OUR FRENCH CONNECTION

In April of 2010 Isabelle Bourguignon injured her leg and was not able to perform her work as a flight attendant for a number of months.  Being someone who was always on the go, she looked to the internet for something to keep her occupied and she came across an advert for Knit-A-Square on a popular knitting website.  And, for the three months that she was confined to the couch, she knitted squares.  She was horrified how much it cost to send these squares to South Africa from France and as soon as she was able to work again, she began inquiring about the possibility of flying the South African route with her employer, Air France.

In December of that year, she got in touch with me to say that she would be flying to Johannesburg just before Christmas and could I meet her to collect squares.  We were to be away on our annual Christmas holiday and I asked Wendy if she could meet Isabelle at the hotel she was overnighting at in Sandton.  Little did we know that this encounter would lead to a friendship that has developed and grown ever since.

 Meeting Isabelle for the first time – she certainly knitted up a storm!

Isabelle made it known to Air France that she is willing and in fact wishes to fly the South African route as often as she possibly can.  This has enabled her to bring the squares she knits, as well as squares that others have sent to her in France over on a fairly regular basis.  Isabelle is a dedicated KAS supporter and has been able to fit in a trip to Soweto on Mandela Day in 2011 and a visit to Hotel Hope during one of her many brief visits to our country. 

The Mandela Day distribution on Soweto in 2011.

During her brief (one night only) stop overs in Johannesburg we have tried to show Isabelle a little bit of what is in and around Johannesburg.  Other than enjoying some of our fine food and wine and getting some shopping in, Isabelle has also been able to visit a nearby Lion Park with one of her colleagues.

 Petting a lion cub and feeding a tame giraffe!

Isabelle is continually looking at ways in which to raise the awareness of KAS in France and she has translated many of our KAS marketing items into French and distributed them.  Her mum Bluette, knits regularly for KAS too – thanks mum! 

One of Isabelle’s most recent projects has been getting in touch with Les Jardins de Noisy, a retirement facility in Noisy where she liaises with Corinne who is responsible for the various programs they run there.  They have encouraged the residents to knit for KAS and there are now 9 ladies knitting for KAS on a regular basis.  Isabelle’s husband reckons their basement is beginning to look like Ronda’s house in the good old day!   

 Delightful Corinne modelling some of the knitted items!

On a trip to Johannesburg in December last year, Isabelle wanted to buy each of the ladies a little gift from South Africa and Wendy took her shopping for these beautiful beaded dolls. 

When she returned to France, Isabelle arranged a thank you tea and presented each of the ladies with a beaded doll, a certificate of appreciation and a KAS thank you card.  The ladies were thrilled with their gifts and motivated to continue knitting!!!!

During her December visit, Isabelle mentioned that she had been able to secure regular flights to Johannesburg, much to the relief of her husband Emmanuel, who cannot see his way through all the squares piling up in the basement.  She has also asked some of her crew whether they would be prepared to carry a few squares in their luggage in order to get everything across to us.  Isabelle must be the only flight attendant who carries a very large suitcase, every time she travels to South Africa, for her one night visit to Johannesburg!

Peter and Wendy are always trying to sneak in a visit here and there when Isabelle flies out and imagine their excitement when Isabelle was able to arrange a two night stopover in Johannesburg this week!  They collected Isabelle from the airport and went to Zebula, a golf (got to look after Peter!) and spa resort in the African bush, just two and a half hours outside of Johannesburg.  With only really one day to try and squeeze as much as she could in, Isabelle did well.  Have a look at what she got up to:

 There was a great deal of game at the actual lodge with giraffe roaming right outside Isabelle’s bedroom!  Photographed here from left to right: giraffe, an eland with an ox pecker on the shoulder, zebra and kudu.

On Tuesday morning Isabelle joined an elephant experience at a centre that works with injured elephants requiring rehabilitation.  She spent an hour with these six giants of Africa….

 Isabelle enjoys an elephant kiss and then an elephant shower!

That afternoon Isabelle and Wendy went on a game drive in the nearby Mabalingwe Game Park, with some wonderful game spots:

 From top left to bottom right:  Isabelle in the game vehicle with a herd of 16 Cape buffalo very nearby; a close up of the buffalo, a male nyala, a family of zebra, a waterbuck and Pumba the warthog!

The following morning before returning to Johannesburg, they visited the Anne Van Dyk/De Wildt Cheetah Farm and toured the cheetah and wild dog breeding facility.

 The endangered wild dogs; Isabelle viewing the Cape vultures and one of the cheetahs.

 

After touring the breeding and rehabilitation facility Isabelle, Wendy and Peter spent time playing with three of the cheetah cubs.

They then raced back to Johannesburg to ensure that Isabelle was ready well in time for her return flight home.  

We are so grateful for the support we receive from our wonderful contributors in France and also for this amazing means of getting squares to SA from that country.  Isabelle is packing up more squares as we speak for another trip to South Africa next weekend.  See you soon Isabelle and we are looking so forward to welcoming your entire family in July!