I picked up a great bargain in our local Red Cross charity shop the other day. For the meagre sum of 5 euros, I came out with a big bag full of brand new yarn. Red, pink and white yarn, with labels still intact, 34 balls in all. My, was I happy! I smiled all the way back home, and then set to work.
As soon as I saw that yarn, I knew exactly what I was going to do with it. I'd be crocheting items for Knit-a-Square. KAS, as it's also known, is a charity based in South Africa that collects knitted and crochet squares and sews them into blankets for AIDS orphans throughout South Africa.
There are many associations and organisations around the world that accept crocheted goods. Many of them are based in the US, but I hail from Europe and hadn't seen the same level of interest from hospitals, care homes and charities over here.
But why did I choose Knit-a-Square? Well, like most things, it was a chain of events that led me there. It's almost as if Knit-a-Square chose me.
Early in 2012, a close friend of mine who knows how much I love to crochet sent me a link via Facebook. It was a short article about a group of women in Denmark who knit blankets, hats and clothes for babies and children in Tanzania. At the same time, at work we had started getting busy preparing a huge congress that would be held at the end of 2012 in Durban, South Africa.
I knew I would be leaving for South Africa a few months later. And I decided to have a look on the Internet if there were any charities there to which I could donate some crocheted goods. A quick search for "crochet charity South Africa" ensued, and the first link was, yes, Knit-a-Square.
To quote from their website: "It is estimated that there are 14.8 million orphans in sub-Saharan Africa. 1.9 million live in South Africa.
Many of these children are AIDS orphans or have been abandoned. Many live in great poverty in informal settlements. Some head up families of their siblings together with other children. Some live alone, without shelter, in hills and dumps around the cities.The knit-a-square project was started as a family project in 2008 and is now a world-wide community numbering an estimated 12,000 people in 54 countries round the world.
Together we work hard to help warm and comfort the children and we'd greatly value your contribution to this knitting project for the AIDS orphans of southern Africa. We ask the world's knitters and crocheters to send 8"/20 cm squares to South Africa, where we have them sewn into blankets for the children."
Local charities ensure the children are cared for, and Knit-a-Square works towards keeping them warm and happy. A group of KAS volunteers in South Africa collects the squares that are sent from all over the world and sews them into blankets for the children. KAS then deals with distribution. There are some beautiful photos on their website of the distributions, showing the children wrapped in their blankets. KAS also accepts donations of knitted and crochet vests, hats, pull-overs and baby sleeping bags, as well as toys, socks, gloves and stationery for the children. You can also make a financial donation via the website.
Why crochet for charity? After all, crochet can be a lucrative business. There is a market for patterns, and crocheted goods sell well. I make and design crochet toys, and even though my patterns are available for free, I do sell a few finished articles, mostly so that I can buy more yarn to make even more. Some people have made crochet their business and make their lives from it.
But I wanted to help. And I believe that's what drives people to crochet for charity. Here in the western world, we hardly ever see poverty. Of course there are people who are less well off than others, but a vision of real poverty is rare.
I knew how fortunate I was to live in relative ease. I was going to visit a country thousands of miles away. I would be staying in a comfortable hotel, and after the conference I would be going on a great safari. But away from the tourist routes and the posh hotels, there were 1.9 million orphans who needed my help.
So I started crocheting. And in the few weeks before I left for South Africa, I managed to crochet 15 squares and a hat. I also added six crocheted or sewn toys to my parcel. In December, I flew over to Durban and from there, I posted my parcel to Knit-a-Square. When I got back home, I carried on crocheting squares.
I continue to design, make and sell crochet toys. But I set aside some time and yarn to continue to crochet for charity. Making the squares is quick and easy and a great way to try out some new techniques and designs. And most of all, while I'm crocheting, I imagine the face of a child, far away, for whom my very small act of kindness may be making a huge difference.