Letter from Ronda, Knit-a-square, South Africa

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US Navy comes on board for knit-a-square!

 

 

It has been a long time between ezines. All that time, you have continued to knit, crochet and spread the word.

The team in South Africa has plied backwards and forwards between collecting, opening, and distributing to day care centres wide and far, wrapping hundreds and hundreds of desperately needy children in blankets, putting hats on their little heads and giving them toys to cuddle, on your behalf and with your love.

Ronda's letter evinces the spirit of Knit-a-square as it unfolds in South Africa and from all over the world, as this remarkable project continues to seep into peoples' souls.

This truth, is so delightfully illustrated by a letter from a sailor on the great aircraft carrier, the Enterprise with news of their knitting for knit-a-square.

There is something deeply moving by the thought of those aboard that mighty vessel spending their spare time knitting for the children made vulnerable and orphaned in a far off land. Somehow, it summarises all that this caring, dedicated community has come to represent across the world.

Hotel Hope and Knit-a-square have been intrinsically entwined from the very beginning. Ronda writes too about the official launch this year of Oliver's much longed for homes of hope. This story will bring tears to your eye and hope to your heart.

Contents
• Letter from Ronda
• The generosity of Jigsaw
• Knit-a-square has done something profound for me, Andrea Palmetier
• A small Australian village embraces knit-a-square, Zanny Blew
• A testimony to KAS in schools, Erica Smith
• From the Carribbean, Jacqueleen Zamora
• The modern method of spreading the word, Pam Antink
• Tear to your eyes and hope to your heart
• Distributions– colour their world
• Margaret epitomises the growth of KAS
• The great ship, Enterprise
• From the Ed

 

Letter from Ronda

 

This has been a great year of steady growth for Knit-a-Square in South Africa as we have received increasingly huge amounts of post from countries all over the world. Last week we received a parcel from Zagreb, which was yet another 'first'!

Despite this, we are still managing to keep any large backlog at bay, by holding a weekly opening session on Thursdays at the house, with anything between three and 10 volunteers coming in to help each week. 

Our dream team from the United States, whose husbands are doing contract work at a large parastatal company in South Africa, have become dear friends and we could not do without them.  They started up the 'Hip to be Square Circle' in Johannesburg, specifically to help Knit-a-Square by knitting, crocheting and making blankets and Marci, who was the original (square) ringleader, eventually contacted Knit-a-Square SA and joined us every Thursday.

Marci, with two warm little ones at the Notando Creche distribution, Soweto.

She is now back home in Kansas City and we miss her wonderful company very much.  Marci introduced Joyce, a lovely lady who is also, sadly for us, leaving in a few weeks to return to the States, and Barbara, Denise, Sidney, Kirsten, Delynn, Annette, Lesley, Anna and Eileen … we love you guys!  

Sam(antha) has been a regular volunteer for over a year – introduced to Knit-a-Square by her SA born cousin, Melissa, who lives in the US and had come 'home' to SA on a family visit, bringing squares with her to deliver in person.  She is a student and also works as an au pair, but still manages to set time aside in her busy schedule to help us most Thursdays.  And Erin still enjoys the few moments she can spare to pop in and help out from time to time. (Ed's note: Sorry Sam, among the million photos, and I know there were pics of you, I couldn't locate them - next time!)

Lindi and Wandi are our ongoing stalwarts and they travel for two hours each Thursday by commuter-taxi, all the way from Soweto, at times under trying – even dangerous – circumstances.  Their return journey in the afternoon is always in a private taxi  which enables them to manhandle thousands of squares back to Soweto, in order to be stitched up into blankets by various groups, as outlined further on.

We must not forget to mention Big (Cameroons) John who is the Hotel Hope driver and who helps enormously by collecting our weekly post and delivering it in his huge trailer! Nor Otillia, our domestic worker, who takes on the extra workload of helping to hand out teas and lunches on volunteer days and the larger responsibility of tidying up and sorting enormous piles of paper, cardboard and plastic for recycling, or otherwise.

Otillia, on the left with two of her 'wards', Patience and Prince and Big John and Ronda with a typical week's delivery.

And last, but definitely not least, is our amazing Wendy, who miraculously juggles an incredibly busy work schedule at G4S and, at the same time, keeps us from becoming completely submerged in the avalanche of postal items, opening, sorting, collection and delivery, packing, storage, labelling, planning, computer work and administration, liaison, correspondence, distribution and other aspects of Knit-a-Square’s daily work. She is, quite simply, a Godsend!

Lindi and Wandi keep in touch with each other in Soweto (they live a block apart only) to seek out appropriate projects where the needs of children are catered for, such as crèches/daycare centres, pre-schools, baby clinics and NGOs. In each case, a community of 'teachers', parents or simply local residents who want to assist, are gathered together and instructed in the stitching up of Knit-a-Square blankets.

They are supplied with squares from Soweto Comfort Club 'stocks' described above, along with extra wool and implements with which to achieve as many blankets as required for their particular project. 

Wandi also keeps in touch with several Soweto community centres, particularly those which serve the elderly, and several 'goo' groups have been formed to spend a few hours a week stitching up Knit-a-Square blankets in an effort to help their communities. 

It is with just such a community of 30 or so elderly women – in Chiawelo Soweto – that Lindi, Wandi and myself did a 3 kilometre walk on Thursday 17th November.

Their leader, Tsidi, has organised the walk to try and raise awareness of the plight of the elderly and so often marginalised. Tsidi had organised the local police and a security company to drive slowly alongside the group to pick up anyone who was feeling tired or faint and return them to the community centre,but I think most of them walked the full 3 kms (1.5 miles).

Each of the women wore a T-shirt bearing a slogan which effectively says: “do not discount us, we may be old but we are still capable members of your community”.  Lindi, Wandi, Erin and I wore our Knit-a-Square T-shirts.

Go-gos do receive small government grants, but every almost every one of them is looking after toddler grandchildren.

When the various groups have completed their blankets, Otillia and I load up my motor-car with the requisite number of beanies, warm clothing items, soft toys, stationery and some popular food items such as apples, oranges, biscuits, cool drink and sweeties and I drive to Soweto to meet up with Lindi and Wandi in order to hold the distribution.

These occasions are always a celebration of much hope and encouragement and we never cease to be touched by the warm response of so many little ones with their ready smiles and willing hugs,.

This despite the lives of despair and difficulty that SO many of them endure. 

They are truly an example of faith and fortitude. Even though the bleakness of their lives can be distressing to witness, doing this work is a profound blessing to all who are involved.

Children singing the nation anthem of South Africa, Nkosi Sikele with heartfelt fervour at the Mandela Day distribution.

Our many and much-appreciated contributors so often enclose in their parcels prayers, notes and letters of encouragement, friendship, hope, love and support – for us and the children we serve. 

Opening the parcels is uplifting and very often emotional as we read some really sad stories from people whose lives are full of all types of suffering, but who have found new meaning in being able to contribute (even just one square) and know that they are making a valid and welcome contribution to the uplifting and encouragement of small children who also suffer, albeit in a completely different manner. 

We receive parcels mostly from individuals, but also from church groups, prayer groups, juvenile correctional centres, schools, girl-guide/brownie groups, knitting circles, friendship circles, old-age facilities, people being cared for in hospitals for Alzheimer and senile dementia sufferers, cancer patients, special-needs groups, office groups, as a result of radio-programs and from doctors’ surgeries where needles and wool have been provided to patients in the waiting-room.  No doubt there are other groups which I have forgotten to mention!

In single consignments, we received more than 10,000 squares from Interflor in Holland; another 3000 squares from Cedarwood School who have contributed a total of approximately 9,000 over 3 years; more than 3,000 squares from Anne Powell and her church group in Leaskdale, Canada and more than 2,000 squares from Cummins Diesel last week.

And we have some STAR contributors from all over the world.

I hesitate to mention them in case I leave anyone out, but those which come to mind are Helen Flagg and the Clearlake Methodist Church group, Christine Johnson, Pam Johnson and the Border Angels, Laurie Hake (from Cape Cod), Lynda and Dave Maltby who also sent money for a camera for Lindi and Wandi, Paulette Pronk, Martha from Hong Kong, the Dawsons and my sister, Zanny, and her friend Gary's Daylesford Church community in Australia.

This is a silly exercise, I now realise, because there are hundreds and hundreds and HUNDREDS of incredibly generous people, and every single one of you is valued and massively appreciated with deep affection by all of us.

Ed's note: Some other deeply valued members and great contributors to the forum have contributed later on to this ezine.

This year we have held distributions in Soweto, Diepsloot, Cosmo City, Alexandra, the Vaal area, Thembisa, Edenvale, West Rand, Katlehong, Lawley, Britz, White River, Bloemfontein, Mozambique and Botswana.  

Outside of Johannesburg
We are receiving squares from a large company in Cape Town and are currently in discussions with two people who are keen to work with us in the Cape.

Ramona in Durban, with the help of her community in Chatsworth had supplied more than 50 blankets by September, for the babies and children cared for in the hospital she works for.

Our first distribution in Zimbabwe is due to take place this week; last week there was a Knit-a-Square distribution in Lagos, Nigeria and we are hopeful of more distributions into African countries further North, in 2012. 

We have up to 400 maximum security prisoners, mostly men, stitching blankets together as part of their rehabilitation programme, and those blankets are being distributed in the Bloemfontein area, which is even colder than Johannesburg in winter time! 

Sant's Shoebox
Knit-a-Square also participated in the Santa's Shoebox initiative this year, which collected gifts for more than 60,000 needy children in South Africa – visit their website for wonderful photographs of the children.

So, Knit-a-Square continues to grow and expand in an organic fashion, even without any organised publicity campaign being mounted here in South Africa.  We do need to lift our profile locally in order to garner greater interest and support and we need to raise funds in order to do this. 

There are one or two higher profile projects in the offing for 2012; one involves a school competition, nationally, to achieve 'the biggest blanket', and another involves a high profile home-makers' exhibition, in which one of the stands will be manufactured entirely of knitted goods to promote a specific wool-brand. On the break-up of the show, the intention is that every single item on the stand will be donated to Knit-a-Square.

Our wishlist for 2012
In order to be an effective partner in any such projects, we will need to keep our administrative function running smoothly and should employ a part time secretary.

We require more storage area  – either to erect two brick walls between our own garage and office area (plans for which are already drawn and approved) at a cost of approximately R80,000 (US$9,400) OR to rent premises in the area which, for the equivalent size, would cost around R12,000-R15,000 (US$1,400 - $1,800) per month without shelving.

We need stationery and promotional goods – banners, flyers, business cards, MV decals, letterheads, reply cards etc. 

The wear and tear on my motor vehicle has been great – since we are talking “wishlist” items, a small panel van would cost approx. R90,000-R100,000 (US$10,500 - 11,700). 

Lindi and Wandi have been faithful for nearly three years and are now full board-members of Knit-a-Square SA. We would really love to increase their current monthly stipend to around R2000 (US$250)per month each which would keep them below the PAYE rate, but be of much assistance to them in maintaining their dignity and self-respect. 

Lindi is a single woman who lives with her mother and sister. Wandi is a widow who lives with her daughter and family.  The work they have done, and are likely still to do on behalf of Knit-a-Square is of inestimable value. It could not be achieved by anyone else known to us.

Postal Duty
Any postal items received where customs duty requested exceeds the handling fee of R30 (US$3.50) each, is – at the moment – returned for re-assessment by Customs & Excise.  In some cases, they are never seen again and we believe it’s possible they have been returned to the senders.  This is extremely damaging and most regrettable.  But unless we have funding, we cannot afford to redeem parcels where charges are as high as R300-R500 (US$35 - $59), and where the contents have been correctly described as being FOR CHARITY – NO COMMERCIAL VALUE. 

The Customs & Excise Department are evasive and difficult to deal with – they have been approached with our registered NFP(not-for-profit) company number in an attempt to make sure that NO charges are levied against Knit-a-Square, but they will not entertain any such suggestion. 

We need to be in a position to cope with the costs of such postal items, no matter how iniquitous, so that none are returned and Knit-a-Square’s reputation remains intact with all our contributors.

2012
We look forward greatly to further growth and excitement in 2012. Everyone who is involved with this project continues to enjoy its 'feel-good' aspects. 

While the Australian family's contribution to the daily affairs of KasCare is reduced as they rebuild their business, Kalai will continue to work 2 days a week doing administration, corresponding with the world wide community, maintaining the Facebook page and monitoring the Square Circle Forum.

Here in South Africa, we are kept stimulated and busy, meeting new people from so many different walks of life, making lovely new friends and bringing colour, gifts and hope into so many sad little lives.

We relish the warm welcome, the appreciation and so many beautiful smiles, looking into those big brown eyes and feeling those skinny little arms around your neck in a tight squeeze – it is simply the most glorious blessing all the way! 

ALL glory be to God whose mighty hand is raised over Knit-a-Square to guide and inspire us all, Ronda.

 

Help Ronda, Lindi and Wandi continue this work

 

Now is our opportunity to thank those of you who already donate with profound and heartfelt gratitude, for maintaining Knit-a-square and ensuring Ronda is reimbursed for the multiple expenses that amount as a result of running this extraordinary organisation on a daily basis.

You will understand from Ronda's letter, we need to reach further now and help Knit-a-square South Africa to keep on doing this work.

If you don't already donate, please consider a small monthly regular donation.

If you do, perhaps you could slightly increase your monthly donation by $1 or 2. EVERY dollar helps put a warm blanket around a child, so in need of your love and comfort.

Kas Creches
We would also like to thank the USA Group in the forum, who under the stewardship of Helen Flagg have adopted three KasCreches this year, totalling nearly US$2000 in donations. This is a fantastic effort and we want you to know that it has been a significant contribution toward supporting Ronda and her team.

The UK group also adopted a creche for which we are, again deeply grateful. Thank you, each and everyone, who gave so generously to achieve these donations.

You can Adopt a KasCreche, which is a significant donation toward the work we do, here.

Our administrative function is pushed to the limit, so we are deeply grateful for the support you have shown us and your understanding that donations and contributions are not acknowledged personally, as we would dearly love to do.

 

The generosity of Jigsaw

 

Jigsaw, a chain of women and children's clothing in the UK and USA contacted KasCare, in August, to collaborate initially in the UK's Campaign for Wool and later in the USA in their Give a Gift of Warmth campaign.

This remarkably generous offer has meant that thousands and thousands of squares have been delivered to their stores around the UK for collection and ultimate delivery to South Africa.

We are all deeply grateful for this fantastic offer which has been a boon to many of our contributors around the UK and in the USA.

Thank you Jigsaw for your part in warming and comforting many children who would otherwise remain cold and uncheered.

 

Knit-a-square has been profound for me

 

Andrea Palmetier

Recently, I realized that Knit-a-Square has done something very profound for me – it has made me want to make the world a better place.

I've always been the type of person to offer someone a ride or help carry a stroller up the stairs. One day in February 2009, I saw the effort that Sandy and her family were making for AIDS orphans and I thought, "These kids truly have nothing and I can help." For the first time in my life, I put my "helpful" energy into real action and joined the challenge to make a square a day. At the end of the month, I surprised myself by making 30 squares. The day that I sent my first package showed me where my passion truly lies and I was hooked.

Since then, I have tried to crochet a square, hat or soft toy every night. In January 2011, I made a commitment to send 300 squares in a year. I’ve sent 243 to date, mailing a package every month to keep my promise. But now it’s become more than that.

I pick recyclable items out of the garbage. I taught a friend how to crochet. I don’t kill spiders in my house anymore. I contribute to the Food Bank and women’s shelters. Knit-a-Square has taught me that Gandhi was right: if you are the positive change you want to see in the world, the world has no choice but to become a better place.

Ed's note: Andrea is the designer of our Kas ruler and a founding member of the KasCommunity. You can find the ruler and other resources useful for spreading the word, here.

 

 

A small Australian village embraces Knit-a-square

 

Zanny Blew

This is a story about a Church and small town community whose generosity and care warms not only many needy children in Africa but the hearts of all involved in the Australian/South African charity KNIT-A-SQUARE.

I live in a small town called Daylesford, 1.5 hours from Melbourne and became involved in this charity in 2008 when my daughter, Sandy, living in Melbourne and my sister Ronda, living in Johannesburg decided to try and find a way to help the many thousands of children living in poverty and orphaned, mostly as a result of HIV/AIDS.

Today over 53 countries are involved in this appeal, and knitters and crocheters grow by the day.

Here in Daylesford, I met through the Church I attend Gary who, after a presentation made by Sandy in the Church some two years ago, took the charity to heart. As a knitter himself he has donated many, many squares and he and his wife many teddy bears. Through his efforts many other items have been donated.

Gary has held many sausage sizzles and we also had a stall outside our local supermarket selling donated balls of wool, and any other item we could lay our hands on to cover the postage costs.

In July and August Gary had enough money for us to send off 9 massive envelopes of items to Ronda in Johannesburg.

In the last two weeks the Lionesses Club in Ballan, a has donated $1,000 toward postage, and so, in the next week Gary and I will be packaging up hundreds of squares and other items which will shortly be on the water heading to South Africa.

I am so proud and warmed by the really caring support that has been given to Knit-a-square in this part of Australia. How wonderful it is knowing that there are such good people on this planet.

 

A testimony to KAS in schools

 

Erica Smith

It may have been several years since I finished my student life at Mater Christi College, a secondary school in Victoria, Australia, but when I went back there a few weeks ago to introduce Knit-a-Square to the year seven students, I discovered that some things don't change.

Nearly 200 13 year old students laughed and chatted their way into the school hall when the morning bell went, clustering in small groups, sharing stories of their weekends and comparing their yarn and needles. A teacher raised her hand in silent instruction, and the students rapidly settled in to hear about their peers in South Africa.

The students were quietly captivated by the stories, photos and video of South Africans, the same age or younger than themselves, who had become orphans.

“I think I might treat my parents a bit better,” reflected one student. “We're always fighting, but seeing those kids who didn't even have parents really made me think.”

After a quiet start to the day, the students then launched themselves with gusto into learning their new craft. Understanding that knitting is a skill best learned from experts, the school had invited several elders from the community to share their knowledge. Enthusiastic ladies from the Country Womens' Association and from local church parishes joined the students as honorary “Grannies” for the morning. Each Granny was adopted by a group of students, and the teaching, learning and knitting began in earnest.

After a few hours of knitting (and knotting!) the students and their teachers came together once again for a quiet reflection on the nature of giving and gratitude, before returning to their normal studies.

By the end of this year, each of these students will have a knitted square ready for the school to send to KAS.

Hopefully, they will also have a new appreciation for some of the challenges faced by their South African peers

Ed's note: Erica is one of our very generous donators and all round contributor to KasCare. The story about Mater Christi College's contribution to Knit-a-square is an inspiration to all of you who could involve a school to do so.

 

From the Caribbean

 

Jacqueleen Zamora, US Peace Corps - Eastern Caribbean Cohort 81

When I first arrived to work on a small island called Grenada in the Caribbean, I didn't think I would be starting a knitting club.  Luckily, many people here crochet clothing and other items so I brought my knitting needles after a visit back home.  

While I was knitting at a primary school named Chantimelle Roman Catholic School, students asked to learn how to knit.  With the help of the principal, Faith Phillip and teacher, Ms. Harley, we made knitting needles out of wood, sourced some yarn, and began our small knitting club. 

While the students were learning about HIV/AIDS (the Caribbean has the second-highest rate after sub-Saharan Africa), the students decided they wanted to contribute to KAS.  They learned the basic skills of making hats and squares and worked together to finish the pieces. 

We recently sent our small package of knitted goods in October.  The children are extremely excited to share their new skills for such a worthy cause.  They inspire me every day as they do not have much for themselves here in the poorest parish of Grenada but are still so generous.  They were very proud of their accomplishments and can't wait for children to wear the hats and blankets!

 

The modern method of spreading the word

 

Pam Antink, administrator in Square Circle Forum

Kasers are always trying to find ingenious ways of sharing this wonderful direct-action global knitting family - labels; flyers; Facebook; events; postage parties; blogs; groups, and, the best of all, Word-of-Mouth (actually, a good old-fashioned gossip).

Now more and more of us are using email rather than snail mail to send our notes and letters, be they personal or business - how about attaching a note about KAS under your signature?

Pam Antink
Sycamore Wholefoods
supporter of www.knit-a-square.com (this is my formal 'business signature' )

or

Pam
Knitting squares to make blankets is like putting your protective arm around a vulnerable child - go to www.knit-a-square.com to take direct action and make a difference!

I often vary the message depending on who I am corresponding with. However, it has surprised me how often people ask about KAS after seeing the message. They may not knit themselves, but quite often they know someone who does!

My 'signatures' are a bit restrained, but you can design your own style that suits your personality in order to share the word of KAS. I certainly need to 'jazz' mine up a bit! They can also be in colour!

Both Windows and Mac mail systems have a facility whereby you can add a signature automatically, but sadly, I've not got to grips with it - perhaps in the next ezine a computer ace amongst us could supply a step-by-step guide on how to do it?

Also, how about sharing signature designs to provide inspiration for all us in the Square Circle Forum? Come on, don't be shy you are among friends - join the discussion and let's give it a go!

Smile is a light in the window of the soul, indicating that the heart is home. Anon. Quote from the forum, thanks to Pam.

 

Tear to your eyes and hope to your heart. The official opening of Hotel Hope

 

Ronda Lowrie

The capacity of Hotel Hope is now 12 in each house. At the moment they have 13 from 2 weeks old to 2.5 yrs old, including a set of 5 month old twins. The twin boy is hale and hearty and twice the size of his sister who is a sickly, frail, gentle little thing with such a quiet cry.

Fortunately, there seems to be no shortage of medical assistance as several professionals in different specialities have offered their services on a pro bono basis, how amazing!

When Erin and I walked in we were greeted by 2 year old "Tommy" (not his name) who gave a shout and was clearly excited to have visitors even though he didn't know them from a bar of soap! He grabbed Erin's hand and took her out to the garden to play.  

There were babies wherever we looked, four were being fed by Oliver himself. Louise - a regular visitor and two house-mothers. Others had been fed and were in walkers, swing-chairs or lying on a soft blanket on the floor and one was sitting very comfortably propped up in a large box. All were happy and smiley!

A little 7 month old boy greeted me with such a huge smile I had to pick him up and as I did so he burst into a bubble of laughter, it was just too gorgeous. He was all dressed in red and he thought life was a huge joke - I just couldn't put him down.  

The tiny baby was fretful and needed quite a bit of attention but once all the burps were up and his nappy changed (again), he settled and went off to sleep despite the noise all around him.

My little guy went off to sleep in my arms and didn't stir when I put him into his cot either, so it appears that noise is not an issue for anyone. 

"Tommy" who had initially greeted us at the door, is going to live with his new "forever mummy" at the end of September. He has been at Hotel Hope from the very beginning and will be greatly missed but everyone is delighted that his future looks set and all rosy.  

That's a happy story, but there are many sad ones. One of the babies was brought to Hotel Hope by the police after her mother had been severely beaten up - she is only a few months old, so has no idea that her mother is fighting for her life in hospital. It seems that the aggressor is the child's own father.  

Ruth, who is on the Hotel Hope board and runs their Mothers in Crisis division,counsels many teenage, schoolgirl mothers in Alexandra Township, two of whom were actually still 12 years old when they gave birth.  In one of those cases, the father of the child was only 14 years old. There is an enormous incidence of early teenage pregnancy and childbearing in SA and absentee fathers are the rule rather than the exception.  Many of the girls are thrown out of the house by their parents when they are known to be pregnant; many of them do not return to school and turn to prostitution to support themselves and their children.

Oliver's longing to help alleviate such suffering resulted in the Hotel Hope Academy where such people can go to be trained in basic skills such as woodworking or hairdressing to try and give them a fighting chance back in society and bring them some hope of finding gainful employment and rehabilitating their lives.  

We spent the most rewarding time at Hotel Hope and greatly look forward to returning - and we hope to set aside some time for regular weekly visits as soon as possible.

It was really hard to drag Erin away, one of the toddlers clung onto her and had to be prised loose in floods of tears when the time came for us to leave.

Oliver and his team are the most wonderful people, hard working and unselfish, always calm, kind and patient. They're very special indeed.

 

 

Distributions

 

Emily’s crèche (also known as Lancefield)

This is the crèche the UK Group adopted, co-ordinated by Carole Playford.

(If you wish to Adopt a KasCreche, you can apply here through our Adopt a KasCreche fund-raising initiative).

There is so much concrete around this creche and on the day of the distribution, it was absolutely freezing. The kids came pouring off the street and soon the blankets had run out. Ronda and the team will have to go back as there were so many children in need. Look at how readily these little ones smile.

 

Tsehpo-Bloemfontein

Ronda and Wendy went to Bloemfontein (about 250 miles/400kms from Johannesburg) in August this year to attend a dinner to celebrate the 10 years of G4S operation of the Mangaung Prison.

There they met Pete and Petro, who have been running the Tshepo Foundation, a community upliftment program, for about 11 years. It's very well-established.

The children are kept in the programme even when their parents don't pay the pittance of R100/month (US9+) for childcare, so they have done a marvellous job.

They suggested to Dawid Kyler, who runs the Community Projects department at Mangaung, that they keep all the blankets the inmates make, until such time as they have saturated the areas around Bloemfontein.

It is very cold there, often reaching temperatures of minus -3 degrees centigrade. It has been known to snow in the city. Their situation is also dire in terms of poverty.

The following day, Wendy, Ronda and other G4S staff went to Tshepo to distribute blankets to the children.

At least twice a week, Tshepo feeds the community at large with huge buckets of soup made by the prisoners - and each person gets two slices of bread. The children first, then adults. 

This was a real tear-jerker, Ronda explained, especially as everything ran out after about 200 people had received food, and they literally had to force the gate closed on about 30 people who had missed out. She said it was unbearably hard to witness.  Many of the G4S people were in tears and as she was too. They were assured that those would be first in the queue next time.

Each person brings their own cup or container for the soup and bread. Ronda said there was something so touching about this scene, and it was quite agonising at times.

"Somehow", she said, "this place seemed even bleaker than Soweto".

 

 

Carolyn's Creche, Orlando West

This crèche is in the Orlando West area, close to Hector Pietersen memorial. Hector Pietersen was an activist during Apartheid.

Wandi grew up in this area, just a few blocks from where this crèche is. She remembers the day Hector Pietersen was killed by the police firing into the crowd of senior school children who were protesting.  She was a young, married woman at the time and asked her neighbour why there was so much smoke in the air, thinking there must be a fire close by.  But it was the teargas the police were using just a few hundred metres away from her house.

16th June is Soweto Day now and commemorated every year as a public holiday.

Rosie's Creche, Kliptown

Rosie's Creche is in the Kliptown area of Soweto. It serves about 300 children in all, but had completed blankets for the pre-schoolers only.

Despite it being a public holiday, they gathered 50 children to come and collect their blankets. Ronda went into Soweto to attend the church service and gave a brief KAS talk .

 

Chiawelo Council Distribution, Soweto

Barbara (from Hip to be Square group in Kyalami) and another American volunteer attended this distribution, and according to Ronda they were enchanted. 

At the end of the distribution, Ronda wrote they were packing up and suddenly noticed one of the children just sitting on a chair all by himself, quite calm and wrapped up tight in his KAS blanket.  

Nobody knew where he came from ...

one of the 'minders' who had brought the kids to the distribution had obviously mis-counted her charges and just left him behind!  No problem - no tears or fuss - he just waited patiently and eventually she came back to find him. She said, "he couldn't have been more than 6, bless his little heart ... he stayed on my mind for weeks."

The sweetest thing is to see these little ones receiving their soft toys.

 

Ennerdale

A contact of Wandi's through the Methodist church, Pastor Kipende and his wife, Miree (pronounced Mirray), have been working at a church in Ennerdale which is about 40kms from Soweto.

Ronda thought they would reach Bloemfontein before they got there as they got so hopelessly lost. She said, best to never ask directions from a person who doesn't drive themselves, especially when the navigator had also never driven! They just went round in circles, but eventually arrived and received a very warm welcome.. Ronda said they will definitely work with Ennerdale further because their needs are huge in that area.

They are very keen for more blankets and all the rest of the stuff, which I promised her closer to next inter.  They look after hundreds of kids of all ages - plus the elderly and the HIV/AIDS sufferers in two or three massive squatter camps close to the church.  

Ronda wrote, that the Pastor said such a lovely prayer of thanksgiving in which he praised God for inspiring the work done by Knit-a-Square and thanked us for being 'obedient to our calling. Then the crowd burst into a rousing gospel song ... it was really lovely.

Britz

We took blankets, beanies, jerseys, soft toys, stationery and food to an area north of Britz, where Pastor Jaco works with needy kids. Pastor Jaco is Nolene Vonk's boyfriend. Nolene introduced Knit-a-square to Oasis in Cosmo City in 2010.

 

Margaret epitomises the growth of Knit-a-square

 

Margaret, explains how she works with teenagers to teach them to knit in this video. We were greatly moved by it.

As Ronda said, "Lovely. It so clearly illustrates the way KAS offers an opportunity for anyone to make a real and valid contribution regardless of personal circumstances of health, wealth, age or stage and given the undeniable truth that, 'it is more blessed to give than to receive'. The positive spiral begins - amazing, simple, inspired … all glory be to God.

 

 

The good ship, Enterprise

 

Magic!

 

 

From the Ed!

 

Well, dear KasFamily, so draws to the end another epic edition of Square Circle.

We were going to try to send out more regular, less weighty tomes, but our lives are consumed now, by necessity, with the business we had to rebuild after our two and a half very happy years working full time for KasCare.

Now, I spend time teaching small business the online craft I learned through the wonderful and privileged experience of being involved in the KasCommunity. It's always an honour to tell them your story. Without exception, people are moved and inspired.

There's never any doubt, that this community is extraordinary. You grow daily, reach out to more and more corners of our amazing world and continue to connect with another who in turns connects with another, and so it grows.

In July we put out the challenge, Knit-a-squillion, aimed at raising 1,200,000 squares. This was after Wendy from G4S wrote in the last ezine, that the inmates had the capacity to stitch together 100,000 a month.

Your response as always was extraordinary. It is true it would be a huge push to reach 100,000 squares a month, but not impossible as this discussion shows.

We are sincerely grateful too, to each one of you who supports Knit-a-square South Africa.

You can add your donation here. Join us too in a discussion about this ezine, here in the forum.

 

Thank you all, each and every one of you. You are, quite simply, special and you each make a difference with every square you knit.

With love for you all, Sandy.

PS. The calendar is just an hour or two from completion, but the ezine must go out tonight (Sunday evening Oz time)! So, we will send out a short note next week with instructions on how to donate and receive your copy.

This is a not only a great fund-raiser for us, but once you have it, you can send it to everyone you know as a free gift and thereby continue to spread the word on behalf of the children who so greatly need your help and love.

PPS. Roger continues to publish his epic poem, Knitting for Africa about our journey to South Africa last year in All for Orphans. He was waylaid at Instalment No 22, but has promised he will continue into the new year.