A remarkable woman

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Tiny 'Tilly' wrapped in your love

For our new members to the KAS community, a very warm welcome and an explanation. We ran a challenge through our forum and Ravelry.com in July to 'Keep a Newborn warm'. The aim was to send 255 blankets for abandoned babies, mostly for those looked after by Tshwane Place of Safety, an organisation whose purpose is to find appropriate homes for these little ones (babies and toddlers) left on their own. Kyla (a moderator in the forum) wrote recently to say we had only 41 left to make. What a simply fantastic effort.

October 3 2009


Tiny 'Tilly' wrapped in your love


A little house-keeping


How one small community makes a big difference


Resources to help you


Our first combined Micro Project


FEATURE STORY: Heloise, a remarkable women




A mystery revealed


Challenges updates, Christmas, new mods in the forum



I recently received this letter and story from Almie at Tshwane Place of Safety: "Apparently your beautiful blankets were a huge hit with our place of safety mothers and when I got back from leave all the blankets had a home.  I was lucky to get one for baby 'Tilly'. Just a bit of background info on her.  

She was born 5 weeks early at a clinic and weighed 1.6kg. Her mother said she did not want her baby and left the hospital. 'Tilly' developed breathing problems and was transferred to a hospital where she was ventilated. In the meantime the nursing staff at the clinic laid a charge of abandonment against her biological mother who was subsequently arrested and is presently in jail.

The doctors asked Karen (our health care manager) to do Kangaroo Mother Care with her, as at age 2 weeks she had still not regained her birth weight and was battling. She was discharged at 3 weeks and at 8 weeks (when the photo was taken) weighs 2.35kg. She will most probably go up for adoption once all her medical tests are completed.

Note from Ed: I have changed her name to protect her identity.

It is heart-wrenching to think of the mental condition of the mother, probably very young, extremely poor and possibly ill with HIV herself. One can only commend people, like Oliver Quambash from Hotel Hope, seeking to provide education and support for these young women and teenagers.

Many blankets are still in the air or on the water and we look forward to distributing them to Tshwane Place of Safety and through Oliver's Mothers in Crisis Program in the coming weeks.


A little housekeeping


A small aspect we couldn't foresee was the sheer volume of paper waste accumulated from all these parcels, boxes and bags arriving. Ronda has now arranged a recycling collection for paper and cardboard. However, she cannot recycle envelopes with bubble wrap plastic lining. PLEASE do not be concerned if this is the simplest and most economical way for you to send your squares. But, if you are able to use an alternative method, it will assist Ronda in disposing easily and in a way that is also good for the planet.

Ronda explained that the system is a bit strange: "the paper goes in the BIG bin while the boxes are flattened and stuck in the silly little 'Ronnie' bag for collection." They obviously didn't design the system with KAS in mind!

This photograph will reassure everyone that the postal strike is over! What a grand sight. Imagine how many warm blankets the contents of these burgeoning parcels will make up.


How one small community makes a big difference

It is inspiring to witness the grass roots swell of community support for knit-a-square in the small village of Daylesford, country Victoria, Australia, as witnessed by this steadily growing pile of squares, beanies and jumpers. Zanny lives there, so of course she has promoted knit-a-square with a passion, but others have readily taken it up too and supported KAS in a variety of ways.

Zoe, from the Japanese inspired local yarn shop, Purl's Palace and the Purls' Princesses who between them have contributed hundreds of squares, all of them most beautifully crafted. Susan, who has promoted knit-a-square on her blog and organised postage collections for mailing the squares. Elaine, the chaplain, who has introduced us to four schools in the community.

The Daylesford Bowls Club, who through Joan has raised $60 for postage and has also contributed dozens of jumpers, beanies and squares. Polly, the local taxi driver who has knitted 50 squares and made dozens of little teddy bears hats and scarves. Gary from the Daylesford Christian Fellowship Church who knits the cuddly teddy bears pictured here and makes about two squares a day while he fishes! The parishioners of this church have also sent well over 100 squares.

And it is so heartening to see kids from 6 to 16, prepared to be taught, taking up their needles and knitting squares. Especially the lads! We even had our first post from the first young fellow on the forum, together with this photograph.

Hi, I'm a student at Daylesford Secondary College. A small country town College. My teacher decided to make us knit for a class every week. I, as well as my class mates were apprehensive at first. After my first efforts I nearly gave up then and there. But as the old saying goes "Practice makes perfect" so I endeavored with my knitting. With a few holes here and there, it most certainly wasn't perfect. My 'square' grew gradually, it didn't look like a square but more like a skirt. But my teacher had an idea to make it into a woolen beanie. Once the finished product was completed, my teacher was very proud of my efforts. I was just glad it was made into something, being what a a horrid square that it was. So I enjoyed knitting in the end. All it takes is a little concentration and a whole lot of practice. Here's a pic of the finished product.

Anne Powell says her village of Uxbridge in Ontario, Canada is the same. She wrote: I am amazed at what is happening in my little township of Uxbridge which has only about 16,000 people. People here are starting to love this project - and we have barely scratched the surface."

The point is that every town you live in, or suburb of a big city has the potential to deliver the same support. It is of course not just the squares that are important, it is also the fact that all these people now know and care about the children.

Getting recognition for those you encourage
If you are able to garner support where you live and generate a similar level of interest and contribution, please write to us with the details of who is doing what, with photographs if possible, as we would be delighted to publish other communities' efforts on behalf of the children. We will also make every effort to acknowledge the arriving squares from those who have been introduced to KAS by you.


Resources to help you

To help this endeavour, I have put up on the site a new Resources page. It includes:
• KAS 'On A Page' flyer
• KAS Guide (which is a ten page document in the form of questions and answers all about the program
• Introductory Letter
• Supporters' Letter
• Certificates for Individuals and Groups (so you can award people who have gone the extra mile or schools and church groups)
• Thank You Card
• Raffles Poster, for raffles to raise funds for KAS or for postage
• Flyers and Posters in different sizes.

Please visit the page and download whatever you need as often as you like. And let us know if there are other promotional items you would value to help you SPREAD THE WORD.

When you see the photographs of our recent Diepsloot Shack Settlement distribution, which I will send out in an ezine update by next week, you'll understand the magnitude of the problem and the impact you are having.

Did you know there are an estimated 53 MILLION knitters and crocheters in the US alone (double the number of golfers). Imagine how many squares they could all make!


Our first combined Micro Project

Ronda's husband, Peter secured the paint from Seth Peters from Liquid Colours, South Africa, to give to St Vincent's de Paul Youth Group to refurbish the jungle jim at Zeverfontein Creche. What a great job they did. It is lovely to think of the children having something so bright and cheerful in their otherwise monochrome surroundings.


A homely moment

While Lee, Sonya and Annie (all regular volunteers) worked away making blanket packs recently, Peter was cooking steak in the kitchen. The smoke is not from the fire!




Heloise, a remarkable woman

We met Heloise, last month when she introduced us the Hill Kids of the Bez Valley. Since then Ronda has visited her many times to help her in her food ministry and because Heloise has introduced a blanket sewing project for the homeless women she helps.

Among the many people she feeds, mostly homeless and often refugees from Zimbabwe, there are many who are ill with HIV AIDS and children who are orphaned or abandoned. Her story is inspiring on every level of humanity and we wanted very much to bring it to you, so Roger McDonald (my husband, a journalist) interviewed her by cell phone recently. Here is her story.

In destitution, hope

For Heloise Sequeira, outreach worker for the Jabulani Khakibos Boys (JKB), and her feeding program for the hungry and needy, success is all about human dignity.

Desperate as her charges’ plight is – children aged between one and 10 years living among the trees in the veldt (open land) – she believes as a committed Christian, change can be made to happen.

Heloise is becoming known for her work in the feeding ministry in the poor area of Bez Valley near Johannesburg. Called by God to the program three years ago, she became aware of the Jabulani Khakibos Boys about nine months ago.

It was through Heloise that Knit-a-square was introduced to the people in the feeding program. And now Knit-a-square has been able to introduce some of the women, all unemployed, to sewing squares into blankets.

Heloise simply refuses to believe that amid poverty, violence, illness, drug and alcohol addiction and poverty, positive change cannot take place.

Many of those she helps are ‘foreigners’ – refugees from neighbouring countries fleeing poverty, political oppression and unemployment, only to end up on the streets of South Africa.

She cites a range of success stories with which she has been associated.

‘I found this one foreign guy. He was out on the street like a hobo, totally down and out with nothing. I took him, fed him and and said to him ‘Let us try and see – I haven’t money and the resources – but let us see how we can get hold of your family.

‘We eventually traced his family in Kenya . . . His family then sent him money through me. I got him onto a bus and got him back to Kenya.

‘Three months down the line he came back knocking on my door and he said to me: ‘Ma, I have come to show myself to you. I’ve opened up my own business. How can I help you?’’

She also cites the success of three students she took under her wing four or five years ago. One now has an honours degree in industrial psychology, another a BA in tourism and the third a Bsc and is teaching.

She has a firm belief in dignity rather than humiliation. To that end she has collected a database of the basic skills of many of the people in her feeding program. She can then help place them into occasional work.

However, although she has a computer, she lacks a printer which could be used to supply lists of available labor to community noticeboards.

She is also hampered by having only temporary office space which she has to empty every night and re-furnish the next morning.

Currently, she has three female students whom she has taken in to her own home, having rescued them from the rubbish dump slums where they lived. Although they are not orphans, their parents are drug addicts and alcoholics. Again, she says it’s the work of God.

Why does she do it?

"I was working at [the] University of the Witwatersrand earning a salary of over 30,000 rand a month. And then God called me to do this and I said: ‘God, it’s not possible. I’ve got children in private school, I’m driving a brand new BMW, you cannot do this to me, you know?

"Do you know what God did? He made me so miserable in this job the department eventually closed down where I worked and I had to give in and say: ’You know what, let me do what you want God, but I’m holding you to your word that you will take care of me. And he’s done it."

A year ago, with her mortgage heavily in arrears, her house was about to be forcefully sold. The day before the auction, R70,000 appeared in the mortgage account. She says its source is still a mystery.

The house is once again threatened with being sold at the end of October. Although she could take steps to protect herself through a voluntary sequestration, she refuses to do so.

It is in God’s hands, she says.

“At the end of the day if you bring joy into a child’s life, right, just think, it’s like a circle, it comes back and God blesses me in that circle, you know, with the seeds that I have sewn and it’s all coming back now.”

She says she is grateful that knit-a-square has stretched out its hand when so many NGOs haven’t. The rest , she repeats is in God’s hands.




Now that you have met Heloise, here are some photographs of her work in her threatened Bez Valley area, as described by Ronda.

Above: "Heloise with two of her girls. Something I didn't realize is that she has up to 12 girls aged 7 upwards living in her house also, a bit like the counterpart of Jabulani Khakibos Kids, only totally informal.

She dishes out plastic containers and the people bring them back twice a week to be filled up with this yoghurt which is donated by the grocery store around the corner. Must be gallons!

The people love her, it was an easy atmosphere although she bosses them to 'stay in the queue, be thankful, praise the Lord, where's your plastic bucket?' Top right: a dear little schoolgirl who takes food home to family. The helpings are by necessity small and I caught so many people glancing into their packets as if WILLING the contents to triple."

Ronda has caught Heloise on video in action just as she describes. It is so vivid, you can imagine being there. Just click here to go to the site to watch it.

I watched this little guy LUSTING after the yoghurt - he even managed to wrap his top lip over the edge of the galvanized iron bath!

Heloise says that there are a lot of HIV positive people among those she feeds - she pointed out one or two children that she knows for sure are very sick. Being homeless one wonders what they do about treatment. Most are refugees, often from Zimbabwe, which renders them helpless to do anything at all. Heloise singles out the ones she is worried about and when the rest leave (and they protest like mad but she takes no nonsense at all - just shoo's them away !) she gives the breast-feeding mothers and grandmothers of sick children a bit extra.

This homeless woman's baby boy is malnourished. He is just SO dear - he actually summoned up a sweet, crooked little smile for me despite the fact that, at nearly 6 months old, he is unable to hold his head up for long because of the malnutrition which makes him very weak. But what a valiant little soul.


New start for Heloise and the beginning of a sewing program

As a result of a recent press article in South Africa about Heloise, a woman named Selina (pictured left, with Heloise ) contacted her. Selina works for the local ANC (African National Congress) ward councillor, Carol Millner, and they offered Heloise facilities at the Bez Valley community centre in order to run her feeding program.

This is a breakthrough because they have refrigeration equipment and it offers space for Heloise to turn it into a self-help scheme.

She is desperate for basic communications equipment as Roger wrote. She has a wonky old computer but no printer to print a database of the skills and capabilities of the women who come for food so she can find them part time employment doing ironing, cleaning and sewing Last Monday, Ronda met her at the centre with some blanket packs to be sewn by some of the woman she cares for (as pictured in Roger's story above). She will also find someone to give them knitting/crochet lessons.

Ronda wrote, "They will run a crèche for the children for those times when the women do have employment. Heloise is so full of ideas and enthusiasm which is so exciting. So from now on every Monday morning I will take a contribution of food and blankets for stitching up.

Selina has decided, as part of her drive to get the community busy and together, to plant vegetables at the back of the building.

This jumper was sewn on the day and given to the little girl with the apple. Here is amost delightful video and you should not miss it. Just click here to view it.

I am certain our collaboration with Heloise in her new community setting will reap great rewards for everyone, especially our children.


A mystery revealed!

Now you have also been introduced to Roger. Roger is working full time for KAScare - as yet unpaid - to secure us funding. To that end he is researching every known organisation in the USA, UK, Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Europe with the willingness or potential to sponsor knit-a-square and the work we are doing.

Now that we are approaching the end of the hurdles required to become an incorporated association (not-for-profit), we will be able to send out these proposals across the world with belief and faith that appropriate funding will be made to sustain KAScare and it's primary program, knit-a-square.

Please write to us at roger@knit-a-square.com if you know of any organisation or corporation who runs a philanthropic funding arm to whom we may apply. Thank you.

O, the mystery – well Roger will write to you all next week and reveal all!




We have our certificate of incorporation. But all is not yet complete. We have to submit details of the committee to the Australian Tax Office. Once this application is approved we will get our all important ABN number and be in a position to operate fully as an accountable incorporated association.

At this time, you are not able to donate to knit-a-square as we are in the process of supplying PayPal with the incorporation details, which will not be complete until the paperwork is finalised with the Australian Tax Office. Very, very soon we all hope.

In the meantime you can still support us by purchasing the Teacher Resource and Heritage Blanket.


Challenges Update

June Challenge, Ten Thousand Homes: Ronda has been sending the squares in blanket packs, as they arrive, over a period of time through her friend Lyn who lives nearby to Ten Thousand Homes. Jen Price wrote recently to Ronda to tell her that: "yesterday 12 police officers came to sew squares! Amazing, huh?" And news from Jen is that they have said they will come again, so the blankets will soon be complete.

Isn't that great. Don't you love the idea of the police sewing blankets. Let's see who else can involve their local constabulary.

We have already discussed progress on the July Challenge (Keep a newborn warm). The squares for the August challenge (Africa in August) are rolling in. Can you imagine how special the blankets will be that have one of these squares in them, made by Melissa Langer. Many of us have admired her talents in the forum, but they have also, like all things creative, inspired us too. Don't forget PLAIN JANE SQUARES are required by the thousand too.

The September Challenge to knit blankets, GO-OVERS and hats for the Jabulani KhakiBos Boys is almost fully subscribed. We are also felting blankets for the Hill Kids of Bez Valley.

You can still take part in this challenge, as we are running it as long as it takes to make sure that all the boys have blankets. There are still a few names to chose from.

Here is a fabulous example of a blanket from Laurie Hake. Most of us are just sending a number of squares to be made up into blankets, but it is always fine work like this is always inspiring.

And finally, there is our new October Challenge. Dedicate a square stash-buster for knit-a-square's first birthday. All the details are on the forum, so please join in. There are some poignant dedications already and everybody is happy about using their stash. Knit-a-square's first birthday is October 19, a day to celebrate what you have achieved in so short a space of time.

Here are the latest tallies (although we know from the yet unpacked boxes that this is likely to be closer to 35,000 or even 40,000. Don't be alarmed, therefore, if your squares are not in our latest SQUARE LIST, they will be!

GRAND TOTALS by 22 September (9 month mark) Squares: 31,806 Sweaters: 422 Beanies: 1441 Vests: 261

The Christmas Appeal: There has been a lot of discussion in the forum about Christmas. The consensus is that we make a specific appeal to you, toward the end of October for small donations toward Christmas parties for as many of the children as we can afford where we have distributed throughout the year. We will supply them with small gifts (crayons, balloons, balls) again based on what can be afforded. In the meantime a surprising number of small items including pencils, erasers, sharpeners are just 'slipping' into the square boxes and packets. Magic and wonderful for the children!

Recognise your squares?

New moderators in the forum
Anne Powell, Jeanne Haessler and Karen Fontana have all kindly agreed to help Kalai, Kyla and I to moderate the forum, and RhondaH is moderating in Ravelry.com Their contribution is invaluable. They have been a fount of good ideas on how to keep things in perspective and 'stick to our knitting'. Squares, squares and more squares. As well as providing some very sound ideas about how to spread the word.

Please join the forum if you are not already a member, there is so much in the way to enjoy, help, considered thought, ideas, friendship and community spirit. We would love to welcome you.


Your contributions

From Frog Security Systems, South Africa

We recently received squares from these lovely ladies at Frog Security Systems, South Africa. Pictured left to right, Petro Vonk, Angeline Hunter and Janine Smith with their knitted squares. Petro wrote: "We knitted 31 blocks and really enjoyed knitting throughout the cold winter nights." Thank you for your contribution and it is lovely to see you having fun doing it too.

There is a mountain of wonderful photographs of your arriving squares, jumpers and beanies and many of them you will see on the children in Diepsloot Shack Settlement in the ezine update next week. The GO-OVERS which have been made are just so colourful, individual and warm. They too will be published in this update.


Coming next:
Diepsloot Shack Settlement Distribution

On Thursday last week (1 October 2009), Ronda and Lindiwe distributed blankets to children in the Diepsloot shack settlement just on the outskirts of Johannesburg, not far from where she lives. It is a massive city of shacks that reaches as far as the eye can see in every direction across the undulating hills of Gauteng. It is home to tens of thousands of refugees and as many child headed families, orphans and abandoned children.

Here our work has much added meaning and it was with excitement that Ronda was led to the Vusela Centre, where great work is done by Sister Cecilia Sato who runs it.

The people who live in Diepsloot are mostly missed by any form of social security, invisible if they are illegal immigrants, often unsupported in their illnesses, desperately poor and yet always, or mostly always, willing to smile. There is sadness too in their faces and yet joy when they are reached out to, such as you will see when the children (teenagers as well), who had most recently lost their surviving parent, were given blankets and hats.

We should do justice to this story and the accompanying photographs, so I am preparing a second Square Circle Update which will be sent out next week. You will be delighted to see the first of the GO-OVER's being proudly worn by some of the older children and teenagers.

Hopefully, with everything else in your busy lives, including knitting and crocheting for KAS, you will have time to look at the photographs, perhaps recognise your squares and value the truly amazing work you are doing which is touching so many who have so little. Thank you all, you are truly special.


PS: Next week too, we will let you know the details of our latest initiative, a knitting and crochet heroes online event, designed to expose knit-a-square to thousands more who knit and crochet. There are some fascinating folk who have agreed to take part and we are certain it will be of great interest to you all. I will also summarise the fantastic IDEAS in the forum for you to review. What a think tank we have been enjoying!

Hope you don't feel like this little chap, having read this far!