This discussion aims to give you an up-close and personal look at what happens on opening days at the Knit-a-Square barn.  I'm a partially-sighted volunteer who who attends with my guide dog Tango and my driver Bongi, who has also become a keen volunteer.  While everyone else opens parcels, sorts squares and packs items ready for distribution, I listen and take mental notes so I can pass on something of the atmosphere on the ground.  Enjoy!

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In mentioning the end of the tax year, I forgot to add that, as a non-profit organisation, we don't pay tax; however, the end of the tax year is when the Knit-a-Square books get audited. We've had a good year, thanks to the tremendous support of our members, and this has enabled us to meet all our financial commitments without worry. Ronda told me yesterday that KAS is the best tenant in the business park according to the managing agent, not just because we rent the biggest space but because we consistently pay on time. What an amazing position to be in for a charity, especially in the tough economic climate gripping South Africa at the moment!

Yesterday's opening day was a little different in that Ronda called in sick and couldn't attend. She had fallen ill with pneumonia and had to visit the physiotherapist to ease the congestion in her chest. Estelle and Thomas drove to her house to fetch the van, which was full of parcels collected from the post office the day before. When they arrived back, everyone piled in to help offload, and then we saw the real energy of the KAS volunteers express itself.

From my safe place at the sorting table, I could just make out that there was a line of volunteers stretching from inside the van to the corner where the parcels get stacked. I think Mabel was at the head of the line; certainly,, it was her name that everyone was calling as the packages flew through the air! She was having a marvellous time, tossing packets and boxes to whomever was free to catch them, and the packages went from hand to hand into the pile. I expect this is what the postal workers do too, although I was a little worried that something would pop and spill all over the place. Happily, the ladies are more skilled than that, and nothing got broken or damaged. Soon, the entire contents of the van were piled in the corner, and the volunteers were all whooping and dusting their hands with satisfaction.

Up until the arrival of the mail, we had been attending to last week's backlog of squares on the sorting table. Often, squares arrive which are a little hard to match, either because of size or texture. More effort is required to make up bundles for blankets, but it is always a relief when these squares do find buddies and can be cleared from the sorting table.

Conversely, sometimes squares come in which are perfectly sized and even colour-co-ordinated into batches. Yesterday, for example, Megan opened a parcel from Plymouth and was elated to find in it 6 sets of 10 and 2 sets of 5 co-ordinating squares, exactly the right amount to make up 2 complete blanket packs. These kind of finds are exciting and produce exclamations of gratitude from the volunteers. While we certainly don't expect squares to come in like that, it is a treat when it happens.

I met Linda yesterday, a local woman who pops in from time to time to collect squares that cannot be incorporated into blankets because they are either oddly shaped or full of holes [yes, we receive all sorts, including unrelated unfinished objects] which she unravels and knits up again into striped blankets. Nothing goes to waste. While purists might doubt whether a blanket made of scrap yarn could ever turn out well, the result of combining all the assorted thicknesses, consistencies and colours of yarn is actually beautiful.

Estelle also brought in a blanket she had made up out of small, oddly-sized squares in bright colours. She crocheted around each square in black until they could be easily fitted together into a standard-sized blanket. The effect it produced was like a stained glass window with lead in-between, really striking.

Yesterday's distribution was to Orlando East, run by Nani and Thomas, so look out for pictures of that coming up.

I will be away for the rest of March as my husband and I are travelling to London to visit my daughter Tammy who is studying at Kings College. I will be back after Easter to attend and report on another opening day, so here's wishing all of you a blessed season. May those of you who have endured snow-storms and other forms of heavy weather soon find solace in spring.

Finally, best wishes to Ronda for a speedy recovery

Thank you Leanne for alerting everyone on the forum for Ronda's need for positive prayers and love - we hope that she will resist the temptation to return to the KAS Barn before she is completely well! So glad that the team are able to keep everything running smoothly, and, with a good dose of fun too! We will miss your reports, but hope you and your husband have a wonderful reunion with your daughter in London.

Thank you so much for yet another wonderfully informative report, Leanne. I wish you a safe and happy visit with your daughter.  xo

As Pam has said, I hope Ronda resists the urge to return to the KAS Barn until she is FULLY recovered...pneumonia is not something to be taken lightly.

What a great team in SA and always so happy in what they is a joy to read about their KAS days and one can 'feel the love'.

Thank you Leanne, and enjoy your visit with your daughter. Poor Ronda ! Lots of rest and recuperation. The trusty volunteers will keep things going until you are well enough.

I do hope Ronda will rest and allow her body to heal, and relax knowing everything is under control. 

Safe journey Leanne. Thank you for your eloquent, lyrical and warm hearted chronicles.

And to Linda, you are doing a labor of love so unique saving and recycling. Not many people would choose to do what you do. I admire you and the challenging work you chosen.Thanks for being there.  

Since my last report from the blanket room, I have been to the UK and back, and Easter has come and gone! How the year is flying by! Well, I can testify to the daffodils growing vigorously in the park in Dulwich Village, the snow falling thickly on the fields in Barnham, West Sussex, and the streams flowing strongly under the bridges of Cirencester and Bibury  in the Cotswolds. My husband and I had a wonderful time visiting our daughter Tammy and catching up with cousins, and I took the opportunity of buying some lovely Blue-faced Leicester wool, described as "reared, sheared and spun in Britain"!

Back in the barn this week, it was fun to catch up with everyone and get back into the rhythm of opening parcels and tracking the deliveries going out. Wandi and Thomas headed out to Protea South to deliver 5 bags of blanket packs, totalling 45 blanket packs in all. These will be handed out to members of the gogo group for compilation into blankets. Some of the women at the group will focus on sewing together squares, while others will focus on crocheting edges onto the blankets out of extra yarn. In addition to delivering the blanket packs, Wandi and Thomas would also be collecting 90 completed blankets and paying the gogos their stipend, which is always received with great excitement, albeit small.

It was Nani's birthday on Tuesday, so everyone gathered around for photos and a song. That was followed by tea and cake, and a whole lot of conversation and laughter. Happily, the Easter break had not interrupted the flow of mail too much and there was a large pile of parcels to unwrap. These contained lots of interesting items.

Estelle discovered a knitted game of draughts, designed and created by Deborah Anderson Fleming. This was enthusiastically held up by Megan who declared it to be exactly the kind of thing she wanted to give to the creche she has been helping in Sandspruit. The creche comprises 60 children who have been housed in a shack, and Megan has been instrumental in finding them new premises, decorating the space, and sourcing second-hand equipment and toys to give them a fresh start. She was thrilled with Deborah's novel game and will be looking out for similar interesting items to send their way.

The mail also included lots of cute teddy bears from January's "Teddy Bears' Picnic" theme, some of which were beautifully clothed in smart waistcoats. Squares with Christmas patterns on them were also starting to trickle in from April's Christmas theme. Estelle, who is up-to-date on the themes, makes a point of pointing them out to the other volunteers. It's always fun when themed squares can be grouped together, especially when one considers that the resulting blanket, which appears so well-coordinated, probably contains squares from countries as diverse as Canada, Slovakia and Japan!

It was good to see Ronda looking better after her bout of pneumonia. The doctor has insisted that she take lots of rest, and indeed, she says she needs to because she tires very quickly after shopping or collecting mail. Nevertheless, her weight is good and, aside from the odd muscle spasm in her back, she is feeling comfortable. Talking to her on Tuesday, I could tell that she is incredibly grateful for the loyal commitment of the volunteers who come week after week, rain or shine. Recalling the organisation's small beginnings and seeing how vibrant it is today, she can hardly believe how it all happened. "It's a miracle," she told me. "It's only the Lord."

We talked a bit about the people who have played a role in distributing items for Knit-a-Square. One of them, Sister Susan from Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, used to take all the baby items that came in. At one time, there were lots of these, and Sister Sue always made sure that the babies, who would otherwise go home from the ward wrapped in newspaper because their mothers had nothing else to dress them in, were gifted with lovingly knitted hats, booties and blankets. Later, Knit-a-Square took a decision to focus on young school-age children and the stream of baby items slowed down. nevertheless, they still come in from time to time, and Anne has taken it upon herself to gather them for distribution by her Bible study group. Still, Sister Sue was and is such a solid supporter of Knit-a-Square that Ronda would like to send another big batch of baby items to her again. "Not that we want to shift our focus, but just that the need is so great and Sister Sue is right there, eager to help the mothers with their babies."

Meanwhile, April has brought spring showers and cooler weather. Grey skies make the wind feel cold, and soon everyone will be reaching for coats and boots. This is the season when the need for blankets, hats and hand warmers becomes more urgent. We thank everyone who is busily knitting and crocheting to meet the demand, and especially appreciate the trouble and expense you all go to in order to post your items to us in South Africa. We trust you will be blessed for your kindness!

Lovely to hear of your family time in the UK, Leanne.  :))

Thank you for ploughing right back into the KASBarn on your return and inspiring us all to keep those needles, hooks and looms active.

It is good to hear that Ronda is on the road to recovery...hopefully she is heeding her doctors advice and taking things slowly.

Thank you for this wonderful report.....we love your first hand accounts from the Barn.  :))

Thank you for your account of life at KAS HQ. It is always so interesting.

I'm pleased that you enjoyed your trip to UK. I hope the weather wasn't too awful. Winter seems to be dragging on in this part of Europe. I know that here in France we are fed up with the non-stop rain.

I'm very pleased that you are once more welcoming items for babies and infants as I have a contributor who loves making KAS cuddles. I have several waiting to find a good home.

Make sure that Ronda doesn't overdo everything. She must build up her strength slowly but surely.

It's so good to hear from you all in SA.  Keep well as the weather turns cooler. An especial big 'Hello' to Ronda.

Leanne I am so glad you had a lovely time in the UK visiting your daughter.  When you were visiting Cirencester and Bibury you were only 12 miles away from 120+ KASers here in Purton!  Next time we will arrange to get together.  Thank you for taking time to keep us all updated with what's going on in SA. Xx



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