Africa's consulting engineering fraternity with 14 offices across South Africa, and offices and representation in many other African countries.
We received 115 squares from Bigen Africa's Caroline, Else, Christell, Suzette, Fatima, Oinon Cornel and Lynette. They wrote:
"Wishing you well with this project. You are doing an admirable and often thankless job - I am glad that I could make a small contribution in making sure some child is kept warm during cold days - hugs Caroline"
"Good luck and God bless for a very good job done, Regards Cornel"
"While knitting this blocks, I thought of the little bodies that it would cover and give some warmth - thanx Fatima"
Nampak is a company that manufactures a diverse range of packaging products. They rang to say they have been knitting squares and had three large dustbin bags full. They told Ronda that even the men in the office had been knitting up a storm and that there was no end in sight to their knitting, so they would contact her to collect more and more squares whenever they were ready.
Would it not be a great tribute to these organisations and their fantastic initiative, if other organisations took up the challenge. We should create a KAS Corporate Cup for hand out each year to a well deserving organisation. For now I hope you will all be assured of our most grateful thanks to each one of you on behalf of the children you are keeping warm.
Schools Program underway
We were invited to present to two schools this month, in country Victoria, by Elaine Anderson who is the chaplain of Daylesford Secondary College. She had introduced knit-a-square to the school after we presented at the Daylesford Christian Fellowship Church in May this year.
Zanny, Cressida and I piled into Elaine's car and headed off into the country to meet with the 13 pupils of the little Drummond Primary School, which has just 13 pupils.
We arrived on a chilly winter's morning and found all the students hard at work in their classroom. The youngest in the class, Codie, aged 5, kept us well entertained while we were there. Many of these young students are already knitting as are some of their parents. It is inspiring to think of these country children knitting for children so very remote from them and yet so aware of the difference in their lives.
Daylesford Secondary College
They were fantastic! We spoke for about 15 minutes about the situation in South Africa, the children for whom we were working and why. There was hardly a movement in the room. When we were finished, Marie their teacher asked who would be interested in learning to knit. Every hand went up (well if some didn't, we didn't notice!)
Marie had found cheap knitting needles in the local supermarket and we all set about helping the students to learn how to knit. When the bell went for lunch recess, one student was heard to comment that he thought it was only the half-time bell which suggests that the knitting had done what it is good at, right brain therapy.
Zanny returned with Elaine yesterday to continue helping them and said most of them had got it and needles were flying. They are in fact our first older students (that we know of) and it was really great to see both boys and girls prepared to contribute. Good on you all for getting involved.
Cressida also arranged three meetings with large schools in the Melbourne area and all said they were interested in taking part which is very encouraging.
Unity College South Africa
A wonderful effort of 700 squares from Unity College, the second school that Ronda presented to in South Africa. Ian was the winner of the most squares. A very special thank you to all of you who learned to knit and made so many squares. Ronda went to an assembly to collect the squares and presented the school with a certificate.
Any school participating in the KAS program who would like recognition of their efforts and number of squares sent, please contact us and we will forward you a customised certificate, with grateful thanks.
Please don't forget you can purchase the Teacher Resource here, and your donation will go toward supporting knit-a-square.
Room to Move
You will be aware from the last ezine, that the wonderful and glorious, abundance of squares arriving in South Africa means that Ronda's house is deluged with boxes, parcels, stacks of blankets, clothes and piles and piles of squares.
They are in the lounge, on the dining room table in the TV area which, for a sport loving man like Peter is an act of great magnitude and patience, in the spare room and in their bedroom. Here in Australia, we have just 200 or so squares, bears and garments in the office and they are a 'presence', so I can hardly imagine what 2,500 squares arriving a week looks like.
So we were were greatly relieved, when a friend from Ronda's parish, Duncan Keil, offered a massive warehouse and told us he would be delighted to store as much as we like. Their premises are only only one stop down the freeway from Ronda's house, so is very convenient. Duncan says he is very happy to offer it to us free as a part of the whole knit-a-square effort.
In fact he is also responsible for getting the parish youth involved in sew-a-thons, which will start happening from about October. We are hugely grateful for such generosity at a time when we are not yet funded to afford such a space.
Donating in a different way
As Duncan has shown there are many ways that you can donate to help. Here's another and with more grateful thanks to East Rand Plastic.
Storage and cartage are certainly presenting challenges, so when Ronda's husband Peter organised a donation of 1200 large plastic dustbin bags from East Rand Plastic, Ronda was over the moon. We hope that this will set the trend of many future donations, in kind, from organisations all around the world. Thank you East Rand Plastic for this practical help and for being among the first to start the trend.
Another way to help
Yvonne also from Ronda's church has taken blanket packs, and Veronica recently helped collect and open parcels while Ronda was away visiting family.
News on the blanket making from Debbie (Moletsane Parish)
Uncache your creativity for orphans AND become a published author
Now, in between knitting squares and other items, you can knit your thoughts into a special knit-a-square book for the world, and become a published author. Following the fantastic response to our survey in June/July, we are now able to push forward with the project.
As a brief reminder, we asked all knit-a-square members what you thought the idea of sharing with the world your thoughts and feelings on why you knit/crochet And we asked for your opinion on sharing your knitting/crochet stories, and your reasons for knitting for charity and knit-a-square.
You told us in no uncertain voice that you thought it was an excellent idea and that you thought it a valuable fundraiser for knit-a-square. Now it’s time for action.
Your can either use the questions in the forum as a guide for your thoughts, or you can write your own creative piece to share with others why it is important for you to crochet or knit for charity and, in particular, for the AIDS orphans of southern Africa. This is not about being a best selling author, it is about sharing your feelings of why you do what you do to help.
Please consider a submission, it can be short, long or even just a paragraph. We hope to have the book available before Christmas. While it will tell your story and that of others who share your passion for doing good, the money raised will be used for the children, so everyone wins.
KAS - the incorporation.
We met with the lawyers, Minter Ellison who have so kindly agreed to incorporate knit-a-square.com, pro bono. Part of the process is ensuring that a charter is written which captures everything knit-a-square aims to achieve. This is what we wrote in our words:
knit-a-square.com dreams of blankets made from a universe of lovingly-made squares, to warm every AIDS orphan or abandoned child in southern Africa. In time, when that goal is achieved, we see the world’s knitters and crocheters extending that same concept further afield in Africa.
In achieving this dream, knit-a-square aims to raise awareness of the mostly hidden tragedy of this vast number of orphaned children. Secondly, we aim to help educate the world on the consequences that follow from their plight. In pursuing this dream we are already moving into the heart of some of the poorest slums in South Africa. This is giving us insight into many other possible ways to improve the lives of these children, particularly with a view to their long term engagement within society, given the fractured start to their lives.
Finally, knit-a-square aims to empower all its stake holders, the children's carers, the volunteers, the donors and the knitters and crocheters to make a difference in the lives of these children, and by so doing make a difference in theirs.
In line with the vision we have, ownership of knit-a-square resides with all it's stakeholders. We have been advised that knit-a-square while it may be by far the most active arm of what we do, does not cover all aspects of what we hope to achieve. We need an umbrella name. Here are some of our ideas (within the restrictions of these names being available as a url and a business name).
Based on the abbreviation KAS (from knit-a-square) which is being widely used, we thought of KASkin (as in KAS family) and also KAScade. One suggestion was, For Orphans. There is also the simpler KAS Community. We would be very happy to receive your input and ideas. Here is a discussion thread on the forum to do so. If you are not a member of the forum you can email me.
Can we be talking about Christmas already?
There is already a great deal of discussion on about Christmas - extraordinary to think we are at that time of year already. We are reluctant to take the emphasis off squares, and more squares, to knit teddy bears for instance. We feel that the effort to knit and send a toy may be wasted when it could be another square to make a blanket or warm item of clothing.
This initiated a conversation about school supplies. Ronda wrote that there exists a major shortage in many schools. Recently she tried to buy Prince, a young boy who she supports, a reading text book which she could not get from the suppliers. He was forced to borrow the ONLY copy available to his class and she photocopied it. Most of the children in his class went without the reader.
It’s an area of great need and general supplies like notebooks, scissors, paper, pens, pencils, crayons are greatly desired and valued by the children.
Helen Flagg, a very supportive forum member wrote that she had made enquiries about posting supplies like this and found that from the USA, at any rate, a detailed declaration of the items and their value was required which will have custom implications on the South African end.
As a result, we would like to suggest that we mount a special Christmas Appeal in October requesting donations for us to purchase these items in South Africa, to make up as many basic school packs as the money will purchase. Soweto Comfort Club would hold a number of Christmas celebrations throughout the parishes and the creches where we have distributed, and hand out these packs at that time. These would make a very special gift to children who do not have these basic supplies.
This photograph sent by dear friends in Zimbabwe of children who live on their farm after receiving school supplies from an overseas donor, clearly illustrates their excitement.
I hope you will all consider this. Next week there will be more details on what we have loosely called the KAS Primer (basic literacy and numeracy book). It won't take the creative thinkers among you, long to work out our idea on how this book could be illustrated!
Valued KAS forum members, Tina and her mother, Cindy collaborated on making these truly beautiful squares. Tina designed them and then they both worked on the stitching. When they arrived, we thought to have them professionally stitched together by Ros Truelock in South Africa. We wrote to Cindy and asked her if we could keep this as a 'work of art' which may one day grace the reception area of a small knit-a-square office space in South Africa. While Cindy was not sure that she would have used the word 'art', they were happy for us to put it to one side for such a purpose.
The wonderful work you do.
From Saudia Arabia Jana Hunter a teacher in Saudia Arabia sent this photograph and wrote: I have 8 squares crocheted by my class this past Spring (after I taught them to crochet!). I am attaching a picture of them taken the last day of school in June. All but one of the kids and myself, are Muslim. These kids were great. When I told them about Square Circle and asked if they wanted to learn to crochet and make squares, there was a unanimous YES from both my girls AND boys! One of the boys, Gian, is STILL crocheting up a storm.
Schools: (left) Veronica La Du (13), one of our original knit-a-square heroes and her friends. Right: Quorn Area School, South Australia, knitted by years 3, 4 and 5, so a fantastic effort. 22 squares in all - thank you to all the children who participated.
Authors: How lovely to have had this book sent by a contributor and an author, Sharon E. Cargo. Thank you Sharon. The book is The Rainbow's Dark Shadow:
A world characterized by gang violence, un-ending war, families torn apart by drug and alcohol abuse, demonic influence, high divorce rate, infidelity, religious fundamentalists, new-agers and fast developing technology. Sound familiar? Stories from today's headlines? The time is 2450 BC, in the "Day's of Noah."
Husbands and other men (that we know of!) Below left: Anne Warburton's husband, Roger. Go the husbands. If any of you have husbands knitting in the background, please put them forward for the recognition they deserve. And right, 35 super soft and thick squares from Jeff Roth, thanks Jeff.
Church contributors: Left: Church of the Eternal Spirit, many of their parishioners helped to create the squares and they were blessed by the Rector and sent with love and prayers. Right: from the Eternal Shepherd Lutheran Church.
Mittens: Anne Powell, Canada and W. Dorothy destined for Mother Of Peace Homes.
Pets get involved too: Melissa's beautiful bobble blankets have become a bit of an icon on the site, these are her baby blankets for the July challenge. Her pug is obviously impressed with her knitting loom!
First time contributor and first baby blanket: Left: Claire Owen from the UK, who wrote: please find enclosed my first 'EVER' blanket. I really hope you can pass it to a tiny newborn and keep them a little warmer. Thank you Claire, we will. Right: What a collection of squares from Canada.
Many new contributors from South Africa courtesy of an article in an Afrikaans magazine, Vrouekeur: Mevrou C Beukes of Kwambonambi who is 86 years old – 6 cardigans. Crocheted squares from S Van Coller of FonteinReit.
Our elder contributors: Nancy Horner from Illinois sent these lovely squares, mostly knitted by her 94 year old mother. It is special receiving squares from our elder contributors as well as the other end of the age spectrum, children as young as 8. Do we have anyone younger or older, please let us know.
Ronda wrote to tell me of an old lady in her Parish, Joan Turner, now well into her 90s, who had spent 30-40 years knitting diagonal squares to sew up into blankets for the poor, all off her own bat, and that she alone had provided about 1100 blankets to their annual parish blanket collection - what an effort. Last Sunday there was an appeal for donations of wool for someone who wanted to knit squares and when Ronda was in the parish office she mentioned she had wool to donate. It turned out it was for Joan. She had asked for wool to make squares for KNIT-A-SQUARE. She’s too old to sew them together now but she likes the KAS idea and wants to carry on knitting. She is delighted that she doesn’t have to sew them up anymore."
Left: Ronda's sewing efforts and right, our first blanket sent in strips, from Janet of Lynbrook New York
August in Africa Challenge
NEW ON THE SITE: Knit-a-square's GO-OVER™
Finally, thank you who continue to support knit-a-square by donating to help us continue this work.
Well done if you have got this far! Time to wrap up now and point you in the direction of the The Square List. Thank you for reading and for contributing and we will be in touch soon with more exciting news. Take care where ever you are in the world, look after yourself,
Sandy and everyone in KAS.
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