Opening days at the Knit-a-Square barn in Johannesburg happen on a Tuesday and are always rewarding. With mail arriving continuously from overseas, and quantities of squares and toys brought in by local knitters, we volunteers get to experience something like Christmas every week! This blog gives you a glimpse into what happens after your parcels arrive. I hope to paint vivid word pictures of all the goings-on and to share the warmth we feel when we receive your wonderful contributions. Happy reading everyone!being
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It was a Fairly quiet day at the barn today. The volunteers from Soweto were unable to join us because our bank balance was so low that they couldn't be reimbursed for their transport. Rhonda also generally provides them with lunch as they are in the barn till mid-afternoon. Fortunately, this dire financial situation will soon be fixed, as we received some wonderful donations via PayPal last month. Thanks to all who contributed so generously!
The absence of the Soweto ladies meant that no distributions happened today, but we had a chance for some excellent discussion about our goals for the year ahead.
For a start, we hope to increase the number of blankets we distribute. This will mean not taking on any outside projects that will interfere with opening parcels. The project we did this year, where we assisted a property company sew up navy blue strips, was so tedious that it literally sapped our energy. Happily, things turned around nicely from July. Here is what Ronda said to me in an email at the end of October:
"This month we received a total of 25798 squares ! Helped, of course, by the three enormous contributions you will have mentioned in the blog from Knit for Life. The best month next to that was January when we received 15734 squares!! And in two other months, May and June, we received more than 15000 squares, but in all the other months much less."
We also discussed expanding our reach to creches and orphanages in areas we have not visited before. This will take some effort, as it is always harder to find contacts in new places. Nevertheless, we agreed that it will be a worthwhile challenge and place a demand on some of us [me for one] To be more proactive in identifying recently-established squatter camps and creches with next to no resources.
Since I haven't personally been involved in distributions before, I learnt some important lessons today which I would like to share with you. Knit-a-Square has only ever targeted children who are vulnerable, although the word"Vulnerable" needs some explanation in the context of South Africa. Some of the children appear to be well-cared for because they attend a creche with proper brick walls, wear school uniforms, and have warm jackets on in winter. This, Vivienne told me, is misleading. For a start, the apparently nice building is often an old converted house in a settlement with no municipal services such as water or electricity. The carer is likely to be an exceptionally proud woman who, when she hears that Knit-a-Square is coming, tidies up the classroom and adds special decorations for the occasion. The children's uniforms are never provided by parents, but are secondhand, donated by wealthier schools. They are likely only worn on special occasions.
I also learnt that many of the children would starve where it not for the meal they receive from the carer. Generally, the carer arranges to receive vegetables that can no longer be sold at a shop, and makes soup for the children, which she serves with bread or maze. From time to time, someone in the carer's congregation at church may arrive with a bag of clothes or toys which have, in turn, come from that person's employer. Even today, a neighbour of Ronda's who is moving to Europe gave her several bags containing clothes and shoes, some of which Bongi took to distribute through her church and the rest of which will go to a children's home called hotel Hope.
Despite the high rates of unemployment, substance abuse and domestic violence in our society, there is an enormous aMount of good work being done on the ground. Knit-a-Square is just a small part of that picture. What we do, we do with heart, putting the children before all else, and you can rest assured that all donations go directly towards getting your lovingly-created squares and other items to where they are needed most. No advertising, no salaries, no unnecessary expenses.
Finally, we celebrated Estelle's birthday today. This is one special lady and we love her steady, hard-working commitment. Many happy returns, Estelle!
Thank you Leanne, very much your description that 'appearances can be deceptive'. In the past KAS has been subjected to criticism that it was providing blankets etc to children or creches that did not appear to be in need! It is lovely to know that the team continue to work hard and add value to the lives of so many children.
Thanks for this very informative update Leanne. All of us around the world need to remember that these children and creches have so little.
Thank you, Leanne, for always providing us with information that lets us know how much we help the children. It is always delivered with such care and appreciation for all our members. May we all find renewed vigour in providing for these precious children, for everywhere where there is poverty and/or substance abuse it is the children who suffer.
Very best wishes to dear Estelle on her birthday. xo
Thanks for posting the pic, Amy. It is always lovely to see Team SA so happy...what a lovely bunch. So sorry to see that the Sowetan members were unable to attend.
I learnt a lot from reading this piece, thank you. It's great to know our efforts may reach more children from further distances and other areas who need to know people care. Happy birthday Estelle - what a super photo!
Thank you Leanne for a very informative read. Thanks to you all for your commitment to KAS and enabling us to help vulnerable children.
Happy Birthday Estelle!
Thanks for creating the podcast Leanne, it was very interesting, and, so lovely to hear your voice - it will make reading the Blogs so much more enjoyable!