Newsletter – Jan 2021
I thought this newsletter might be rather short, with all the lockdowns etc causing problems for distribution but, as you will see, it’s actually the reverse! Congratulations to everyone who has contributed news this time.
Tricia Gibb (St Albans) Due to the pandemic, of course, there has been little or no movement of Teddies during the year, so my Teddy stocks have gradually increased. The 500 Teddies collected from me in March for Uganda, haven’t yet left the UK due to the ongoing Covid restrictions.
In October, 1000 Teddies were collected by a local charity ‘Herts for Refugees’ (as well as some blankets & little hats made by knitting groups to which two friends belong) who were very grateful for them. They will be going to Syria with a charity based in Birmingham – ‘Hand in Hand for Aid and Development for Syria’. They have an arrangement with a commercial transport company for regular transport of aid. Unfortunately this has also been delayed in leaving the UK due to the pandemic & red tape. Their website is hihfad.org which is well worth looking at as there is a page “Knit for Syria” with a wish list for jumpers, blankets, scarves. gloves, mittens and teddy bears. Apparently they have to be very careful about what goes into Syria in the way of clothing but hand knitted items are very welcome. So maybe this can be new inspiration for other knitters?
Carole Thorn (Spain) In view of the fact that we are still unable to meet as a knitting group here and have no idea when or if the group will continue, I’m afraid I having nothing really to contribute. All of the ladies continue to do their knitting and personally I give everything I make to the orphanage near here and to the Costa Blanca group who help to feed and clothe the homeless. I haven’t made any teddies lately but who knows – that might be on the list next year.
Susan Mulligan (Yorks) It has been an unusual time collecting teddies. Most have come through the post & have arrived from all parts of the country. I am known now for teddies by my post lady & the local Hermes delivery man! My collection of items has been 725 teddies. 30 toddler jumpers, 6 children cardigans, 8 knitted puppets, 25 hat & glove sets, 17 girls dresses, 32 face cloths & soaps 500 Sanitary towels & 32 pairs of ladies pants. All my items are sent to Africa & so I am also given lots of items for the charity (Christian African Relief Trust) to sell at their shop to raise funds for the containers. The Charity was closed during our lock down & opened up for a short time in the autumn when I managed to send lots of items. Since then we have been locked down again so my spare room now holds 150 teddies & a sack of sanitary towels & a box of jumpers. Hopefully I will dispatch these as soon as I can.
Jean Salter (Oxfordshire) Here in Cholsey our Charity knitting has kept us occupied throughout these difficult times & more volunteers have come forward making squares for blankets & knitting soft toys. 23 large single blankets have been sent to Hope & Aid Direct for distribution in the Greek refugee camps when they are able to go. Our Teddy production continues & we were able to send 4 boxes with a total of 80 teddies to Nayla in Beirut following the devastating explosion.
We have a very active Volunteer scheme in the village, set up at the beginning of the pandemic. Hot meals, food parcels & treat boxes are regularly distributed & one of our ladies knitted 60 hedgehogs which were put into the treat boxes. The hedgehogs proved very popular & are now being made to raise funds for a local hedgehog sanctuary. Take care, stay safe & keep up the good work everyone.
Sue Hoskinson (Bucks) Since the BIG KNIT -IN we held in March, we have sent over 80 blankets to Chas Storer of Hope & Aid Direct. Squares are still coming in from near and far. Many more knitters have joined my database. Hope and Aid Direct have been sending the blankets to Greece by container as the convoys have been unable to travel due to the pandemic. We in Hardwick have also knitted lots of small pink hearts which were recently requested by the ICU at Stoke Mandeville Hospital for their Covid patients.
Lastly, following a recent request, I have been knitting hats for Dorset Working Women’s Project in Bournemouth. This is an HIV prevention and sexual health project working with women working in the sex industry and provides a range of support for them. Wishing everyone a much better 2021 when we are all vaccinated.
Anne Jones (Northampton) 314 teddies plus blankets and children’s knitted tops and hats went to Armenia via a Baptist missionary society. The Covid virus stopped teddies etc being brought to me but hopefully after spring we can deliver them onwards once more.
Diana Griffiths (Warwicks) I haven’t had so much knitting coming in during the pandemic & because of not driving haven’t been able to collect. Several hundred hand puppets, two sacks of teddies and baby clothes went to “Teams4U”. This is a very good charity, they work with children and families in several countries to make a difference in a child’s life. Some scarves went to the local homeless night shelter. I am sorry I haven’t much news but I will continue to pass on as much knitting as possible.
Lesley Hunt (Wilts) In between lockdowns I was given a huge bag of cuddly toys, mostly in excellent condition, by a lady who misunderstood the Teddies forTragedies brief. I stored them and at the beginning of December sorted them and donated the best ones to our local Hub who distributed them to needy families at Christmas. I have received an acknowledgment from them, they were delighted with them.
I also acquired a huge amount of newborn baby clothes, again in very good condition, which were left over from a garden sale in aid of The British Heart Foundation. These, along with teddies were sent to the aid distribution centre in Beirut following the explosion there. Again these were very well received and on my return to the UK in March I hope to send some more along with teddies.
Barbara Blundell (Fylde Coast) Unfortunately we haven’t been able to meet since March as the Library has not been available to groups .Thanks to modern technology we have been able to keep in touch and everyone has been well and safe and been busy with the Charity knitting. There will be some bumper bundles ready for International Aid, the Alzheimer’s Society and the Prem baby unit when the situation improves.
I have been trying to perfect my basic crocheting skills and have enjoyed learning new stitches and patterns. I have been making some baby blankets, cot blankets and knee rugs in readiness. We have all missed our weekly meetings and are hoping that it won’t be long until we can get together again.
Sue Gorrie ( Fylde, Lancs) During the first lockdown, I made a lot of keyworker dolls to go in the window, mainly using Jean Greenhowe patterns and adapting them. The children used to drag their parents out for walks to see what was new! Parents also said it got the children out in the fresh air! We were lucky with the weather then! Here are some pics of a butcher holding a piece of brisket, and a dog pinching sausages, a greengrocer
& a car mechanic. They caused much
Sue Bearcroft (Cornwall) Being new to T4T in 2020, I am forever grateful to Chris for putting out a rallying call to knitters from all over the UK to help me get started &, combined with a huge response to my own local requests through Facebook, community newsletters, the local Soroptomist group, WI groups, churches & retirement homes, I now have 35 faithful knitters who constantly keep me supplied. It is lovely to know that several knitting groups have started due to the teddy project. OHOB UK (Open Hearts Open Borders) are a fairly new charity and were overjoyed to take 130 teddies in bags, plus 65 knits including blankets, jumpers, hats & puppets. Baby knits & blankets will be going to the Yazides people of Northern Iraq who fled to the mountains after IS slaughtered 5000 of their people. They now survive on the mountain sides with very little aid, so OHOB are now looking after those families. The teddies will go to the various Camp Centres in Lesbos. Some of the Camps bring families into the centres for Day Care, give them meals, new clothes to wear (just for the day) & of course…..a teddy in a bag! At the end of the day the new clothes & the teddies are given back & kept at the Centre until the next day. This ensures the teddies aren’t snatched from the children & sold for drugs etc. It also gives the families an incentive to return to the safety of the Centres. “The teddies look so sweet! They are going to be such a comfort for the children in the camps” (OHOB UK).
I then delivered 214 teddies & 166 various jumpers, hats & puppets to The David Livingstone Organisation who regularly ship to The Philippines, where they look after 1000+ families in desperate need. “We are delighted to enclose the teddies in our large boxes for the Philippines, as they would be such a blessing and a joy for the young children, in fact, children of all ages” (D.Livingstone Org)
Local distribution has gone to Kernow Ambulance Service which covers the whole of Cornwall, dealing with families & the elderly with severe mental issues. Also local police stations have now requested a selection of our teddies.
I have also been able to send a box of 25 teddies, 25 hand puppets & 12 jumpers to Beirut as part of the National Teddies for Tragedies donation to the victims of the August fire that destroyed so much of Beirut leaving families homeless & living on the streets.
Welcome to new distributor Jane Weatherby (East Cornwall)
It was after a chance encounter with an avid teddy knitter on the Cornish Coastal path that teddies began winging their way towards Calstock, a sleepy village on the banks of the River Tamar. My plan was to carry these by bike to local food banks for distribution via the Xmas food hampers. Callington took over 70, Tavistock 25. The charity ‘Give a Child a Chance’ which works with children with mental health issues in Plymouth took 30.
Twiddle muffs were a hit too with the local social services team who distributed them to isolated elderly clients. In early December we helped Sue Bearcroft to pack the OHOB container destined for the refugee camp on Lesbos.
Wendy Glasgow (Glos) I sent 9.5kg of knitting to Sierra Leone and I have another 20kg being picked up this week to go too.
Pam Johnson & Elaine Jones (Shrops) Knit for Life group. Being close to the Welsh border, many of our regular knitters have been in intermittent lockdown since March, with travel across the border limited to say the least. Several are vulnerable & have now been self-isolating for 9 months. Knitting for those in even greater need has become a vital lifeline & source of social contact, albeit a virtual one in many cases. As a result, the knitting we have received has increased considerably in volume so it was with some relief that we were able to get a shipment of 10 removal boxes of knitting – blankets, blanket squares, toys, hats & hand warmers to Knit-a-Square in South Africa in October. Prior to that in September we sent two parcels of children’s clothes to Beirut. Also in September Elaine & her husband spent their wedding anniversary (!) driving to Rhyl in North Wales with a car full of toys, blankets, jumpers, scarves & baby clothes for distribution by Woollies for the World to needy families both locally & abroad.
In October we donated a large bag of knitted hats & scarves to a new contact who works with a homeless charity. These were given out to people living on the streets of Birmingham at Christmas. In November we sent 126 blanket squares – enough for two blankets – to Hope and Aid Direct.
We donated a large bag of lap blankets, 21 octopus toys & about a dozen small knitted bags (see pic) to the Dementia Unit at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital.
Just in time for Christmas we also gave hats, gloves & scarves to the food bank in Oswestry for distribution to struggling families in the area & around 100 hats to Teams4U for their shoebox scheme .Despite the difficulties caused by the virus, we seem to have had a busy six months.
Mary Leech (Surrey) At the beginning of this year I was still very new to Teddies for Tragedies, but very soon found myself as local distributor of teddies in the Guildford area. Chris has wasted no time in sending me the contact details for knitters far and wide! The combined knitting efforts of June in Windsor, Beryl in Billingshurst, Linda in Walton-on-Thames, Jean in Rugby, Wendy in Cheltenham, Caroline in Woking, as well as Bina, Christine, Jane & Sarah means that, since August 2020, I have been able to send off 215 lovely teddies. 40 of these went off to Beirut, & then 65 to the Lungi Children’s Hospital in Sierra Leone (just in time for Christmas). Another 65 were sent to a Leeds-based Company which helps to provide Christmas gifts for children in some of the most deprived areas of northern England. And 45 were collected by a local Social Worker who is involved in care at Dr Barnado’s.
So once again, all my bears are on their way! Not all had bags, but I felt it was more important for them to go than to wait for bags to turn up.
You may remember that I’ve had quite a number of enquiries from America from people wanting to help those in need in their own country. I was very pleased to receive the following:-
Cecilia Dao (Houston University, Texas) We were able to host two crochet workshop days alongside hosting a clothing & toys donation drive. We found a local certified crochet instructor, Mrs Jenna DeWitte, who kindly donated some crochet supplies & her time to teach us how to crochet hats and scarves! As for the apparel & toys drive, our university community & honor society members kindly contributed items including blankets, socks, coats, pants, hoodies, jackets, gloves, shoes, toys, etc. Altogether, we collected several boxes of donated items (whether hand-crocheted or store-bought or otherwise) to give to two local charities – one is a crisis center/shelter from domestic and sexual violence called ‘The Bridge Over Trouble Waters’ http://www.tbotw.org/ and the other an emergency assistance ministry called Southeast Area Ministries. https://southeastareaministries.com/
Greta Collier (South Africa) As we journeyed on through a difficult year in South Africa, I am so grateful that ‘KnitWits 4 The Needy’s’ hearts are aligned with creating some warm clothing & blankets for our destitute brothers & sisters, as well as jerseys & woolly toys for babies. A stupendous amount has already been donated.
During 2020, we & other world-wide knitting & crocheting groups were given the wonderful opportunity – due to Covid – to help to create SA Rugby Blankets 160cm x 160cm for the organisation ’67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day’. (Entrepreneur, Visionary, & Award-winning Philanthropist – Carolyn Steyn’s World-Wide Movement).
As you see in the picture below – each pixel is a 160cm x 160cm blanket. We need 2754 Bokkeblankets in the designated colours to form the SA Rugby Flag as below (as you may know, South Africa won the Rugby World Cup in 2019).
These blankets will then be sewn together mainly by non-threatening prisoners (who have been taught a new skill by Carolyn Steyn (fondly known as ’Mrs Blanket’) helping to knit & crochet their broken lives together), helping to form the SA Springbok Blanket. This joined blanket is due to be displayed at the old school of the Rugby Captain of the South African Springbok Rugby Team – Siya Kolisi – in Port Elizabeth. (Grey College) – though just when we do not know, as we wait in turn for the Covid vaccine.
Once displayed, this humongous blanket (2754 blankets) will then be dismantled & donated to various organisations, institutions, care homes etc. & many needy folk.
At the side is the last Bokke Barometer count (15 December 2020) when 1332 blankets had been made! (The prisoners at Leeuwkop have made 178 blankets as of 5 January 2021!)
From me in Kidderminster (Worcs) -Despite the 2nd lockdown in November, I was able to send a huge amount of knitting to several places in the time between the two. I posted 64 large, sturdy drawstring school bags for the ‘Friends of Monze’ charity in Zambia, to the trustee based in Wales & these have now been distributed.
42 Teddies in PPE have also been given to local hospitals to reassure children encountering masked staff!
I have met an incredible lady from a group called ‘Dudley Scrubs’ who liases with all the local hospitals in Birmingham, Worcester, Kidderminster, Wolverhampton, etc, as well as with Care Homes, Women’s Refuges & social workers. She now takes all the baby blankets & clothes I have that are not needed elsewhere, as well as teddies & donated soft toys for the children who were in hospital at Christmas. “This teddy has found a new owner, whose father has written to thank the group for donating him. Your donations have made a huge difference to what we can donate to give joy to others.”
In September a huge consignment of 240 teddies, 200 puppets, 20 blankets, sacks of jumpers, cardigans & hat/scarf/mitten sets for both children & adults went to HIHFAD (Hand in Hand for Aid & Development) in Birmingham, as they were sending out a container to Syria very soon. In October another carload went to CareUK in Northwich, Cheshire. This included 280 teddies, 200 puppets, sacks of jumpers, cardigans & hat/scarf /mitten sets, 59 blankets – all for the refugee camps on Lesbos. CareUk runs a charity shop to raise money for the containers going to Lesbos, so we took 27 sacks of donated clothes & shoes for this too.
I had several bags of twiddlemuffs & lap mats stored from before the first lockdown & she has taken all of them – & asked for more! Brightly coloured octopuses, as shown by the Shrops. Knit for Life group in the July newsletter, are also much in demand.
I desperately wanted to help the families devastated by the Beirut disaster. Having investigated the cost of sending a parcel & found it to be very high, I appealed to a few of my longstanding knitters for a small donation towards it. They were fantastic! I have been able to send 3 large boxes (, 11 & 11.5kg) costing a total of £304, full of sets of hat, scarf & mittens, jumpers & cardigans & some puppets. I was worried that the parcels would get
there OK, but they only took about 5 days(!) & Nayla sent me photos to prove it! Here is her feedback – “We went in the public park where families gather while other NGOs handle the repairs of their homes and the Red Cross supervises everything else. I met with the parish priest whom I know personally and who has a detailed database of each house and family who urgently need help. Regarding the pictures, I took a few of the children there. We had the consent of their parents to be able to photograph them. We would deeply appreciate that these pictures aren’t shared on social media. I hope you understand… The people are very proud and believe me, if NGOs/parishes etc. weren’t on the ground reaching out to them with aid, those families wouldn’t come and ask. Thank you Chris again for all your help which allowed me to do my part here in my country.”
Finally – two shoebox organisations (Operation Christmas Child & Teams4U) have taken lots of different things for topping up their boxes. These included 370 assorted puppets, 34 hat/mittens sets, 68 pairs of mittens, 55 pencil cases. Also many donated small soft toys, jewellery, some beautiful large knitted toys (including 4 snakes!), notepads, balls, pens & pencils.
Very many thanks to all of you who have contributed to this newsletter. It is so inspiring to hear about so many different destinations that teddies & everything else has been sent to.
Keep up the good work & very best wishes for the coming year.