FIVE YEARS AND A FAREWELL
You know the saying, there are only three certainties in life, birth, death and change? Well, there's a change afoot in KAS. A rebirth you could call it and it's ALL good!
Did you know that you're one of more than 12,000 in our KasClan? That's an estimate based on our various online communities, but it's probably much larger.
It grows every day with people like you who care enough about the children to knit, crochet and send squares to southern Africa, or to spread the word about their tragic plight.
Just a little history
For those of you who have recently joined the KasClan, you may not know how this remarkable community came into being.
Very often now, I have the privilege of speaking to groups of people. I tell them the shortened version of the KasStory, which I'll do here.
The founding members of this charity are from a family, now divided by the wide Indian ocean but who were born, and once lived altogether, in Zimbabwe.
I explain that but for three colliding events a bit like the film Sliding Doors, things might have taken a different turn, as so often happens in life. In 2008, these three events happened within a few months of each other.
My husband Roger and I went to an Internet Marketing seminar and learned about the power of the web to connect; my mother Zanny who is an passionate knitter, made me a beautiful blanket out of squares and Ronda visited us here in Australia.
She told us about the plight of children in southern Africa who were orphaned or made vulnerable as a result of HIV AIDS and poverty.
She explained that she regularly gave out cheap blankets to children on the side of the roads at night. We were appalled by the thought of these children alone and cold.
In September 2008, there was an light globe moment. Inspired by our 'square' blanket, what if using our recent learnings about the Internet, we created a website to ask the world's knitters to send squares to Ronda. She could then make blankets to warm the children.
The online concept and name for Knit-a-square was born.
We started the quest in 2008. To write the content for the website, we had to do a lot of research about knitters and what they liked on the one hand and the plight of the children on the other.
It was a poignant speech delivered by Stephen Lewis, the UN Special Envoy for HIV AIDS in Africa in 2005, that turned a deep concern into a passion.
You can find it at the end of this page on the role grandmothers must play to support their orphaned grandchildren. Iimplore you to read it. It will move you as it did me all those years ago.
The first web page went up in early October, 2008 and by January, Roger and I had written and posted tens of thousands of words on dozens of pages, all written so that Goog le would find you and direct you to the website! Find us you did, which was SO exciting.
I worked with my mother, Zanny to create some of the early knitting patterns and to do a How to Knit Series and we were over the moon when we saw that people had downloaded them. It was working!
Lion Brand changes the picture
In February 2009, Lion Brand, the largest yarn manufacturer in the world, found us too. They asked if they could feature us as their Charity of the Month. Everyone's lives were about to change! Overnight we had a massive following. ..but it was not yet a community.
Our early KasHeros
That came about because passionate people, our early KasHeros, like Kerry Paris andKyla Austin, were instantly taken by what was being done to help the children, they started our first forum and then created the first challenge. Then Jeanne Haessler,Anne Powell and Dawne Sliming-Smith joined in and became our early moderators in the Square Circle Forum.
It happened too because folk like Debbie Postmontier were so engaged by the project, they took it to their schools and got the children involved, to learn to knit in the meadow, a lovely place to reflect on children less fortunate and half a world away.
You, everyone of you, matter
Countless others, too many to name individually, but cherished none the less, have contributed much.
They have run challenges, become moderators, taken the program into their schools and communities, continued to knit and send vast quantities of beautiful squares stitched with love and concern.
The amazing work that is KAS
Many of you will know from the initial Square Circle Ezines and now KasSnippets from our forum administrator, Pam Antink, and the reports from South Africa by Wendy Hardy, the inspiring stories of the work Ronda has done over the last five years.
She gathered together a remarkable team of hardworking volunteers to help her, including the dedicated Lindiwe Ngwenya and Wandile Mkhwanazi to open, sort and bundle the thousands of squares arriving.
Between them and a coterie of wonderful people they have now handled nearlythree quarters of a million squares, hats, jumpers and toys. What a marathon feat.
Lindiwe and Wandile introduced us to the hundreds of small day care centres that dot the shack settlements throughout Soweto.
For the most part, that is where the children are wrapped with your blankets, have the hats popped onto their heads and the beautiful toys you have made put into their little hands.
They are told by Ronda and the volunteers that they are unique and special and loved, and that they have a role to play in their country.
A family affair
Many of our family joined in: Erin, Ronda's daughter who helped with the workload and distributions in South Africa; our cousins Tracy in Zimbabwe and Davina in Port Elizabeth; our daughters Kalai who started the the Facebook Groupand answered countless correspondence, Cressida who worked with us to develop the KasKids™ program and the Teacher Resource,and my husband, Roger who wrote loads o f content for the websites and dozens of fundraising proposals.
But it was you and the KasClan that made it all happen. You devised amazing challenges to keep people stitching more and creatively. Last year we had the KasBus challenges: how many buses could we fill with 1,225 squares? Enough squares to make 35 blankets.
The latest challenge, KasHeights has you going on a journey around the world to knit 178,000 squares, the exact height of Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa. You should join the race if you haven't already!
It's not enough that you stitch and send, but you also seek to educate the children where you can, like this wonderful challenge run attests to.
You just keep knitting, crocheting and sending. All the while thinking up wonderful ideas to spread the word.
So what is changing?
In 2009, we incorporated in Australia as a not for profit and called the organisation KasCare. In 2010, Ronda incorporated as Knit-a-square South Africa.
In South Africa
Enter Wendy Hardy who was introduced to KAS SA in 2010 and has worked tirelessly to support Ronda first by organising prisoners to sew the blankets and then with the KasVan.
Not long ago (in July) you rose to the challenge to help us with a critical appeal.
Wendy has worked with the funds from that appeal to move KAS out of Ronda's home and into new offices. She continues to work to take KAS in SA to a new level and one that will ensure the longevity of the organisation for and as long we hope, as the children have needs.
After a couple of years, the McDonalds had reluctantly to leave the work they had been doing full time for KasCare to help establish the organisation and return to paid work. Not long after that, Erica Smith who is a moderator and also lives in Melbourne, Australia stepped in to fill some of the gap.
Erica has been a constant in the last years, always looking for ways to do things more efficiently and with a greater result for the community and the children, to assist Ronda and the team in South Africa and Pam and the mods in the forum.
A new chair of KasCare
So it is with great delight that I am able to tell you that Erica has agreed to take over the stewardship of KasCare.
KasCare has as its current mandate warmth and comfort for children made vulnerable or orphaned as a resul t of HIV AIDS as well as raising awareness for their plight worldwide. It is also the custodian of the global clan and looks after the various web presences that keep us all connected.
As things have grown and changed in the work we do, the mandate needs refreshing. This will be done in the next few months and Erica will be able to communicate that to you in her role as Chairperson of KasCare.
A new website
Erica has already worked tirelessly together with Pam and the mods to transfer the old Site Build It site to a new, better organised and easier to use website which will be lauched very soon. It will make the job of communicating to you and keeping you connected much easier.
You are as we've said many times, a remarkable, amazing and inspiring community of people who care enough to ACT to warm these small, vulnerable children often half a word away.
You grasped the concept that the squares were a currency of hope. I'm sure that as long as you believe there are children that need blankets wrapped around their little shoulders, you will keep stitching.
What a five years it has been. But now, it's time for the McDonald team to say farewell.
In time, we'll take up the work again to introduce programs to school children, so that they can help children less fortunate than they. Knit-a-square is a wonderful program for school children, to learn both to knit and the power of making a difference.
For now, we will watch with delight as KasCare moves onto the next stage of its journey in the safe hands of Erica and her board.
Our grateful thanks for the journey, the opportunity to learn and grow from you all and now to teach others the remarkable benefits of community. I tell them, inspired by you:
What we can do together is yet to be imagined.
With love to you all
Sandy McDonald, co-founder.