If you want a peek inside the barn on opening days, this is where you'll find it. I'm Leanne Hunt and I've been attending opening days twice a month since 2017 with my driver Bongi and my guide dog Tango. Here is where I record what I see and hear for the benefit of overseas members who don't have the opportunity I do. I trust you'll find it interesting.
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Today was my first time back at the barn since Christmas and Bongi and I really enjoyed being with everyone again. Mabel and Themba filled the van with bags of blanket packs for two different gogo groups, and Bongi joined the other volunteers opening parcels that had arrived over the holidays.
There was lots for Ronda and I to catch up on, so we got to it straight away. I learnt that the post office had managed fine with the parcels that arrived when she was away. On her return, Rhonda enlisted Themba to help her collect mail and they dropped a large load of parcels off at the barn before the first opening day. This included five boxes which had languished at the post office for several months because of very large surcharges, some caused by members insuring their parcels and others because, for some inexplicable reason, the post office saw fit to charge extra. It was a relief to finally bring those parcels to the barn and open them up.
The post office charges continue to be a headache. Last week, Ronda was charged over R500 because the teller had duplicated an entry. Frustratingly, the computer did not pick up the error when it happened, so the task of proving the mistake now falls to Ronda and she is struggling to get the matter processed. It will eventually get cleared up but it is an unnecessary waste of time.
Members are asked again to refrain from insuring parcels to avoid XS postal charges at this end. Please indicate clearly on the label that the contents have no monetary value and are intended for charity.
Another thing worth remembering is that the focus of Knit-a-Square’s work is to distribute handmade blankets to preschool children. This means that all other items are secondary to knitted or crocheted squares. Lately, we’ve received a flush of baby blankets which are far too small for preschoolers. The children we care for are invariably extremely disadvantaged and have to sleep on the floor wrapped in their blankets. A decent-sized blanket is therefore essential for keeping warm. Beanies also help, but please keep in mind that we hand out one beanie per 35 squares, hence the importance of generating enough squares to produce an ongoing supply of blankets.
Toys are great for providing that extra bit of comfort, and hand-warmers help when the children are out in cold weather, but all other items, such as premie hats, baby blankets, jerseys and scarves, end up being passed on to Hotel Hope or another charity for distribution. Knit-a-Square simply does not have the resources to collect, count and hand out these additional donations.
For anyone who is looking for something a little different to make, we suggest centre panels for blankets, featuring interesting designs. A panel would typically measure 16 x 16 inches or 40 x 40 centimetres, or, put another way, the area of four regular-sized squares. The panels can easily be incorporated into blankets because they fit our standard measurements.
As things stand, we are anticipating a busy year ahead. Each year a whole new intake of preschoolers arrive at the informal creches, which means high demand for our blankets. We currently have 15 gogo groups providing an excellent service sewing up blanket packs. Our team of twelve regular volunteers plus Ronda and Themba is complemented by a big network of helpers in and around Johannesburg who knit, crochet, sew up blankets and organise distributions, making for a rather astonishing “machine” that just keeps on running.
Meanwhile, our amazing members around the world keep on doing fabulous work. This week, for example, a magazine arrived in a box of blankets, featuring an article about the Knit-a-Square Croatia group, together with photographs of the women and their beautiful creations. This is a remarkably active group of strong women determined to make a difference with their handcrafts. Also this week, a big lorry arrived to deliver 10 boxes that were sent bye courier from Knit For Life in the UK. We also received a package from Sweden, a country we seldom hear from.
I often wonder how it happens that one person in a country begins to support Knit a Square; whether they found us by googling “charity knitting” online or through word of mouth, for example. Then again, what brought each and every one of our members? We are certainly blessed to have such an engaged and committed circle of members and we regularly give thanks for you all in our Tuesday morning prayers.
Thank you for our first 2020 blog dear Leanne ... we are looking forward to a productive year !
Just to reinforce what Leanne has said, yesterday we sent out 14 bags containing 9 blanket packs each, to 3 separate gogo groups to get our production line started up. Hopefully these 126 blankets will soon be back in the KASbarn, ready for distribution. But although we have been stockpiling our blanket packs since November to make for abundance in the new year, after yesterday we have only a further 8 bags in reserve !! Hence our discussion that SQUARES are our most pressing need.
Last year we distributed a total of 4975 blankets (thank you all SO much) with around 60 blankets remaining in stock over the break. This figure corresponds well with the number of squares listed on the excel document as having been received.
However, we would really love to set a distribution target of 6000 blankets for this year - as achieved in 2016 - so will need to up our squares target to 210,000 !
Holding thumbs !!!!
Love to you all, and best wishes for 2020.
HAPPY 2020 Ronda !! Many Blessings.
6,000 blankets for 2020 is a great goal! I've set a personal goal to send at least 10% more squares this year than what I sent in 2019. Also, I've been talking to a friend about your amazing ministry; she and her stepdaughter are going to start knitting & crocheting for KAS. Every square helps!
Thank you and all the volunteers for your commitment to give warmth and love to the SA children!
Hello Leanne and Ronda. How lovely to "see" you both. Happy New Year to you and all at the KAS Barn.
Thank you, Leanne, for this very informative report to start us off this year. I can see how very important it is for us all to remember that for every 1 hat, every 1 pair of handwarmers, and every 1 toy it takes 35 squares to complete a package for a child.
2019 was a fabulous year. Together, we warmed 4975 children. Good luck to us all in reaching our 2020 goal of reaching 6000 children.
210,000 is a LOT of squares but together WE CAN DO IT!! xo
I have an elderly lady who loves to make baby blankets - 36”x36” and I understood that they are appreciated by sister Susan for the hospital. Must I tell her to stop?
Hello Cath, and thank you for asking. Sister Sue is always grateful for the baby blankets we give her, so there's no need to ask your friend to stop making them if that's what she loves to do. We just have to be mindful of our main purpose, which is to look after children who, because they are old enough to be sent off to creche on their own, often end up having to fend for themselves. These were the children who tugged at Ronda's heartstrings when she saw them freezing cold in the street, the ones who prompted her to start Knit-a-Square in the first place. So, keeping these children warm is our priority, and that is why we urge our members to conform to the measurements we set.
We will continue to send whatever baby items we receive to Sister Sue, providing we have space to store them. Otherwise, the baby items may need to be donated to a different charity for distribution.
Hi Leanne. I have been including a package of smaller baby blankets, wraps and clothes for Sister Susan in my parcels, and labelling the enclosed package. This was after reading that her babies go home wrapped in newspaper if she has run out of blankets. Do you no longer want these? Cheers Sue
Hello again, Rhonda, Leanne and all the team in SA. Our little fundraising group at our church has had our yearly meeting to decide on distributions of monies raised. Once again everyone wanted to support KAS. We are again donating $1,000 AUD. The donation will happen in the next couple of weeks. I will let you know when the transfer has taken place. Cheers Sue
An incredible generous contribution to Knit a Square Susanne. Please thank all involved with the fundraising efforts.
This will help immensely in reaching the goal of distribution 6,000 blankets this year.
All of you are a blessing.
Suzanne, your support is amazing and we are tremendously grateful for the commitment of your group. Regarding the baby items, I think it is safe to say we would not refuse things you wish to donate to the babies at the hospital, only we don't see Sister Sue very often, so have to store the items until a meeting can be arranged. If you are doing the knitting yourself and can choose what to send, we always recommend sticking with the KAS squares, beanies, hand-warmers and soft toys. Thanks!