Sew on and sew forth!
Sew on and sew forth!
The last one for the year!
We are drawing to the end of our first year working together to make a difference in the lives of some of the most marginalised children on earth, those who have lost one or both of their parents as a result of the twin perils of HIV/AIDS and poverty.
It is time to reflect on what we have achieved in this remarkably short space of time, what the future holds and to ask you in doing so, not to lose sight of our common goal, to make a difference in these children's lives one square at a time. It is also time that we think of, and thank those, who have so tirelessly worked to sew up the blankets during the year. They have been our unsung heroes!
To that end we warmly welcome the new members who have recently joined us and look forward to your contributions to this goal.
SQUARE CIRCLE ISSUE 18
December 6 2009
REFLECTIONS FROM AUSTRALIA
Highlights of the year
Results of the first appeal
Where to from here
SEW ON AND SEW FORTH
Change is afoot
Lindiwe's sewing group
Hoefflin Centre sewing group - Bez Valley
A new introduction - Grace Community Centre
Bryanston sewing group
Co-opting the family sewing group!
Back into the Bez Valley with surprising results!
A little bit of Christmas at Sedibeng Sagophilo Methodist Church
The KAS e-calendar and Christmas giving
Help us win the Pareto Competition for $2000
Understanding KasCare, knit-a-square and KasKids™
Computers for the Jabulani Khakibos Kids
Heloise and a tragic story
KAS meets Thousand Homes
Support for other worthy causes
Soweto Gospel Choir
Unforeseen for any of us, was the sheer diversity of our work on the ground in South Africa during our first year of operation. Looking through past ezines to remind us of the various distributions, I was struck by how fantastically different each one was. While we here, in Australia, have knowledge of South Africa having either lived there for periods in our lives or visited, we were none the less unprepared for the range of situations these children live in.
We have been, or will be, introduced to the most marginalised, the small groups of children who live untended in the hills of the Bez Valley, and doubtless all over South Africa, and to those who are cared for in church-run organisations like Sedibeng Sagophilo, to whom we distributed during November.
In trying to communicate the extent of the need of most of these children, it may be superficially easy to overlook, especially when they look clean and well fed or have a roof over their heads, that they are orphans. They have lost the people who would love them the most, who would guide them through their lives, or they have been abandoned by those parents who could not love them, or could only expose them to abuse.
If they have been fortunate enough to find shelter, solace, food and even warmth through the auspices of church run organisations, or homes such as Mother of Peace and the Jabulani Khakibos Kids, can we judge whether they are less deserving of our care, love and concern than the children who have even less?
Where ever the blankets have gone, they have been wrapped around children who would never otherwise have been gifted something so beautiful as a hand knitted blanket. We believe that all your work so far given out, has done much more than just warm the little ones and young adults who now own the blankets and garments, whatever their circumstances.
Beyond the children, there are the carers and our wonderful volunteers everywhere in South Africa, Australia, the US, Canada and the UK. Then there is you, the person responsible for making and sending the squares and garments to warm the children and the gifts to enrich their lives. We are all touched by this flood of love from us to them. It is the closest we can get to putting our arms around a child who has lost so much and faces such an uncertain future.
The culture of a people
There is another factor too. From afar, you may not be able to reconcile, for example, the small cramped and clearly extremely poor living space with these clean and mostly well dressed children, below.
This is Tebogo and his twin sister lerato who are cared for by their grandmother. The twins were abandoned by their mother shortly after birth and their father is unknown. They received the second and third blankets we distributed in March this year at Phiri Parish, Soweto.
We are aware of the pitiful allowance the family must live on each month and their grandmother has no work.
You will see from a photograph later that in far greater poverty than this, hardly imaginable until you see it, a woman washs her clothes.
Throughout Ronda's amazing chronicle of thousands of photographs this year, there are dozens which show washing on the line or cleanly dressed people who are in fact mostly destitute.
Ronda has told me that clean and respectable clothes are an essential component of survival and aspiration in South Africa, even if you only have one set. There are the exceptions of course, the Hill Kids and the little children who wander the streets, with no adult intervention, or have parents who are abusing substances, are as one would expect, grubby and unkempt.
They too are the children that Wandile, Heloise and Kungeka look out for for in their various caring ministries which now includes giving out KAS blankets where it is appropriate to do so.
We think that next year many more of the blankets will go to these very poorest of the poor children. But it will be far more difficult to report on these more random distributions and it will not stop the flow of love and largesse to those children who live with some care surrounding them.
The fact is they remain orphans, abused or abandoned children no matter where they live and part of this terrible and growing statistic: 1.4 million in South Africa and nearly 15 million around the world. We have an enormous job to do!
In compiling the e-calendar (yes it is done, but more about that later), with the help of Kyla - thank you, we put together this rather impressive list of milestones during 2009. We have achieved so much!
16 January 2009, first issue of Square Circle sent - 26 subscribers
26 Jan 2009, first square arrived in South Africa
Number of unique daily visitors to the website: 54
22 February 2009, Lion Brand article raised membership to 1100
24 February 2009, 4th issue of Square Circle sent - 856 subscribers
Number of unique daily visitors to the website: 1210 (thanks Lion Brand)
March 17 2009, first school to introduce knit-a-square, Springside School, Philadelphia
March 8 2009, Ravelry knit-a-square group started
March 12 2009, first KAS forum live (ProBoards)
28 March 2009, first blanket distributed to Jamey, Phiri Parish, Soweto
Number of unique daily visitors to the website: 376
23 April 2009, 5,000th square arrived in South Africa
25 April 2009, first major sewing bee, Moletsane, Soweto
30 April 2009, 9th issue of Square Circle sent - 1368 subscribers
First challenge on ravelry: April Race - 761 squares
Number of unique daily visitors to the website: 381
2 May 2009, the first world knit-a-square on the go day. (KASTOG) in Canada, Australia and South Africa.
15 May 2009,first creche distribution at Zeverfontein, Gauteng
16 May 2009, first major church distributions, Soweto
18 May 2009, Square Circle Forum went live.
Challenge: make it in May
17 June 2009, first distribution to an orphanage, Mother of Peace Community, North Riding
26 June, 14th issue of Square Circle sent - 1612 subscribers
Challenge: Blankets and hats for 144 orphans at Ten Thousand Homes (all subscribed and sent)
17 July 2009, 20,000th square arrived in South Africa
18 July 2009, first Mandela Day distribution
Challenge: Keep a newborn warm - 255 blankets and hats for Tswhane Place of Safety (all subscribed and sent)
5 August, 2009, first blankets delivered for abandoned babies at Tshwane Place of Safety, Pretoria
11 August 2009, first blanket distributed to an orphan at Ten Thousand Homes, Transvaal
24 August 2009, 500 members reached in Square Circle Forum
20 August 2009, first distribution to homeless children, Bez Valley
9 August, 16th issue of Square Circle sent - 1856 subscribers
Challenge: August in Africa
22 September, 2008, KasCare, the organisation incorporated
30 September, 2009 resources page up on website
Number of unique daily visitors to the website: 460
Missed milestone: 30,000 squares
Challenge: 35 GO-OVERS for the Jabulani Khakibos Kids, and 40 felted blankets for the Hill Kids (all subscribed)
Challenge for the month: Dedicate-a-square and Stash-buster
01 October, 2009, first distribution to newly orphaned children, Diepsloot Shack Settlement, Gauteng
29 October 20th issue of Square Circle sent - 2124 subscribers
Number of unique daily visitors to the website: 513
Challenge: Dedicated squares (187 pledges) and stash buster
Number of unique daily visitors to the website: 523
Missed milestone: 40,000 squares
Challenge: SLIP-OVERS, 53 pledged
Number of forum comments 29 811 (will we make 30,000!)
Number of squares inching toward 50,000
Number of knitted and crocheted garments inching up toward 3,500!
6 December 21th* issue of Square Circle sent - 2270 subscribers
Total estimated blankets including baby blankets distributed or in distribution: 1,600
Challenge: Red squares for AIDS awareness
* Discrepancy in issue number because I have included Updates 1 - 3
NOTE: For any of you interested in rereading some of these milestones here is the link to the back issues of Square Circle.
Results of the first appeal
We sent our first appeal out at the end of November by email, in order to help secure the South African operations. This raised US$3233.46 from 54 donors. Your letter of deep gratitude for this support and Foundation Donor Certificates are in the mail.
In addition, Ronda had compiled a database of all the contributors who had written to us since January with a physical address. We have reason to believe that many of these good people are not subscribers or members of the forum, so we are sending out a letter in the mail to ask them too for help.
If you receive the letter and you have already had the appeal by email, please accept our apologies. At this time our database is being compiled manually and we are unable to cross check. We are hopeful that you will accept our need to continue the appeal and not be offended if you receive it twice.
While this is a really amazing result in fund-raising terms, it cannot on its own secure the South African operation. We will need to build our funding to at least US$3000 a month going forward, especially if we intend to grow. A pledge of an amount a month is a great way to achieve this. Contact us if this is what you would like to do.
Where to from here?
In order to continue operations in South Africa, we will use this money sparingly but with consideration for reimbursements first and extra resources second.
Currently we pay for transport which includes taxi fares to and from Soweto (about an hour away from Ronda's house) for the volunteers, sometimes twice a week and fuel for transporting the boxes, bundles and distributions.
The start up costs for our postal address amounted to US$250 and we must pay a yearly subscription of US.$120. Postal costs mount up even though duty is not as onerous as it was earlier in the year, but now there is a new handling fee of ZAR25 (about USD$3 or 4) per box. It arrived unannounced and with no explanation. This is really what we must expect for moving hundreds and hundreds of pounds/kilos of knitted goods into South Africa.
Canteen costs include buns and fruit at distributions and during the days of postal opening and collating.
We also pay a stipend to all of our willing volunteers. These are not wealthy people and their time with us comes at the cost of their being able to look for and secure other paid work. Sometime during the year we took the decision that we could no longer expect their unstinting and willing help without payment, albeit incredibly modest. They should be correctly remunerated as soon as we can afford it.
Between Ronda, donations from family members and ourselves we have managed this.
Ronda has also paid for all other expenses at a personal cost of about ZAR5,000 a month, (about US$6000 for this year) bearing in mind there were far fewer expenses in the earlier months so next year we would expect this to be more like US$8 to 9000.
From the date of our incorporation, September 22, she can be reimbursed for these costs and going forward these will no longer come at an expense to her for as long as the money lasts.
These figures will be made available to our donors in an annual report by June 30 2010, once we are audited, as we must be by law in Australia.
Clearly, we have been greatly fortunate to date that Ronda and her amazing team of volunteers have loved this work so much that they have done it all, at a cost to themselves and for for little or no pay over the last year.
We cannot expect this to be ongoing. While everyone loves the work it is hard physical labour and we need a young, energetic person who can collect the post, unpack it, bundle it and transport the packs around to the sewing groups. Ronda has indicated her willingness to continue until such time as we are able to employ this person.
In the new year we will look to find someone who fits the bill, at first part time, but with a view to employing them full time if the volume of squares and garments continues to grow as it has this year.
For now, together with regular help from Lindiwe and the others they co-opt into helping, we hope this will be adequate until funding is available.
Sylvia Vannelli, a forum member has contacted a British volunteer program operating in South Africa, on our behalf. We are hopeful that when we supply them details of our work on the ground we will be eligible for their volunteer program. Thank you Sylvia.
Fairly soon, we will also have to either secure the warehouse space we have been donated by equipping it with alarm systems, proper water-tight storage and shelves and trestle tables, or find another space that will provide that at a reasonable cost.
The Lowries have been saintly in their willingness to share their home with tens and tens of thousands of squares. Until we can move KAS into other premises, for now we hope that with a bit of resorting and shelving we can create a space in their shed which will act as a temporary warehouse. These costs will be reimbursed. We will also purchase trestle tables for sorting and bundling squares to spare their backs.
Goals for 2010
We will just reach 50,000 squares this year and 3,500 garments, so our goal for 2010 is 100,000 squares and 7,000 garments.
While this is not a volume that can be handled by our current volunteer resources, it is one we must aspire too as a community if we are to reach more and more children and ensure that in so doing, many thousands more people in the world are aware of their plight.
Please, do not stop your work for fear of overloading our South African operation. Without your work, we can neither continue to warm our children or seek funding.
We will continue our work to secure funding from organisations such as the Stephen Lewis Foundation who are currently reviewing our proposal. We hope very much that we will be able to report positively on that front in the next ezine.
It is clear that the money we have received, while we are all deeply grateful for all of your gifts will not go very far next year. We hope we will receive further donations from those who may have missed the first appeal or not realised the severity of our circumstances.
FROM SOUTH AFRICA - change is afoot
With all the above in mind and in light of the reflection on the variety of distributions, we think that some change in the way we operate in South Africa next year will be sensible, to help sustain the work we are doing.
The KAS approach will become twofold, Lindiwe, Wandile, Kungeka, Heloise and Josephine (when she is able), will look for grassroots projects in Soweto and expanding to other areas and will take 500-700 squares per week to that end.
As you will read later, they will organise various sewing groups where the distributions are to take place. The benefits are great for everyone. The groups have 'ownership' of the blankets and involve women in constructive community work, so they too become part of the chain of giving.
Ronda will pursue new projects similar to Sister Satos' Vuselela Centre at Diepsloot, Ten Thousand Homes, Jabulani Khakibos Kids, Usindiso, Nkosi’s Haven and Mother of Peace and in so doing, make connections with many new people working on behalf of the orphans.
If we are able to secure the services of a part time employee, then apart from managing the postal collections and distribution of the bundles to the sewing groups, they will also oversee the collation of the data, how many squares, how many blanket bundles, how many blankets distributed and to whom.
At least one of the KAS team will be at distributions where they are formal or record all that we can where they are informal. One of the pre-requisites of a future employee is that they are as adept with a camera as Ronda, so that we can keep up the wonderful flow of photo stories to show you how your work is being put to use.
Lindi's (Lindiwe) Sewing group
Lindi has already organised a new sewing group, the Methodist ladies from Sedibeng who run an amazing support initiative for children and adults with HIV and the elderly, serving some 200 people and are thrilled to have squares to stitch together and hand out. Lindi says the set up is run by two incredible women, Doreen Makete and Sarah Serobatse. The women are meeting once a week and have already done more than 20 blankets - she is just delighted. Well done Lindi.
You can read more about Sedibeng under our distribution stories.
The women include Doreen, Sarah, Hilda, Sheila, Manatha, Mrs Kekana, Mrs Lefutso, Thabile and Mbali. Thank you from all of us at knit-a-square to all of you for your invaluable help.
Hoefflin Centre sewing group - Bez Valley
Things have not gone quite so smoothly at the Hoefflin Centre sewing group which was organised by Heloise. The plan was that the many tens of women that Heloise feeds as part of her food ministry, would sew blankets in return.
Five or six women habitually come to sew up squares. But whenever Heloise arrived with food, there would be upwards of 80 or more waiting to be fed. We rather gather that she does not take lightly to being taken advantage of! So either these folk will be sewing blankets or they may not benefit from her food program.
Some of these blankets are being sewn for distribution to the Hill Kids, together with felted blankets currently being sewn by Ros Truelock, others for the orphaned children in the area.
While it is mid summer now, even so temperatures can cool during the night. The plan certainly involves ensuring that Heloise reaches these children with blankets before winter, although it is hard to know how many there are. Our Bez Valley story shows that extreme poverty does not preclude all the differentials of a more affluent life!
On a later visit Ronda and Erin went to Hoefflin Park to meet Heloise and Selina and the sewing group (8 or so were there, quite an improvement) to distribute morning tea to the sewers. Ten of the 20 childrens blankets had been stitched up and very well too. Heloise couldn't start her van that morning, and Selina has a bad knee so both arrived late and then there was no tin opener for the jam and no kettle to make the tea! As Ronda wrote, Mondays at Bez Valley are always a surprise.
But as is seemingly always the case, our involvement with these remarkable people is a rich source of connections, that will continue to extend the work we do.
Three little recipients of the work of the Hoefflin Sewing Centre and your squares.
Grace Community Centre
On this morning, they met an amazing young man, Claude Nkebi, project manager of the newly establish Hellenic Church counselling centre just down the road from the Hoeffline Centre.
Ronda had planned to distribute some blankets and sweaters to children at the local clinic. When they got there, the sister suggested instead that they go to meet Claude, where she sends her very sad or serious cases. She explained the majority of those who visit the clinic are women having babies weighed or vaccinated. It is heartening to know that these services continue to run as they should, despite the increasing poverty so evident in South Africa.
Ronda wrote: " And what a find! He and Heloise are both involved in feeding schemes. He has very recently come from tan area called Doornfontein, where he says needy people are literally lying around in the streets and he had more work than he could cope with but with no infrastructure to help him.
"Since moving across to the Bez Valley he has been desperate to 'get amongst it' and was praying for someone local to cross his threshold. Then along came Heloise and Selina!
"They are definitely going to pool their resources, knowledge, contacts and sources of food which is just fantastic. He was almost tearful when I showed him the 10 blankets, 10 toddler blankets, beanies and sweaters. He so 'got KAS' and what a really lovely young man - attentive and interested in all we told him about KAS, and also very keen to refer his patients to the sewing group as part of their therapy and for community support."
Heloise, Claude Nkebi, Erin and Selina in Claude's offices
Doesn't this reflect goodness?
It spreads like a ripple on a pond in ever increasing circles. You find knit-a-square and then knit a square! Your square arrives in South Africa and is put into the hands of a woman who stitches it to others.
In doing the work of KAS, we meet those who will introduce those in great need to the sewing groups. They in turn benefit by community work and extra food.
The blankets are made and wrapped around children who are comforted by their warmth and love. We write to tell you of these stories and you tell others who then knit a square and so the circle grows.
Bryanston Methodist Church sewing group
The Bryanston Methodist Church have formed a sewing group to help sew blankets for Oliver Quambash's (Hotel Hope) project for the community of homeless people who live on an old mine dumps , with many children among them.
You may remember that Cedarwood School, South Africa exceeded our wildest expectations in May this year, producing just short of 4,000 squares in 5 weeks. At that time Oliver had found the groups and we were thrilled that these squares were the exact number of squares to make the number of blankets required.
While it has taken some time, we are are so pleased that with the help of these kind and willing women, we should be able to get blankets on the 'dump community' before next winter. Oliver is very excited.
The group with Oliver , full of enthusiasm to get to grips with the Cedarwood squares.
Co-opting the 'Family' sewing group
All in the family: Niece, Tracy from Zimbabwe and sister, Charmian from the UK put hard to work and, below, Charmian with one of several beautiful blankets she stitched up.
You may have gathered over the year, that various family and friends are squeezed in among the squares into the spare room in Ronda's home. No one escapes the work that follows, although it appears that everyone loves it and wants very much to be involved. It extends too to Erin's house where even their youngest, Hannah has become adept at sewing squares together.
Charmian (Zanny and Ronda's middle sister) recently visited for a month to help but also to insist on some enforced rest for Ronda, and a lot of planning over the endless teapot. She is a staunch supporter of KAS and a major donor already. She has also offered to help with professional fund-raising expertise here in Australia, for which we are immeasurably grateful.
We are looking forward to sending you photographs of the Australian family hard at work too, when we visit in March 2010.
Maria's Creche - distribution by Lindiwe, 17 blankets.
Lindiwe distributed to this small creche recently.
Front: far left is Precious - pink/turquoise blanket, next with blue head-band is Mamelo, then Refiloe (Re-feel-weh)- red/white Dineo in browns - slightly in front, another Refiloe, turquoise colour at neckline, Siyabonga - big boy with sandals. Back Row, right to left Elisa, Mike, Dumi, Mbali, Temba (colourful blanket) Ngobile (pink on left shoulder) and Lwazi .
Back into the Bez Valley, with surprising results
Heloise had recently gone up into the hills to discover a bunch of children she said were living like little animals. She told Ronda some of them could hardly speak in words. This seemed a truly desperate state of affairs. Ronda and Erin, together with Heloise, set off to see if they could locate these children, to at least give them some food and return with the felted blankets when they are complete. They were nowhere in sight. But the days events painted another picture which we believed worthy of sharing with you.
I will let Ronda's tell you the story with her and Erin's photographs and in her words.
First off we stopped at a burnt out, boarded up building which, Heloise explained, had housed a bunch of homeless men for some time, until the police came along and tried to evict them. They refused to budge so the police (note) petrol bombed the place and burnt it to a crisp. Nothing daunted, these men have simply boarded up the windows and "built" individual shacks, almost like bedrooms, INSIDE the gutted building - quite incredible.
Next to Heloise on her right, is literally a 'hole in the wall' with another mattress in it, where two guys shelter at night. How Heloise found these men, I have no idea. She has a real nose for finding homeless people. This is the back of the building where the men do their washing.
Here are two of the men outside their 'bedrooms'. They were so friendly - but they need foam mattresses, bedding, cutlery and crockery of any sort, staple foods etc. All are looking hard for work which moved me greatly and they were all well spoken.
This fellow brought out his KAS blanket to show us and obviously did not have no clue of the connection! We didn't ask how he had it.
As I explained in a recent communication, a few but not many blankets will just make their way elsewhere, such is life in Africa. But they are warming a homeless person, even if he may be not be an orphan.
Then the fellow we had first met next to his 'bedroom' INSISTED that I sit on his bed to see how comfortable it was.
After we left the building, we made our way down the hill to where Heloise believed we may find the children. This would have been such a pretty residential area in the early to mid 1900s I would think. Some of the houses have fallen down now, most are squatted in, burnt out or messed up in some way.
I had taken some bags of apples and also a supply of beanies and scarves this morning and as we arrived, the people came up to see what was going on and to help themselves.
In the first photo you will see some quite well-hidden shacks further up the hill which is where, Heloise says the real bush dwellers stay hidden from view. Perhaps this is where the children, who cannot actually speak, live.
How amazing the need to keep clean even under these circumstances. This woman was washing clothes and took time out to literally inhale her apple!
Heloise referred to this chap is 'the captain' - he was completely and utterly drunk, but later on came rushing down the hill after us to tell me I could come and visit them anytime, no problem whatsoever ..... The Captain with his apple - he so needed the blotting paper!
(Note from Ed: Such a strange juxtaposition, this KAS blanket waving brightly on the line. Ronda thought it wise not to ask. There are some things we just need to accept, and along with the variety of folk who inhabit these hills, it brings a great deal of colour and warmth to the area.)
Like these two... and the trolley man in the background.
Peeking into the photo on the left was a man Heloise called 'the security guard' who she says keeps an eye on things, perhaps warning people of the police, but also keeping the people calm when people like Heloise and ourselves are around.
Erin had a long chat to the two designated 'security men' both of whom claimed they would much rather work than hope for handouts. It seems to be the message from the unemployed around the world, doesn't it?
One of the shacks, with more pristinely clean washing on the line.
Relaxing Bez Valley style.
Heloise absolutely relishes this work and the more rough it gets the more she enjoys herself. She bosses everyone around and they seem to just love it.
We will most definitely be going back to this area with food soon and I am very keen to make a collection of foam rubber mattresses and bedding, not only for the hill people but for the burnt out building people as well. * These are the poorest of the poor and they are desperately in need of practically anything you can think of. ENDS
I don't know about you but this is the closest we have been to such abject poverty. It would be the case for Ronda too I believe. It had a strange effect, it made me marvel again at the human spirit. And that poverty does not preclude all walks of life from existing with in, the gay men and the drunk, the woman washing her clothes and the pleasant and hospitable men in the burnt out building.
There has been a suggestion that the Hill Kids mingle with the adults in a sort of community but that has not been verified. I suppose you would have to be there at night. Ronda and Heloise are determined to find these children.
One thing we do believe though is that there is no guarantee under these circumstances that the children will get to keep their blankets. Perhaps we ought to acknowledge that if we are to work in these areas of utter destitution in an attempt to help the Hill Kids, we can't make the rules. But also, once you know these people are there, you can't walk away and do nothing.
* Ronda contributes to Heloise's food and other ministries out of her own funds as she has to KAS up until now. However KAS funds will not be used to support this work, as much as we would be willing to help if we could.
Christmas at Sedibeng Sagophilo Methodist Church, Mapetla, Soweto
As mentioned above, Lindi had been introduced by Wandile to this Methodist Church group, led by Doreen and Sarah.
At Sedibeng, Erin with Doreen (Chairperson of the NGO) and Vivienne the administrator. They operate out of these old shipping containers. It is a large project helping 70 people living with HIV/AIDS; 126 orphaned children; 34 infected/affected registered with the charity and they also run a school holiday programme in which they have 38 children currently.
Lindi says they are proactive, energetic women who are very excited about KAS and want to sew as many blankets together as they can to start distributing to all sorts of projects in the area and further afield. She gave them an initial 1500 squares to make up. Doreen and Sarah insisted that everyone who is part of their project would be sewing up squares – including the men, young and old, and they made up 106 blankets in less than 4 weeks!
Sedibeng is a very enterprising project, properly and formally constituted. Ronda was given their Annual Report and she says it's impressive in content. It is in Mapetla – another extremely poor Soweto area with massive squatter camps.
Wandile and Lindiwe took a large box of Christmas gifts to allocate and wrap into 106 separate gifts for this distribution day.
So on Friday 27th November, we had our first distribution there which was combined with a Christmas party organised by them and with the gifts sorted out by Lindiwe from you.
Wandile, Dikeledi and Ronda being closely observed.
What a beautiful blanket, what stunning squares!
The children arrive from the school across the road for the presentation and the giving out of gifts. Most of these children are cared for by Sedibeng in some way or another, many are orphans and many are grandchildren of the sewing ladies. It is so heartening to know that some of these children are cared for and that organisations like this exist to support the carers to look after them.
But then again look at these little faces.
A prayer before the presentation.
The older children came next and within no time these two were into the snakes and ladders already!
And two littlelies!
Ronda says there will be two further distributions of Christmas gifts before the end of the year, which will be something to look forward to reporting on in January.
The KAS e-calendar and Christmas giving
It's done! We wish we could have extended it to a hard copy but not this year. But we have created a KAS calendar full of photos and with the challenges we know about, plus a history of highlights from this amazing first year noted on the relevant dates.
The Calendar is 14 pages, 12 months with a cover and an explanatory page, and we are offering it to you US$7.95. It is on US letter but prints equally well on A4 landscape. You can either have it printed professionally and spiral bound or you can do it at home and just punch a few holes in the top.
Once you have purchased it, we're encouraging you to send it far and wide as a gift to as many people as you like, with our love and best wishes for a wonderful 2010. You will be achieving three magical things:
1. You will further help our cause by putting more money into the kitty for South Africa
2. You will do a grand job of spreading the word if you send it to everyone you know
3. You will be reminded every day as you look at your calendar of events of the work you have done this year and the wonderful work you continue to do.
Please click here to purchase your e-calendar now!
We are sending the calendar manually, so please be patient. We will do a mass distribution once every two or three days. We hope thousands of you buy, which may take a bit of time, but what a fabulous problem to have!
What better way to give this Christmas with our holiday giving idea. Purchase blankets at a dollar a square and use one or all of these cards to gift the orphan blankets to your friends and family. The cards allow you your choice of gift on the back:
This gift will wrap a warm, lovingly hand-made blanket around:
An abandoned baby or------abandoned babies
An orphaned toddler or-------orphaned toddlers
An orphaned child or .........orphaned children
An orphaned teenager or.......... orphaned teenagers
After you have paid for your choice of blankets, you can return to the site to fill in the form to download the cards.
And yes, there is nothing to stop folk from just downloading the cards without purchasing the blankets, but we trust you and those who consider charitable giving at Christmas.
Please click here to do your Christmas giving this year.
Help us win the Pareto Competition for $2000 Pareto is a fund-raising organisation running this photograph competition on facebook.
The photographs are all from charities and the one with the winning votes wins $2000 for their charity! Our photo of the darling little newly orphaned boy with his blanket was winning for a while, but we have dropped back to fifth.
To vote go the link below and click on the photograph, but more importantly, beseech your children and grandchildren, who all have Face Book accounts to send it to their friends and beseech them to vote too.
What better way can we think of to spread the word about KAS to the younger generation then this! And we may get to win $2000 as a Christmas gift. Think of what we can do with that to help in South Africa.
This is what I have been copying in to those I am asking to vote and to pass on to their face book friends.
KasCare’s knit-a-square asks the world’s knitters to send 8” squares to South Africa where they are made into blankets for orphans and abandoned children. There are 1.4 million orphans and 500 children a day are added to that dreadful toll through the twin perils of HIV AIDS and poverty. KasCare also raises awareness of their plight.
Here is the link - VOTE NOW!
Understanding KasCare, knit-a-square and KasKids
Some of you may be finding the various names and communications confusing.
When we incorporated, we needed an umbrella name to cover our administrative and fund-raising arm. That is KasCare Inc. Any communication you receive from us about fund-raising or donations will come from KasCare.
Our official KasCare website is under construction and will be up very soon, although we are concerned that the usual Christmas rush may make our developers a little slower than we would like.
knit-a-square.com is a program of KasCare and as such will continue to look and feel just as it does, connected to its two major communications platforms, Square Circle ezine (this) and our friendly Square Circle Forum.
KasKids™ is the name we have given to our developing schools program.
We believe that it is essential we introduce the plight of the orphans, knit a square and a number of other activities we can do for the orphans to children around the world today. Not only will we teach these children to knit and crochet, a very valuable craft, but we will teach them they can make a difference one square at a time.
They will learn about this great body of children who are growing up at the same time as them, and hopefully this will encourage empathy and understanding of what the orphans face now and into the future.
In discussions recently with an eminent childhood development specialist, we asked: "do these young children face any childhood development issues from a potential lack of parental love and stimulation among other factors?"
He suggested that while there would most likely be some quite severe issues in developmental terms, there were none the less simple measures that could be taken that would have a positive effect.
One of these involved visual and imaginatory stimulation. Scrap books as a tool that school children could readily develop would be a great additional activity to add to the school's program as a visual stimulation for pre-school AIDS orphans and abandoned children. As this is part of the KasCare mandate, we are planning to meet with him in the new year to learn more.
Heloise and a tragic story
Heloise delivered a baby in the park on Monday 19, October.
She heard a noise as she was walking along the pavement and saw this young pregnant woman in great distress. She persuaded her to remove her jeans and found the head of the baby already crowning.
Apparently, it happened so fast she had no time to consider that she had not the first idea of how to handle things. Somehow she managed to grab her van and load up the mother and baby to take them to the local hospital.
The mother, a 16 year old Zimbabwean apparently, subsequently fled the hospital leaving her son behind.
Heloise has been searching for her ever since but there has been no sign of her in the area. Tragically, the baby now falls into the category of compulsory incarceration in a state institution to be returned across the border when he is 18 years old as a completely stateless human being, unless somebody lays claim to him before the police get involved.
How many other little ones are being born into this desolate state of affairs?
And this young girl? How have we so failed in Africa, that a society exists in which a young girl flees from a hospital leaving her new born behind?
In all probability this young girl would be another statistic of the truly awful rape statistics in South Africa. A combination of terror, the social blight and stigma of an un-wedded pregnancy, possible HIV/AIDS and the fear of being an illegal immigrant from Zimbabwe would have left her with no earthly choice but to flee. Too young perhaps to understand the consequences for her son, but destined to mourn for the rest of her life.
Support for other worthy causes
This tragic story makes organisations like Usindiso and Oliver Quambasch's work with young pregnant women even more worthy.
Ronda met Jaye Bradly at the Jabulani Khakibos Kids anniversary function.
She wrote: "the women and children cared for by Usindiso Ministries are needy and should also be given hope and learn to trust in the goodness of people around them. Jaye says the Usindiso social worker is very keen for the teenagers and women (abused and/or sick) to be involved in art and craft projects and sewing up of blankets could very well meet that need – which meets a massive need for us, also of course. " Jaye says that government funding is hopelessly inadequate and in decline, and she is hoping to make a tour of American churches at some stage in a desperate effort to find financial support for Unsindiso so that she can expand her services to the community.
"She was excited when I mentioned the amazing support we get from so many churches overseas. We thought perhaps we would ask our church contributors to look at her website and correspond with her if they are interested in her work.
If she does travel to the States, we would ask her similarly to advocate for us. This is a wonderful way to keep winning for everyone involved.
KAS meets Ten Thousand Homes
At last KAS and 10K homes get to meet!.
En route to Ngwenya in the Kruger National Park, which is in the same direction as Ten Thousand Homes, Ronda and Charmian packed her car to the gunnels with 10-thousand homes bundles and met up with Jen Price to hand over. Jen and her husband Jeremy were co-founders of Ten Thousand Homes a while ago during their 14 years of ministry in Africa. They have, after all this time, returned to the United States for a very well deserved 6 month sabbatical. She has left the project in the capable hands of Hayley and Brittany and we look forward to ongoing news of the making and delivery of the blankets.
Beautiful little girls: Tracy Langa, Nokuthula Ngwenya and Zanele Mshaba
The older boys: Ronny Chuloane, Thapelo Ngobeni and Trevor Manzini
I'm guessing, but they certainly look like siblings: Pride, Thobile and Khulile Mnisi
The older girls - Nosipho Mabuza, Nkuthula Ngwenya and Ndaba Thusile
The boys: Mancoba Ngwenye, George Temba and Sicelo Vilakazi
The girls: Fundisile Vilakazi, Petheni Mabunda and Busiswe Mokoena
Busisiwe's story is so heart-wrenching, it is writ large on her sweet face. Jen Price said on her blog: "Have you ever listened to someone's story and thought, "How much can happen to one person?" That's what I was thinking when I listened to Busi's story. This little 10-year-old has been through so much . . ."
Busi lost her mother when she was five and from then on until Ten Thousand Homes came to her rescue, her story is a litany of abuse. She now lives in a safe environment. We will all hope and pray that she and the many others like her, will continue to be supported by organisations like Ten Thousand Homes, and warmed by blankets made by us all one way or another, to comfort them. And that she will now for always be safe.
Soweto Gospel Choir
We are delighted to tell you that after months of quiet negotiation, an idea borne out of a contact between Hanna Russo and Debbie Posmontier, KAS members from Philadelphia and the Annenberg Centre where the Soweto Gospel Choir are soon to perform has come to fruition!
Roger followed up and discovered to our amazement that their management team hailed from Melbourne, just a few kilometres away.
His creative mind got to work and he conceived of this plan. What if he was to write an anthem for the orphans and ask the Soweto Gospel Choir (SGC) to sing it? That first request was not possible as the choir are well practised in their routine months in advance (although we haven't given that idea up). His anthem is beautiful and brings tears to the eye just reading it.
Then he put this idea to them. Could we organise 25 local children with 25 blankets to wrap abound the shoulders of the 25 SGC chorister and a pledge to be made that the blankets be sent back to South Africa to give to 25 orphans in the orphanage they sponsor? They agreed in principle! We were ecstatic, recognising the public relations value of being able to present the KAS story to an audience of 950 people!
Debbie and Hanna immediately agreed to help with regard to finding the children and storing the blankets. Then began the negotiations with the SGC and the Annenberg Centre on the details. That took several months. At this stage we have permission to have the children on stage to present the blankets and to have a display in the foyer with promotional material.
The Annenberg Centre will make an announcement and short speech about KAS before the blankets are delivered and will invite the audience to consider making and donating a square to the cause, plus give them out material about KAS, presumably in the program.
In the meantime, Debbie had suggested a local, well known children's choir who just happened to be practising an African hymn as the children for the presentation and asked that they be able to sing the hymn as they presented the blankets. This seemed an incredibly moving touch. At this point we are waiting for final permission on this request, although we are hopeful.
Then of course it was off to the forum to ask for the 25 blankets to be made in time. We had left our run very late as we just couldn't ask for the blankets without knowing for sure we had the gig!
We received confirmation only 6 days ago as I write and within a matter of days our amazing KAS community had banded together and pledged completed blankets or sewing of squares which should easily cover the 25 blankets required to be sent to Debbie in time. Now that is spirit! As Laurie posted: "WE CAN DO THIS!!!!" And we have! You really are an awesome bunch of people. Thank you.
I imagine many of you, like myself would do a lot to be in the front row, but we will rely on Debbie and Hanna to give us a blow by blow account for the February ezine and in the meantime we are going to be working hard to get additional publicity for KAS.
There is a beautiful snippet of their singing on the website here, if you have not been fortunate enough to hear their work before.
On the home front
The Lowrie's home has been a constant refuge to many children over the years.
There is so much coming and going, that it is hard to keep up with the extended family they look after. But this is their latest addition, a cute little bundle, Atillia, Shelta's baby girl, born 28th June.
Shelta is now back at work and is related to Otillia who works part time for Ronda. Otillia hopes to take this little mite home over Christmas, to their rural family home hundreds of kilometres away. Life for families, even those who are generously employed, is complex and fractured in Africa.
Ronda: "don't you LOVE her, asleep on a giraffe pillowcase, wrapped in one of my old towels!"
What would the end of the year be without thanks to some amazing people who have helped us achieve what we have.
Ronda, Roger, Kalai, Cressida and I would like to thank first of all Lindiwe who has been a trojan all year, always available, working long hours unpacking and bundling, finding new opportunities, just being a complete KASer in every way.
We would like to thank Jo. While she has been prevented from helping too much recently owing to other commitments, she was a stalwart in the earlier months and continues to look out for opportunities through her parish in Soweto as does Deborah.
Wandile and her great friend Kungeka have taken KAS to their hearts and are now actively looking out for opportunities for us to meet the children we want to help. They also sew and join and help Ronda whenever they can.
Heloise for the introduction to her remarkable ministries and her complete absorption of all things to do with KAS. I am sure we will continue to bring you many stories over the years about her work!
Anne and Sonya, Ronda's friends from her parish, who both give of their time voluntarily whenever they can to help unpack, sort and bundle.
Some quiet people in the background, Cheriel Quested who helps with sewing and Ros Truelock who has sewn together all the felted squares that have arrived over the year.
Erin who supports her mother and KAS whenever she can find time in her busy life as a mother of two young ones and her new career as a doula midwife.
Zanny, my mother, for her quiet and determined support all year for all things to do with KAS and for coming to terms with pattern writing (which had her tearing her hair out) so we could put together Heritage Blanket!
Charmian and her family for being our first major donor this year which allowed Ronda to continue with the operations.
Dianne Sisak of Minter Ellison who has so patiently worked on incorporating KasCare and Minter Ellison for their pro bono work on our behalf.
John Bushell who has spent hours of his valuable time sharing his fund-raising lore with us, introducing us to influential people and pointing us in the right direction.
Our administrators and cyber friends who have been such a fantastic support throughout the year.
Jeanne, our cheerleader and huge encourager, always there to have a cyber cuppa with!
Karen for her interest in pushing the technical limits of the Ning forum site to ensure we have a professional communications vehicle, plus her sizeable contribution to the forum.
Anne who championed the GO-OVER and SLIP-OVER and more recently has spent long hours in the forum tidying up the categories and making it less confusing with the help of Karen and Jeanne.
We hope you will reward this hard and diligent work by becoming active members if you aren't already.
Kyla whose growing babe, all her cyber aunts (and uncles) are watching over like clucky hens. Her 'pledge-a-square-a-day' in March this year moved KAS very rapidly from expecting one square to thinking it would be okay to ask for a few more. And for her work in all the groups.
Kerry who started our first forum to get us going and who came up with the idea of KASTOG (knit a square on the go).
Laura who started the ravelry group which RhondaH now looks out for, having also made many great contributions to help folk with postage issues.
Debbie for introducing KAS to her school and encouraging us that schools would take to it like ducks to water, and more recently for inspiring the Soweto Gospel Choir event together with Hanna.
Andrea for her contribution of the initial hardworking 8" ruler/flyer which after several iterations is now winging its way all around the world and will be on the seats of the Annenberg theatre we hope.
Gay who worked to create the KasBag currently in prototype production in Hamburg, South Africa. Hope to bring that to you soon.
Our big ideas people many of whom can see the vision of where we could be and what we can do to get there. Invaluable encouragement.
And then there's you. Some of you make truly monumental monthly contributions and we marvel at your generosity and how much you have made and sent. But I fear that once I start naming folk we will be here for a very long time and what if I left one of you out!
Many of you spend long hours in the forum contributing everything from fantastic ideas to friendship, all of which is greatly valued.
If you have made just ONE square and sent it you are worthy of a deep gratitude from us for understanding what we are trying to do and wanting to help. More than that often brings us to tears. So thank you all.
Finally, I must personally thank my immediate family, on behalf of us all, who gifted me this year to follow my heart.
If you have read this far, well done! Time to talk about our future as I am sure some of you may be asking yourself about that.
We are not confident that in this climate, and because of our set-up, sufficient funding will come to support our full time work with knit-a-square.
Most of you will know that I gave away my position in our family company a year ago to work full time for knit-a-square and now KasCare as it has evolved, voluntarily. Both our daughters work for KAS in part time capacities, and in the past months Roger has joined too, as our family business has drawn to a close, in a concentrated and focussed attempt to seek funds.
It would seem that we are in a difficult place with regard to funding. We are an Australian not for profit helping African orphans. Australian organisations mostly aim their social programs at Australian interests understandably.
To achieve funding in America you need to be incorporated in the US. We have already made contact with an appropriate legal firm and even at a friendly rate we would need to find US$5 - 7000.
South African companies have been willing to listen, but have a similar story to tell across the board, recession, job losses and a reduction of whatever philanthropic activities they have.
We are yet to tackle corporate in the UK and Europe, although they are on our agenda.
We are applying to every foundation that has a fit with our mandate and we are deeply grateful to Tamara Brennan (Sexto Sol) and Dawne Sliming Smith for their invaluable advice on all this and many other fronts.
So we have given it our best shot and would not give up, but that we are no longer in a position to sustain even a greatly reduced livelihood without an income. So we have no choice but to scale back our work for KAS and return to some form of income deriving activity, in the interim.
How will this impact on knit-a-square? Well, to be honest I don't know yet.
It is true that we all work long hours in pursuit of this work which we love greatly. Much of my time is taken up in web traffic driving activities, correspondence, ideas generation, implementing plans, discussions about the forum, correspondence with Ronda, the ezine, administrative details (even when you don't have money, there is still paperwork!) and promotional activities.
What we are certain of is that Cressida and I will continue to work on the schools' program. We are all agreed that is vital to the stability of KAS.
If you consider it for a while, once it is in the school it is about the relationship of the teacher to the students and KAS and then the work just continues, (awareness raising, spreading of the word, knitted squares), independently of any of us. It is a really good example of the 80/20 principle at work in our favour!
The more schools we can get KAS into the better for the orphans (and the children who work for them too!). And another reason to get some serious help in South Africa to relieve Ronda.
We feel we can sustain a three month window to complete and implement the program and that also we will have a better chance of getting discreet funding for just this arm of our activities. If any of you can think of a suitable funding partner, please let us know!
I aim to keep up the ezine although in a shortened form. Correspondence may become difficult, on a good day it takes up many hours, much of it relationship building in all it's forms. Other activities will cease.
Kalai will work part- time on continuing to seek press opportunities, in the forum and on correspondence.
What we must plead with you, our committed KAS community is not to let the flame go out.
Someone at sometime is out there who will recognise what we are doing and will say:" it should not just be for lack of money that such an cause fuelled by so much good will, effort and love from around the world just fades away."
Nor should it be because of our now urgent need to derive an income. There is more to KAS than us. Please keep knitting and crocheting and looking for ways to fund raise to help in South Africa.
We wish you a wonderful, peaceful and healthy 2010.
With great fondness for you truly remarkable folk, Sandy
PS: Just one little sneak look at your wonderful work this issue: One of the box of gifts that went to Sedibeng (most appropriate to have a Pooh book at the top of the pile! And these 8 full of fun squares from Sarah Grey in Madrid, to remind us that South Africa is hosting the World Football Cup in June 2010. There ought to be a lot we can do about that!
PPS: I nearly forgot - the list of squares arriving in South Africa since 22 October - 18 November. Oops!