|Back to Back Issues Page|
Square Circle, Issue #10 -Hats on heads and snugly wrapped children
May 31, 2009
Hats on heads and snugly wrapped children
The photographs tell this issue's story. They paint a vivid picture of the conditions the children live in, but at the same time they tell of the human spirit, the ready smile, playfulness, gratitude and love of each other.
SQUARE CIRCLE ISSUE TEN - 31 MAY 2009
STILL (!)COMING TO THE SITE:
Zeverfontein Creche - 15 May 2009
Zeverfontein Creche was a new experience for Soweto Comfort Club. It is in an extremely poor area of Johannesburg and the young women who work with these children, do a remarkable job with very little.
Ronda wrote: Their creche "building" is an old shipping container and, apparently, the port-a-loo they have to use is so ghastly, nobody can bear to go near it.
The St. Vincent de Paul girls who volunteer there, are trying to raise funds to get a new one, or have this one cleaned up on a regular basis. No good getting a plumber in to quote for an alternative, since there are no sewerage pipes serving the entire area. Things we just take for granted."
Not all of these children are orphaned, some are infected with HIV AIDS, some have parents who are very ill. Understandably, it was explained that there was sensitivity regarding the status of the children, and we were respectful of that.
Besides which, we were agreed that it would be unkind to single out only orphan children when clearly every child, as desperately poor as they are, would be happy for the colour, warmth and love that is so inherent in each blanket.
We distributed 31 blankets and hats here. Ronda said that what is so remarkable about the children is how cheerful, well behaved and ready to smile, they are. The photographs poignantly demonstrate this, and Ronda's captions bring them to life.
LEFT: They were SO good about going straight to the "teacher" to hand their blankets in and make sure they were put with their belongings to go home. For such tiny little things their discipline was amazing.
RIGHT: Lining up to wash their hands before being given something to eat.
Having received their biscuit and cheese, they were waiting patiently to say grace. The little boy with the blue top on just couldn't resist a quick lick of his cheese.
The hairdressing salon!
Lindi Ngwenya (same name as Lindiwe Ngwenya who you know from Soweto Comfort Club,) organised the event with Ronda through her parish.
Ronda was also accompanied by Leo (short for Leonor), who is an exchange student from Canada. She came to Johannesburg to do some charity work. Hopefully Kyla can join Ronda and the SCC ladies next year to experience something like this.
Methodist Church Community Distribution - Saturday 16 May
Ronda wrote: We went to two church distributions within the Methodist church community. At the first church the women were dressed immaculately in their church finery, but don't be deceived. This is a very poor community. They get very little, if anything from the government. What little help they receive is from the church itself.
The women run a creche for about 30 children and the conditions are awful, a bit like Zeverfontein, using an old freight container with a port-a-loo which is totally inadequate.
The difference is that they do have utilities in Soweto, so they could have a proper facilities if they had the money. They say the container is FREEZING cold and many of these kids are HIV positive so extremely vulnerable.
The blankets were beautifully sewn up. Ronda said they were touched and thrilled by their work.
Each blanket had been crocheted around the edge, the squares were all correctly matched in size, were even and lay beautifully flat.
They are collecting another 15 blanket packs from Jo and are desperate for them. We only scratched the surface although everyone was delighted and there was lots of singing, praising, thanking and joyfulness going on. (See video!)
They then went on to this tiny little Methodist church with a relief pastor, Philip. He was very taken with Knit-a-square and promised to help by transporting Lindiwe and Jo which is a huge bonus.
Ronda and Lindiwe in front of the squatter camp right next to church.
Soweto Comfort Club volunteer, Florence's husband, John, is an architect who has done amazing work at Phiri Parish. He is currently drawing up plans to rebuild this little church too.
Things have a certain dynamic when you are in these situations and Ronda wrote of what happened next: "Lots of local kids saw the commotion and just popped in, so we ended up with about 70 children milling around and the only way we could share out the blankets was to get family groups together and hand out one blanket per family.
It was pretty heartbreaking, but these kids are so used to being messed around, they were just delighted with everything that happened, not one argument or sulk to be seen. It's humbling, truly.
We could not know which children were orphaned, but many of them were not with adults and we were told by some of the AIDS counsellors present that were desperate for foster homes. Everyone in these areas is enduring great hardship of one sort or another.
Soup queue - the church tries to feed all the children every day. Don't you love the little chap with his cap on sideways - clutching his piece of bread and so hungry he's about to leap into the soup pot!
Singing to gladden you heart.
Ronda has sent some wonderful video snippets some of which I have stitched to the original Jamey video. It will be uploaded to this page on the forum by tomorrow (Monday). I hope you will return to watch it. The singing of the women at the Methodist Church and their obvious joy and celebration of the blankets will surely gladden your hearts.
A newborn baby benefits from knit-a-square
This adorable little baby was born to a young women and was 5 days old (born Friday 15th) when this photograph was taken. The mother Cynthia, is 18 years old. The baby's name is LETABO which means Happiness in South Sotho (pronounced SU-TU).
Ronda gave Letabo this quilt, which was sent within a huge consignment from Judy Adams of Beautiful Saviour Lutheran Church in Illinois with 205 squares, extra wool, material and this patchwork quilt.
Judy wrote to say that it was enclosed as one of their members could not knit or crochet, but wanted to participate and so created this beautiful soft quilt. Now it is wrapped around little Letabo to ease her passage into a hard world. I hope Judy if you read this you will pass it on to your member who made it with thanks.
Children at Baragwanath Hospital
Our visit to the Charles Hurwitz TB Clinic - annex to Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital ... on 21/09/05
From Ronda:It was amazing - We met with the lovely staff, Lindi, Onica, me, Ms Lesele (CEO of the clinic), Jo, Florence
Mrs Lesele had contacted Josephine to request an Alpha Course be run at the clinic in order to bring strength, hope and spiritual comfort to the staff. They are not given any kind of counseling for stress, or debriefing procedures to help them cope with the trauma of losing a high percentage of patients, most after months of nursing and close relationships developing.
We started with a meeting to introduce ourselves - they told us about their work and we told them about you (the knitters) and knit-a-square and explained how it all works.
LEFT: Lindiwe with Lalitta Makeleni 15 months (boy) and Erin with Lenamola Faku
Ronda wrote: "We had to wear masks while inside the ward because these children and babies are all TB sufferers themselves. Some of them are seriously compromised not only by TB but coupled with underlying HIV ... some are orphans, and one or two have parents in the adult wards. At the moment they have only 9 children on the ward, at times that number swells to 30.
When they are well, the orphans go to foster homes under Social Welfare, but many stay for 6 months or more. The school seems to operate spasmodically but it is part of the childrens' ward set up.
The little girl on the left is two and a half, but very ill and spent time in the walking ring because she's too weak to walk.
These little children seem to embody so much hope, despite their truly devastating circumstances. Wrapped in your blankets, let's find a way to work with them to rise to the challenges that they face as they grow up.
Bigger sweaters and longer sleeves
Many of you may have worried about the short sleeves on the pullover pattern and the fact that they are all very small. It is not that we won't be able to distribute every vest and pullover that has been sent to the many thousands, and more, very small children that need them. But rather that there are older children that need them too.
So for the moment Zanny is going to knit up a larger sweater with longer sleeves so that I can include that pattern on the site. We also have a larger vest pattern which will go up on site and, of course, if any of you have simple, easy to knit long-sleeved sweater patterns, then please, send them to me for inclusion.
Just today, I was contacted by Linda from Canada with a picture of a delightful crochet pullover made of scrap yarns. I have asked her if we can include the pattern on the site.
This is what Ronda has said about the sweaters.
And we promised to go back to the Methodist Parish community, when we had more larger beanies and sweaters ... But we need to re-think this in a way, because while the sweater pattern is adorable, the short sleeves make it impractical for a Johannesburg winter weather.
It's already been really cold here and most of the kids do seem to have an ill fitting assortment of track tops which are bulky rather than warm. The sweaters don't fit over the top of them comfortably. They would be ideal for autumn or early spring, but not really in winter. I think you need to have a discussion about a loose-fitting, long-sleeved pullover which might be easy to do.
We have received 10 middle-sized stripey pullovers which are going to old for Ten Thousand Homes, as many of their children are older. Anything we receive which is larger than a 4 year old size, we are saving for that project.
It's a bit of a balance and quite tricky, because we see so many children here in Soweto who could use that type of pullover. Certainly this weekend (18 May) - there were many more children than there were warm items available to give out.
Knit-a-square - a not for profit.
It will be no surprise to most of you, that we must now seriously consider registering both knit-a-square and Soweto Comfort Club as not for profits.
Between us, Ronda, her team of volunteer workers, Kalai (almost full time) and me totally full time, we need to raise some income to cover the costs and sustain the work we are all so passionate about, and committed to doing.
There are foundations who will support Soweto Comfort Club for their on-ground community work. We also intend to begin the work of attracting corporate sponsorship and fund-raising, but of course we must be registered to do that, so that all received funds are correctly accounted for.
As far as the way in which we do this work, and our relationship with you, nothing should alter. Many of you have been on the journey with us from almost day one and we really wanted to share the voyage with you. This way we can be here for the long haul and continue to raise awareness and help to keep our children warm.
At long last, we have finished Zanny's pattern book for the Heritage blanket she knitted for us last year. For those of you who are advanced knitters, the stitches will be relatively easy.
What we hope, is to inspire your inner artist.
Yarns and wools available today are so soft and exquisitely coloured and the textures are luscious, so this is an invitation to paint with your knitting needles!
Heritage Blanket is laid out with the pattern for every block in a box, with space for you to record your choice of yarn and stitches as you go. That way it is truly a heritage blanket, as you will have a record of exactly how you made it. I hope, if any of you take up the challenge, you will send us photographs of your results.
Every e-book purchased is a donation to knit-a-square and Soweto Comfort Club for our first fund-raising efforts. As always feedback is gratefully received.
AIDS in Africa day presentation
A small, but very active, Christian Fellowship Foundation run by Pastor Glenn Rowbotham in Daylesford where Zanny lives, put on an event last Sunday (24 May 2009), African Aids Awareness Morning. I was invited to make a short presentation about knit-a-square and the work you are doing for the AIDS orphans.
Members of the congregation had worked hard to decorate the small church with African colours and themes, and the choir was practising hard, singing Jabulani Africa as we set up.
The wealth of wonderful photographs that Ronda has sent of your amazing contributions and the blankets around children, provided a moving slide presentation for the story I told them of knit-a-square and the incredible and generous response from you.
I finished the presentation with the excerpt of the speech on the AIDS grannies page from Steven Lewis. It is impossible to read the last paragraph without the emotion catching in your throat, as it did on this day too. Many people were wiping tears from their eyes at the end.
Afterwards Knit-a-square was presented with a very generous donation which we gratefully received. In part we will spend it to print Andrea's fabulous 8" ruler flyers, as they are an excellent promotional piece and a great reminder for those who have them, especially if they are used as bookmarks.
We were also presented with about 18 of these gorgeous, soft and cuddly hand-knitted teddy bears by a member of the church, Gary who is a fervent knitter. We have labeled them and they are on their way to Africa soon. He says he will be knitting many squares in the future. At the end of the event, members had cooked up an African feast and we had a great lunch of spicy stews and fragrant rices and mealie meal porridge (called sudza in many parts of Africa).
As a result of this, we will now actively seek to make presentations in other churches, schools, retirement villages and to Rotary and Lion charitable groups. That will keep us busy! The dream - to come to Canada, UK, Europe and the USA and do the same thing. Perhaps next year, and it would be a great way to spread the word, don't you think?
The awesome forum
Square Circle Forum went live on Monday 18 May. Within 24 hours it had 250 members - isn't that fantastic. The activity has been hectic with lots of contributions, blogs, and group discussions. There are now 8 groups, Canadian Corner, United States, African Knitwits, UK, NI knitters, Knit me, Hobbiedee Breigroup and Downunder and the land of the long white cloud!
We also have a resident poet, Tim Whitsun. His first poem is greatly moving:
Why knitting? With a thousand things to choose
But no. So knitting it would have to be.
Initially, the battle with disease
A million and a half (or thereabouts),
in my gut Ė a useless site to stitch.
Now suddenly your knitting is a rhyme,
Iíve come to like your craft, when once I fought
And like it more for what it represents:
Check out the blog for more of his work. Let's hope that his wonderful words are a regular feature of the forum.
We look forward to meeting you in there sometime soon and sharing the lovely, warm KAS community with you.
For those of you not yet in the forum, the June Challenge has been posted by Kyla. It's a great idea and will be a very personal way of gifting a square to a child with their initial on it.
If we receive lots of other initialed squares, above and beyond what is needed for the children of Ten Thousand homes, we will just incorporate them into blankets in the future. There are always going to be children to whom we can match an initialed blanket. It is a grand idea. Well done Kyla.
From Kyla: "There is a list of names and ages of the children of the charity 10 000 Homes, and it is a very long list indeed. These are the children who still need blankets who live with 10 000 Homes, and our June challenge will be to focus on them and their blankets. We are going to make them totally unique, very special squares that have their name or initials in them. When you post these squares mark them as being the name squares for the 10 000 Homes kids, and they will go into blankets for those children, and only for those children.
Happy stitching everyone - Kyla!"
You can find the list of names on the forum, although we will be re-posting it soon under Kyla's name so that she can administer it, which means you may find your posts being moved in the next few days. After that it will be plain sailing.
I have written to the members of the proboards forum, which was started by Kerry, to suggest that we migrate that membership to Square Circle. Particularly in light of Kerry becoming very busy in her job recently, making it difficult for her to be as active as in the past.
On that front congratulations are in order. Kerry was engaged this month to her partner Toby - we extend our warmest congratulations and best wishes for a wonderfully happy life together. And grateful thanks for being the initiator of a forum and one of our early heroes.
New on the site
Well the forum of course! What with the forum, presentation and Heritage Blanket, I am way behind on all the pages that need attending to on the site. That is a priority for June. I know that all of you, Kalai, Kyla and Ronda and Erin in South Africa will be busy in the forums, so I will attend to the site again. There are so many patterns, new heroes, and updates to do. In the next ezine expect a bit more news on that front!
We do have a bit more press to add to the PR and Press pages and have recently been contacted by Vogue Knitting America to do a short feature on knit-a-square which is wonderful.
POSTAGE Ronda is paying far less duty as your parcels arrive, without values attached to them and stating 'For Charity Only'. Thank you so much. Also, we have received hats and scarves as well, with no duty payable. Whole blankets are still attracting duty, so we hope that we can keep to just sending squares.
Finally, your squares!
Thanks to Matt who works in ArtWords, we have sorted out the best way to get you the latest updates on the arrivals of squares. Ronda has been very diligent in sending me updates every week and I am hoping that my rather limited excel skills have ensured that they have all been faithfully copied and pasted into the 20 page(!)pdf which is now available for download.
It is much easier for you, I know, if all the names are just listed in the ezine, but short of coding a 20 page long table, it is just not practical.
So all you have to do, is click here through to the specific page on the site which will have a download link on it. The names are mostly alphabetical and listed week by week.
A few parcels arrived water damaged (with apologies from the USA postal service attached). Although the contents were fine, Ronda was not able to decipher the names. We feel very confident now that all post is being faithfully delivered on the South African end, which is exciting.
Thank you all for your patience to wade through another small novel. What to do? There is just so much news and so many wonderful photographs to share with you. I feel certain we will reach the milestone this month of 10 000 Squares - that will be a very exciting day. You can now check the tallies on a regular basis here.
Have a wonderful June Challenge. The next issue will be lovely and covered in initialed squares!
Till the end of June (unless I just have to tell you something!) Sandy
PS. These gorgeous blankets were made by Judith Blignaut from Alberton, South Africa. One of the benefits of being on the home turf is that you can make a whole blanket without worrying about duty. So we look forward to seeing a whole lot more of blankets from within South Africa.
|Back to Back Issues Page|