Toward comfort and protection

Historical content: This blog post is more than 12 months old, so some content may now be out of date.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

 

Toward comfort and protection

 

Greetings from wintry Melbourne this grey afternoon, but from which we are so happy to bring you stories toward comfort and protection in this winter/summer issue of Square Circle, depending in which half of the globe you reside! A very warm welcome too, to our 81 new forum members and 43 new subscribers from all over the world.

We have been very busy since the last issue. Firstly, we are really pleased to tell you that the backlog of parcels is cleared.

We have moved ever closer toward warming many more children with delivery of volumes of squares to two of our major projects, Vuselela Community Centre and Oasis SA Cosmo City Blanket Warming Project, courtesy of the efforts of two organizations, University of Medical and Dentistry, New Jersey and Nampak SA.

We have made several distributions to some very cold children in creches in Soweto and Thembisa and through Lindiwe and Wandile's Parishes.

And the forum and Ravelry members have reduced our goal of 55,900 squares currently needed for all our projects, by the truly astonishing tally of 10,770 squares in just one month. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I hope you will take the time to grab a cuppa, sit down and enjoy the news from South Africa and our wonderful world wide community's ongoing contribution toward comforting and protecting vulnerable and orphaned children.

Contents
Good news stories, the magic of 2000 x 2 • Vuselela sing their thanks • Hope and blanket distributions at Nokuphila School • A touching story • Jabulani Khakibos Kids resplendent in their gifts • News from SA • KasKids™ thrives • Your news • Take a little comfort yourself

 

The magic of 2000 x 2

 

The two feature stories in this issue, written by Dhanu Misken from the University of Medicine and Dentistry, New Jersey and Shelley Mandy from Nampak SA, highlight just how powerful a concentrated effort from a group of people can be.

Both organizations have, within a week of each other, donated plus or minus 2000 squares to KasCare. These substantial contributions have been passed on to our two major projects, Vuselela Community Centre and Oasis Cosmo City Blanket Warming Project. They are both such good stories and ones that I hope will reach out and inspire other organisations to follow suite.

UMDNJ and FedEx Team Up to Deliver Knitted Squares to Africa
DHANU MISKIN

NEWARK— With help from FedEx, which provided funding for charity shipping, knitted and crocheted squares collected by students at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) will soon be on their way to needy children in South Africa. When they arrive, the squares, which measure 8” by 8”, will be combined with other squares to create homemade blankets for children who either have been abandoned, or orphaned by the deaths of their parents due to AIDS.

Dhanu Miskin, (right) a fourth-year student at UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School, was inspired to bring Knit-A-Square, a charity that sends blankets to needy children, to the University. She has received approximately 2,250 squares from donors and FedEx has agreed to deliver the precious cargo.

An estimated 11.6 million babies are orphaned in sub-Saharan Africa and 1.4 million of them live in South Africa. These statistics were enough to motivate Miskin who with the help of Alice Owen, wife of UMDNJ President William F. Owen, Jr. MD, arranged for more drop-off boxes to be distributed across all UMDNJ campuses. 
"The entire concept of Knit-A-Square seemed ideal for medical students. It's a community service project that requires little time commitment or money, but makes a huge difference in the lives of cold, abandoned children," explained Miskin, who first heard about the concept of charity knitting from her mother.

"There were numerous websites promoting charity knitting and crocheting projects, but once I found the www.knit-a-square.com website, I was drawn to its simplicity,” said Miskin. "My mother taught me how to knit and also instilled in me the incredible value of helping others."

We are deeply grateful to Dhanu, Alice Owen, the participating students from UMDNJ and Fedex for delivering these 2,250 squares to South Africa.

From here in New Jersey, to here in South Africa.

Last Thursday, Ronda, Lindiwe, Wandile and a young friend visiting from Australia, Lauren Bamford went to Vuselela Community Health Centre in the informal settlement, Diepsloot to teach the assembled group how to sew the blankets, starting with these 2,250 squares.

Diepsloot is a shack settlement, a city within a city, sandwiched between relatively wealthy suburbs in Johannesburg. It sprawls as far as the eye can see from the side of a main arterial road leading toward Pretoria. Many families live in small shacks made from scrap metal, wood, plastic and cardboard. Basic services such as running water and rubbish removal are scattered at best. It is estimated that more than half the population of 150,000 are unemployed. Poverty abounds.

We first introduced Sister Sato, who runs Vuselela Community Health Centre, to you in October last year and the work she does for some 640 children who are orphaned or made vulnerable as a result of being infected or affected by HIV/AIDS.

When we visited South Africa recently we visited Sister Sato at the centre, and took more blankets and hats.

At the time, we gave this tiny little girl a jumper. She was so excited, she approached me to say thank you. She showed me to place our fingers together on one hand, then flick them away as we said the universal South African expression 'sharp', which means great, or fabulous or cool. We did this several times to her obvious amusement.

She has left an indelible mark on my mind.

Sister Sato was greatly excited at the thought that we might be able to provide enough squares to make up 500 blankets for the balance of the children. We would need to supply them 17,500 squares.

Not long after that we started a challenge in the forum to meet the requirements of Vuselela and a number of other current projects requiring 55,900 squares in total.

The delivery of the 2000 squares from the UMDNJ is a truly wonderful start for this worthwhile project. Ronda takes up the story of the day.

The Vuselela driver and his assistant collected the 8 boxes from UMDNJ on Weds 30th, the day before our visit.

In each box we opened, there was a lovely letter from UMDNHJ with an explanation as to how KAS was introduced to them.

It went SO well - Sister Cecilia was THRILLED, and she had organized three facilitators, Dora, Jacqui and Nellie. to get a group of 20 people together to stitch the blankets. There were 5 men amongst them, one of whom was an expert.

We took a sack of beanies, one of go-overs and of smaller toddler pullovers and vests and sweaters. We also took food which was very much a highlight of the day and a box of stationery for the children, which Sister C was delighted about.

The first blanket was completed in just 1 hour and ten minutes!

Here is a video of this community of helpers singing their gratitude for this gift of squares. They know that there are more squares coming as some of the 10,000+ squares made by forum members this month wing their way to South Africa.

Please join with us in the challenge to complete the required 55,900 squares needed for the projects to hand.

Knitting Nampak rises to their challenge
The second amazing delivery was from Nampak South Africa. Nampak is an international packaging corporation with a large company based in South Africa. They have a very strong social investment charter. We have been delighted by the staff contribution (see the photograph above) to knit-a-square and were particularly amused by the antics of the IT department as both Shelley and Ronda tell. Shelley Mandy wrote:

Each year Nampak Head Office focuses on an HIV related charity on World Aids Day.

The Knit-A-Square initiative was suggested and accepted and a competition was started to see which department at Nampak Head Office could knit the most squares by 1 December 2009.

Group HR rushed around buying employees knitting needles and wool and then discovered that some of the younger generation, who were enthusiastic to knit, had never been exposed to Home Economics at school, and so we started knitting lessons at lunchtimes. What a lot of laughs we had, with even some of the males braving the knitting circles.

Each week we had more requests for more knitting needles and wool, and started making weekly pilgrimages to the wool shop in central Johannesburg, bringing back many boots full of wool. Employees started knitting during presentations, and our security, cleaning and canteen ladies were seen knitting whenever they could.

After World AIDS day, all those who had knitted met in a conference room, bearing their boxes of squares, to be counted and audited by our Internal Audit Department. It was unanimously agreed that everyone would like to continue knitting over the holiday period, as most people would be taking leave and would have more time, so it was agreed to do the final count at the beginning of February 2010.

We also set ourselves a new target, to knit 2010 squares in 2010 !! In February when we did a final count for the competition, we had 1759 squares, and the inter-departmental competition results were as follows:

1. Group IT (391)

2. Group HR (389)

3. Corrugated Division Head Office(227)

4. NMS Admin (222)

The winning team received a free lunch in our canteen and the ladies who knitted the most squares were given gift vouchers. The ladies were Marie du Plooy (91), Belinda Heath (64), Wendy Norris (52), Elizabeth Ndlovu (45).

We then discovered that our IT Department, which has a large contingent of males had shown a lot of initiative, by approaching a retirement home and providing wool and knitting needles and paying the ladies to knit, at R10 a square! We did not quibble, as there were no rules in the competition as to who could be recruited to knit and whether it could be outsourced. Our objective was to get as many knitted squares as possible. The fun employees had with the initiative and the comradrie it generated within departments was wonderful.

In addition, many people commented that in the high stress period, in December when everyone is tired after a long year, before their long awaited annual leave, that knitting was very therapeutic and relaxing. So there was an unintended benefit !!

I think employees felt that they may not be able to give large donations of money, but they could all make a small contribution by giving of their time to knit a square, which could become something meaningful.

It is a wonderful initiative and Nampak wishes Knit-A-Square much success in registering as an NGO and growing from strength to strength in the future.

Ronda organised with Shelley to go to Oasis to deliver the squares and tells the story below:

It was a successful and most interesting time at Oasis this morning. We (Sian, - right below- my older daughter who lives in Cape Town and was visiting with her children, and I) met Shelley and Barbara from Nampak on the access road to Cosmo City and led them to Oasis.

Erin was already there with her children and their two cousins – one of whom, Jade, is at high school and was hoping to gain experience towards a social responsibility study currently running at the school, which also involves spending a designated amount of time engaging with poor communities. She helped open envelopes and boxes yesterday and is enthusiastic about further volunteering opportunities.

Arnie Sweigers, who runs Oasis SA, had telephoned last night to say that his government supplier of immunization drugs had let him down (again) and that there would be many fewer people at the clinic this morning – which meant that distribution of blankets could not take place. He is now hoping to receive his supplies by Tuesday for the next clinic day. However we went as planned, because Nampak wanted to deliver all their squares which did, indeed, happen.

We sat in a circle in the warm winter sunshine while Arnie explained all the working aspects of the Oasis project . We met his wife who helps out at the clinic who has senior healthworker qualifications so although not a doctor, can prescribe medicines.

Cosmo Cityis in marked contrast to Diepsloot and is widely regarded as an excellent model for relocating people from the shack settlements into government housing. None the less the people here remain infected or affected by HIV/AIDS and poverty.

Shelley and Barbara came back to the house to have a tea and muffins and we all got on like a house afire. Shelley had some amusing stories of their square knitting efforts; how so many of their younger staff had no idea at all on how to knit and had to be shown from scratch; and how amazed they were that the IT Department, comprising mostly young men, managed to produce the greatest number of squares, until they found out that they had supplied wool and needles to a nearby retirement village and paid R10 per square, with the darlings knitting up a storm to maximize their earnings!
 

 

A touching story from Pimville

 

These two anecdotes provide a moving insight into how the work you do connects, beyond the distributions:

From Ronda: This young chap (Kgomotso, I think !) received a blanket at the Pimville distribution about 10 days ago. Khaya (who is the chairlady of the sewing group) tells me they have noticed him in church quite often over the months, always participating vigorously, animated, singing at the top of his voice and obviously enjoying himself – and then he was invited to join a youth group of sorts on an outing but arrived without the designated T-shirt (Sowetans love a 'uniform' as they call it, and always organize T-shirts for specific events).

When asked where his T-shirt was, he said he was an orphan living with an elderly grandmother. Until that moment they had no idea of that – he never complained and always appeared well cared for, but apparently he has a battle on his hands to even get to church. They were so touched by his story, they decided to give him a blanket even though he is older than the other recipients – about 14 yrs old. They also sorted him out with a school uniform, which he is wearing in the photograph with Khaya, and he is on the outreach programme now.

Another slightly older child is an eleven year old who is suffering from leukaemia and is so weak she hardly ever leaves the shack she lives in with her mother, but they did come to the Pimville church for the distribution and apparently she truly loves her blanket and told Khaya that, whenever she feels really ill, she snuggles into it and feels the warm arms of Jesus around her, encouraging and comforting her. Such a beautiful story, I thought.
 

 

Distribution in to Nokuphila School in Thembisa
from Ronda

Nokuphila is our only project (so far) in Thembisa ... this little school only started in January this year, with 45 children picked from specially difficult backgrounds – all living with the same desperate problems that one finds throughout South Africa in poor areas.

Founded and funded and administered under the auspices of Christchurch Midrand it is already a thriving little school–if only we had a million more of these projects.

My friend, Annie de Witt introduced us to this project – her son is a Church of England in SA (CESA) pastor in Cape Town and this is a branch of the same denomination, which is how we became involved.

She has worked very hard for this project and is now helping them establish a vegetable garden on the site. Also helping is Di who is administering a new project in Eersterus (60 kms from Pretoria) is also terribly keen to get blanket packs and blankets and beanies out there for 120 kids in dire circumstances.

Annie is going to try and keep the Nokuphila sewers stitching blankets up to send to Eersterus

The handout was beautifully organized, each child's blanket and beanie was labeled with their name and Annie did the presentation.

 

 

Projects like this provide us with so much hope. They are only 45 children among millions, but like the Jabulani Khakibos Kids they are being afforded an opportunity to receive an education and make a contribution to their society in the future.

We applaud achievements like this, and hope as Ronda says that such projects will be mirrored by the million throughout South Africa. The blankets will be greatly treasured by these small children. Thank you Annie for organising this on behalf of KasCare.

 

 

 

The Jabulani Khakibos Kids and their gifts from you

In our recent appeal sent last week , I directed you to a story about our visit to the Jabulani Khakibos Kids and the gifts you gave them. I sent the story too, to Stefanie and asked that if they had photographs we would very much like to see the boys with their blankets, GO-OVERS and hats. An immediate reply came back with the attached photographs.

They had in fact been sent much earlier but we did not receive them, as they had been sent to our younger daughter, Cressida's old email address. She helped KAS up until March this year developing the KasKids™ Program and while we miss her contribution greatly, we are happy to tell you that she is loving her work for CARE Australia.

Those of you who worked hard for the boys will be delighted to see how warm they all look now, especially walking the 5 kilometers to and from school on these very cold winter days.

 

 

 

Backlog cleared and deliveries aplenty!

From Ronda: We finished all the envelopes from USA and so CLEARED the floor completely … just long enough for it to be swept !

Then we pulled in all the post from yesterday’s collection. John (Hotel Hope's driver) had to make two trips even with his big vanette and once again the room looks chock-a-block.

Our SA KAS team with their new 'haul'. From left, Wandile, Otti, Big John (who has been doing the post run for us), Lindiwe and Erin, Thursday 24 June 2010.

But it was a big event, because it is absolutely the first time that floor has been completely cleared since about November last year !

Well done Ronda, Erin and the team (with help from the grand children as well.) This is a wonderful effort and we are really excited that we are through the backlog and can now more readily clear the post as it comes in.

Two of Ronda's grandchildren insist on helping, Luca and Gemma.

Soon we will be trial the new software that Erica has built for us, and once the glitches are ironed out, we will release it for general us - probably around September.

The Barcode Reader
For those of you who may not have received news of this before, this is will allow you to enter your name and details of what you are sending onto a specified page on the website. You can then print out a label which will have a bar code on it. Ronda and her team will be able to scan the bar code which will both enter the data for them and trigger an email to you alerting you to the safe arrival of your parcel. A true win win for everyone and our heartfelt thanks go to Erica for both suggesting it and coding the software.

The Dreaded Duty
From Ronda: Customs Duty seems to have reached an all time high, not surprising perhaps, since so many large parcels are arriving now. Sadly, I was forced to send back two parcels to Customs for re-assessment of duty … one of R500 odd from Australia and again on Thursday, John had sent back one where R991 duty was required to be paid!. That's the highest levy ever received.

It is likely that the boxes did not fall within our specifications or that they noted specific items. They are currently being reassessed and I will report in the next ezine what the outcome is. We have a good relationship with the post office and if this duty is unreasonable, we feel certain it will be addressed otherwise we will attempt to establish the exact reason so we can avoid it in future!

 

Donations

I am happy to tell you that I have just received a donation of Can$200 to with a note saying it was specifically to cover duty. We are so very grateful for this support and feel greatly moved by such consideration. We also received a donation of US$750 last week from a member who already contributes regularly. It came from her mother's estate and with the comment that as her mother was an extremely generous person, she would be pleased to know that the money was being used for those in need.

We are now receiving just over US$1000 dollars a month in recurring donations. Thank you all. I hope you have received your copy of Heart Yarns which comes with our heartfelt thanks.

This is greatly helpful in ensuring we can continue to support our South African KAS team to do their work with in their volunteer time and resources, but falls short, at this point, to appoint an operations manager as described in the appeal.

Please consider joining our growing band of KAS supporters with a small but regular donation. You can easily set this up through our PayPal donation form.

Every dollar goes toward making sure we get blankets on to vulnerable or orphaned children and that we spread both warmth and the word about their plight.

 

A visit from the USA to KAS SA

We received this letter and photographs from Melissa R. Rautenbach, College of Health Professions - Nursing, Temple University

Hi Sandy, I am in South Africa right now and was able to go over there last Thursday to drop off the squares. It was really wonderful to be able to have the opportunity to meet Ronda and to see for myself what happens to the squares. Ronda is an amazing lady for giving so much of herself to this project! Her house is surrounded in packages and squares.

I took a few pictures while I was there that I thought I would share with you. All the best, Melissa

From left to right: Ronda, Lindiwe, Melissa, Melissa's mother, Wandile, Samantha (Melissa's cousin and KAS volunteer now!)

Melissa followed this up with the news that her cousin Samantha was so touched by what she saw wanted to help out and she has indeed volunteered over a number of weeks for which we are very grateful. Melissa ended her email:

I must admit that I'm a little jealous that I'm not able to help out more directly. However, though university keeps me very busy, I am going to continue trying my best to make others here aware and encouraged enough to get involved. If you have any suggestions or advise regarding this, that would be great!

I have written to Melissa suggesting that perhaps her university may get involved in the same way that Dhanu's did and look forward to hearing from her in this regard.
 

KasKids™ News

Feedback on the Teacher Resource

We received this letter from Jackie some months ago about teaching her students to knit. I hope it might inspire some of you to purchase the Teacher Resource for a donation of $12.95.

It will help you get a school involved and further support the work we are doing in South Africa at the same time.

She wrote: I sending a few pictures of my 5th graders working on their squares. Like I mentioned before it's difficult to teach 21 , ten year olds how to knit. I found the teachers resource guide to be helpful in some ways. We have a smart board in our classroom, so showing the different parts of South Africa was very informative. The math page was great and some of the stories were very touching. We are knitting our squares from wool, so the properties of wool and that whole section was helpful. I needed to bring in adults from the community and retired teachers to help me. We are finally making some progress. It was nice to hear from you. Fondly, Jackie

 

Squares from Kankakee High School

Ronda made these brightly coloured lovely blanket layouts from the squares received from the kids of Kankakee Valley High School sent by their art teacher Stephanie Thilges, together with these vibrant loving letters. The squares will go to Antoinette McMasters sewing group to be made into blankets. Another inspiring contribution from a school, with grateful thanks.

From you

Here is a lovely cheery and happy poster from Erin Young in Brigham City, utah. Thanks everyone for this great contribution.

Feast your eyes on this beautiful work which arrived during the month. How pretty will some little girl feel in this bright GO-OVER?

KAS News

Some of the moderators in the forum, (Anne, Dawne, Debbie, Elizabeth, Erin, Jeanne, Kalai, Karen, Kyla, Rona and Sylvia and with help from RhondaH from ravelry) have been discussing ways to improve your experience in the forum this month. They have been working on navigation, cleaning up the categories, encouraging you to introduce yourselves and create your own blog and now the Pattern of the Month.

Pattern of the Month
We will soon be inviting you to submit your original patterns for possible selection as the Pattern of the Month. There will be criteria involved, that the pattern be original and that you are happy for us to publish it as a free pattern download. This is a wonderful way to challenge your crafting creativity and to contribute at the same time to growing our KAS membership as many people find us looking for free patterns. Look out this month for news of how to enter on the forum.

Dawne is also contacting knitting designers with a view to adding Designer Squares to our collection, which already features squares from Lucy Neatby, Kristeen Griffen Grimes and Diana Troldahl.

You can find these patterns on both the forum and in Zina's forum if you haven't already, take part in the challenges and in the various discussion threads, and we really look forward to meeting you.

 

Take a little comfort yourself

There are five new square lists on the knit-a-square site from May 25 to June 28. I think when you review the pages and pages of arriving post you will agree that everyone in South Africa has done an awesome job to clear the backlog.

Ronda makes notations against every parcel, "lovely stuff - old friend, truly beautiful squares, plus lovely long letter, message with God's blessings, grandma taught her, magnificent flower motif etc." She includes details of everything extra that has 'slipped in' as well.

We would so love to relay to each of you the way in which your letters, slip-in's, cards and notes touch us, but we must be pragmatic with our resources and use them the best way we can to serve the children. She gets many requests too for acknowledgement of receipt of the parcels, but we long since agreed that it is just not possible to meet all of these requests.

We realise that on occasion this may make some of you feel your wonderful contributions have not been met with due gratitude for your efforts. However, we greatly hope that the ezine (which is on average about every 5 weeks), news in the forum and All for Orphans will help you realise that everything you send finds its way, in time, to a needy child somewhere and they are comforted and warmed by your generosity.

You will see from the video, Vuselela sings their thanks, that gratitude for your magnificence is felt widely, by those who sew, those who share the volunteer work, the children who receive the blankets, those who work in South Africa to help these children. They feel real joy at this bounty. And connections keep being made with every stitch you make.

In a recent article in the spring edition of Interweave Crochet called Wrapped in Goodness, Betsy Greer of Craftivism made these wonderful observations about a blanket:

"...in times of need, a handmade blanket is infused with the goodness of human giving... ...blankets are unique, because they fill an emotional need ... ... they are literally our protectors against the cold, our comfort when alone, and our companions in the dark."

At moments when you fear your work may not have reached it's destination, please comfort yourself with the thoughts that it and others like it have and will soon be, or already are, providing an abandoned, orphaned or vulnerable child with comfort and protection.

As at the 28 June we were only 4,127 squares away from the 100,000 SQUARE MAGIC MILESTONE! And on that truly exciting note, I will leave you with a quote from Dawne's latest blog: Universal Understanding. Clearly there is injustice in our world, but we are here also. YOU and I are here; we matter and we are not without the power to act..."

The next issue will be a special feature on KasCreches and the distributions we are currently making. But for now, we have so enjoyed bringing you this Square Circle issue with its stories of comfort and hope. These sentiments seem beautifully etched on the young faces of the children below.

Have a wonderful month and take great care of yourself, Sandy

To further support these children, you can donate here.