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We're back! - Roger • What's happening in South Africa - Kalai • InterfaceFLOR smashes square record • Notes from Ronda • 100,000 squares a month needed now! - Wendy • A short reflection - Sandy •

Forgive us that it’s been so long since we could set aside the time for another edition of Square Circle. Much has happened (and much that should have, hasn’t.)

We are selling our home by auction today, and looking for paid work. It explains why we’ve had to put matters KasCare here in Australia on the backburner.

However, KAS South Africa continues to be incredibly busy warming and comforting the children, courtesy of your wonderful stitching which continues to pour in, and the dedication of Ronda, Erin, Lindiwe, Wandile and their team, Wendy and many volunteer staff.

We continue to be amazed at the organic growth we have all achieved together.

It’s a little like watching your child grow. You hover over it as it takes its first wobbly steps into childhood, and live with its little tantrums as it starts to discover the world. You glory in its early achievements and grieve for its disappointments as it makes its way through adolescence.

Suddenly, it declares itself grown up. Only then do you realize that it did most of the growing up itself!

So it has been with the KasCare community. We estimate that, in two and a half years since its foundation, we have gained more than 7,500 members in 50 countries through the various online groups, subscribers, forum members, Ravelry Group , Facebook and Twitter.

The Knit-a-square program has been adopted by over 300 schools, through KasKids™ program, hundreds of church groups, dozens of universities and many large corporate organisations, the most recent of which, InterfaceFLOR in Holland, has just sent 9,956 squares and 248 knitted garments (see the story below).

In all, 221,668 squares have arrived and 16,836 knitted and crocheted garments.

Kalai, in the meantime, has continued working two days a week administering the Forum and handling a constant flood of correspondence. We believe her quiet, steady, persistent attention has kept the flame burning in the online world. She has helped to build the Facebook presence from nil to nearly 1,437 fans in less than a year.

G4S (the organization with whom we have partnered in the prison project) has recently established that they have the capacity in their Mangaung Correctional Centre to sew 100,000 squares a month! That would mean blankets for 36,000 children in a year. We could not ignore such a fantastic challenge. (See Wendy's story below.)

There is so much to do, to ignite the fire that might result in such a massive volume of squares arriving in South Africa. I hope that you will all take up this daunting, but extremely exciting challenge and start the process of spreading the word again.

The story from InterfaceFLOR is an exhilarating example of what people can achieve when they are committed to an idea and work together. We are beginning to see more of these opportunities at local, community and corporate levels.

As a result, KasCare, through your collective efforts, has become something so much bigger than all of us put together. Its purpose and its expression make each of us bigger too—bigger within ourselves by giving something of ourselves away.

If you want to see a wonderful celebration of the work we all do for these children through our collaborative efforts, please watch this video.

And that’s why we’re back. Even if the time commitment we would dearly love to dedicate to you and the children cannot be as it was before. But still, we’re back in whatever capacity we can give. Roger.

 

What's happening in South Africa
From Kalai McDonald

 

Hi lovely KAS people, I know it’s been so long since you’ve heard from us. I hope that you are keeping updated through our Facebook page and the forum.

Ronda and the crew in South Africa have been working as hard as ever. Here is a just a snapshot of what's happening. Everyone is so busy doing the work, wrapping blankets around the children, that there has not been much time to write volumes as we used to.

A distribution is being organised in Diepsloot, a squatter camp not far from Ronda’s house, by an employee from the Byranston post office. Amazing how KAS gets everyone involved.

Soweto Uprising Day. We held a distribution of blankets to 50 or more children.

Hotel Hope. Oliver tells us there are at least three church groups who are in desperate need of blankets and knitted items to support their community.

The Zimbabwe project. Squares and other items are being stockpiled for transport to Zimbabwe. The challenge in the forum has been going really well.

We have a project in Midrand, which will be orchestrated by Ronda’s friend, Annie de Witt. She did a similar distribution last year.

We are going to be published in the July edition of Johannesburg Child, which is a local free magazine. That will spread the word further.

Ronda discovered recently that Pick n Pay, a chain of supermarkets in South Africa, gives out points for charity. She is still working out the details, so we will let you know how it works and what benefits it can provide the children.

These are some of the most recent distributions: Dirasengwe, Thembai Nkosi, Katlehong, Nobango and Caroline’s Crèche, with some wonderful photographs, as you will see below.

Two of these little creches, shown below, KlipSpring and Thusenong were distributed to on behalf of our fantastically generous USA Group in the forum. Led by Helen Flagg, they raised over US$1,100 which was sent to Ronda in April. Thank you so much, you are an inspiration, and we are all deeply grateful for your generosity.

We said goodbye to Marci this month, as she returned to the USA. Marcie has done a huge amount of volunteering for us in South Africa—a sad loss, indeed. Thank you so much for all your support Marcie, you will be missed hugely.

A big thank you too, to Cheryl who has sewn 600 plus blankets for us. What an awesome effort. Don’t forget to look out for the July Challenge in the forum. Kalai.

 

InterfaceFLOR’s Mission Zero smashes square record
From Roger McDonald

 

A knitting program, partly aimed at promoting a new commercial floor product, has smashed KasCare’s and Knit-a-square’s record for a single donation of blanket squares.

The project was launched by InterfaceFLOR, the Netherlands branch of the giant Atlanta-based Interface corporation of the United States. Between the northern hemisphere winter and autumn, the project produced 9,829 squares and 247 other knitted garments and items.

Yvonne Morsink, pictured right, InterFLOR’s Segmentation Manager for Benelux (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg) and Scandinavia, said the program fitted in well with the company’s global corporate social responsibility values. It had synergies with the group’s strategy for building relationships with all stakeholders, including employees, customers, suppliers, and the communities in which the company operates.

Knit-a-square also meshed perfectly with the launch of Knit One, Purl One, a new modular carpet tile with a hand-knitted appearance. Why not involve InterfaceFLOR’s employees in Knit-a-square and publicise the product and the product launch side by side?

‘My personal goal was that it would have been great if we could reach 500 squares or so’.
With the encouragement of Piet Looijen, Regional Marketing Director for Northern Europe, she set about communicating the idea throughout the company.

‘Knitting squares is not as difficult as knitting complete garments and is suitable and fun for lots of people, from the starting knitter to the very experienced knitter. I contacted KasCare to see if we could commit our product to your activity and received a very enthusiastic reply. That´s how it all started.

‘At that time we really had no idea what the impact…would be. My personal goal was that it would have been great if we could reach 500 squares or so,’ she said.

Yvonne emailed details of the concept to the company’s database, posted it on their website and announced it to local media. She and the marketing team also prepared 600 knitting packs for the Zorgtotaal healthcare exhibition where the new carpet product was presented in March. All 600 packs were gone at the end of the exhibition.

‘The last two weeks for the deadline, the squares were really coming in like crazy and the score quadrupled from 2,500 to 10,000 squares.’
She said word of mouth had played a powerful role as more and more people passed on the message within their own communities.

At the end of the program, InterfaceFLOR had a database of 200 participants. Many of those single entries were retirement villages, schools and other communities. As well, anonymous contributions flooded in, making it impossible to measure how many individuals had been involved.

InterfaceFLOR set up a free postal service to receive the squares, and then funded shipment of the completed project to South Africa. Yvonne said the highlights of the project were the enthusiasm and the positive reactions from all involved.

‘It was so rewarding to see how much time and effort people have put into this activity, to do something good for the children in Africa. Squares were coming in from all over our country, and we even received squares from Dutch people living in other countries.

‘Second, the huge result of this activity exceeded all our expectations. The last two weeks for the deadline, the squares were really coming in like crazy and the score quadrupled from 2,500 to 10,000 squares. It was so great,’ she said.

Yvonne said this kind of involvement with humanity was typical of the company, which is a pioneer in social justice and environmentally positive and sustainable operations.

Mission Zero—zero negative impact
In 1994 Interface Founder and current Chairman, Ray Anderson, recognised that the way industry worked was fundamentally unsustainable.

His epiphany revolutionised Interface's business strategy and has characterised the company's development ever since.

Its goal is to become the first company to be fully sustainable—with zero negative impact. InterfaceFLOR calls this Mission Zero and says it will achieve it by 2020, she said.

KasCare and Knit-a-square thank InterfaceFLOR for this extraordinary act of generosity and energy. We hope it can be an example for other organisations and industries, large and small, who carry the needs of the damaged and the deprived in their hearts.

From Yvonne: We also knitted during an exhibition of ours and asked visitors to join us for your organisation. We distributed knitting needles as a gadget with all the information of your charity. We received a lot of positive feedback. Attached you will find a picture of the exhibition with people knitting together with us. Even one lady in a wheelchair knitted a full piece during the day when she visited the exhibition, she took the wool and the needles with her during here visit, so nice!

 

Notes from Ronda
From Ronda Lowrie

 

Ronda says things in South Africa are really going along fantastically, there is a real energy about all things to do with Knit-a-square.

She wrote recently that a complete stranger in Soweto said, 'ah Knit-a-square, I heard about you on the radio'. This is a great indication of the fact that the word is getting out. More and more South Africans are knitting and sending squares.

Ronda frequently mentions names of good folk who are help us, such as, "Nolene is coming today for 60 blankets and hats for a project in White River." White River is some hundreds of kilometres from Johannesburg, and near Ten Thousand Homes, or "Yvonne runs a church outreach programme (Rays of Hope), which has three desperately poor churches under their wing, which we will provide blankets to". She wrote yesterday, that if you all could experience just a tenth of the 'open-mouthed admiration expressed by people here when we talk about the project' you would all be on top of the world.

As with all things Knit-a-square, there are always joyous stories and how lovely that this one Ronda shared recently, before Marci returned to the USA, was a coincidence that benefitted our wonderful Wandi.

"Mondays are always crazy days and tomorrow morning I am driving Marci and Joyce into Soweto for a distribution in Orlando East … first time there. It’s a good story … Marci has been going to gym and has become friendly with a woman who works there, named Octavia. In their conversations the subject of KAS came up and she told Marci that her mother, Elizabeth, runs a crèche in Orlando – and gave her the contact details.

Wandi went to Orlando East which is where she was born and raised herself (although she said nothing to us at that stage) and discovered that not only was Elizabeth at school with her, but the creche is about 100 metres from the house in which Wandi lived as a child (and her sister still lives there!).

Ronda also wrote that June has been absolutely freezing and that the race to get blankets and beanies out there is urgent.

She urges all or you, with huge love and gratitude attached, to keep on stitching. Every square goes into a blanket which keeps a child warm.

" Nobango: This day care centre in Orlando West, close to where Wandi was raised ... it is one of very few in the area run by a woman whose first name IS Nobango. Lovely person - sincere and hard working and SO keen to help the kids.They sang songs for us and seemed alert and full of beans - and she completely "got" the Knit-a-Square message of encouragement and hope and love for the kids which was wonderful - Ronda"

 

 

We need 100,000 squares A MONTH!
From Wendy Hardy, Public Relations Manager, G4S Cash Solutions, SA

 

Thank you so very much for allowing me to become a part of your amazing KAS family.  I really could not imagine what I did with my time before this.  

Designing blankets: It is a Virgo trait I am afraid. I am sorting the squares into colours before designing blankets. Crazy, I know!
 Thank you so very much for allowing me to become a part of your amazing KAS family. I really could not imagine what I did with my spare time before this.

I chatted to Derick de Klerk who is the Deputy Director at MCC for an update and he replied: We have 479 blankets made up and ready to be distributed and we are busy making more. Our aim is to have 480 inmates involved in this project (if we have enough needles). It takes an inmate on average approximately two days to complete a blanket. Our optimum totals are as follows:
35 squares = 1 blanket x 480 needles = (16,800 squares) 480 blankets ± every two days. This amounts to approximately 100,800 squares per month.

Needless to say, I am a little overwhelmed by the numbers, seeing we thought we were doing well promising them 3,500 squares a month. But, I would never turn my back on a challenge and as I said to Ronda, we will just need to get more creative.

MCC is having a big Winter Warmer event in Bloemfontein in July and Ronda and I will be attending that. There is a gala dinner on the Wednesday evening with a number of VIPs and media and then, on Thursday, we will be handing out blankets and beanies to 160 children at a soup kitchen.

Plastic sewing needles
One of the challenges has been to get together enough plastic sewing needles for them to use and we send them any plastic needles we get – we cannot buy these in SA and rely on our American contributors to assist.  Wendy.
 

Fluffy children: a display of some of the many soft toys we have received.

Isabelle, from France, in Africa: I promised to take Isabelle to see the lions in Africa and we managed to squeeze in a very quick visit to the Lion Park on 20 April. See the story in this edition of Square Circle, Isabelle flies in with love from France

A boardroom transformed: our training room is the perfect place to unpack large numbers of parcels. We stick notes around the wall for sorting and packing everything and then enjoy reading the lovely letters we get. It is such fun!

 

 

A short reflection
From Sandy McDonald

A children's charity here in Australia runs a similar program to knit-a-square for four months of the year for orphaned children in Asia. They only appeal to Australian stitchers but they are able to dedicate a marketing budget to advertising. As a result they receive well in excess of 200,000 squares.

The reason I relate this to you, is this is a four month exercise aimed at a very small audience, less then a few million, predominantly here in Melbourne. But because it is known about, they achieve their goals.

We have always heard that there are more than 53 million people in the USA alone, that know how to knit or crochet. How many tens of thousands of schools, churches, and organisations like InterfaceFLOR are there around the world who could contribute?

We now have a simply massive goal, 1.2 MILLION squares. But it is by no means unachievable.

We can't afford adverts in the newspapers. Or television commercials.

But we have the best advertising program in the world, our hearts and our voices.

Please go forth and SPREAD THE WORD!

Now that we have resolved, through the generous and committed help of G4S the handling of this truly massive volume of squares and their ability to sew them into blankets, we can open the floodgates.

If we can keep the fires stoked by continuing to knit and crochet, starting groups, spreading the word, talking together on the forum and in Facebook, then good folk from around the world will keep on joining us and introduce knit-a-square to their schools and communities.

On a personal note

I have greatly missed the interaction with our wonderful KasCare community these last few months. It has sustained us hearing about the triumphs through Ronda, Kalai and our many friends on Facebook and the forum, through these difficult times.

Thank you all, and especially our truly dedicated moderators and committed members and contributors, who have continued to work so hard to keep everyone involved and knitting, sending volumes of squares and garments themselves. I am deeply grateful on a personal level, that this commitment has granted me the time to do what has been needed in the intervening months, culminating in the sale of our house in just 4 hours time.

 

One day, we are certain, things will turn out in such a way that either we, or someone else, will be able to dedicate themselves again to growing our KasCare community online, in such a way that the torrent of squares turns into a flood.

In the meantime, your donations continue to come in. I see them in my inbox and am daily heartened by your constancy and consideration for the family that runs KasCare and Knit-a-square South Africa on a voluntary basis. Please keep them coming. You can donate just a small amount each month by filling in the PayPal donation form.here.

As we continue to ramp up the work and more squares arrive, we need more to reimburse daily operating costs on the ground in South Africa. There is also so much we could do to grow our community online with additional funds as is proved by the Australian charity example above.

The more of you, the more squares, the more blankets, the more warm children.

Then we can fulfill the ever-growing need of the orphaned and vulnerable children of South Africa and elsewhere in Africa.

Their situation, tragically, cannot be contained to an event, or lack of an income, or personal circumstances.

For them, they start life with sick or dying parents, possibly the loss of siblings and wider family and community, instability, insecurity, poverty, hunger and far less hope for the future then any of us could possibly understand.

And yet, as Erin said once, and is as witnessed by this dear little boy, "The children are living proof of what KAS does - they have NOTHING and then you give them a bright, warm blanket and a beanie and you may as well have given them the world. It's amazing!

Please, we implore each and every one of you, keep the flame burning brightly for them. Sandy

PS. Roger is slowly publishing his epic poem 'Knitting for Africa' about our journey to South Africa last year in All for Orphans. We look forward to your company as we retrace our steps, now so long ago. But what a wonderful way for us all to relive the journey.