2014: The Year Of The Square

Squares are what Knit-a-Square is all about.

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It takes 35 8″/20cm squares to make one blanket for one AIDS orphan in South Africa.

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There are over 2 million AIDS orphans in South Africa. In order to give one blanket to each orphan we need 70 million squares!

This may seem daunting or simply ridiculous to some, but not to us at Knit-a-Square! That is why we have named 2014, The Year Of The Square. We may not receive 70 million squares in 2014, but each square we do receive will bring us that much closer. Each blanket we wrap around an orphaned child is a success.

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In October, to encourage everyone to knit squares, we began the KAS Reaches Great Heights for Children Challenge. This challenge is going to take us around the planet whilst reaching great heights & piles of squares – 178,000 to be precise, in order to reach the top of

Table Mountain, Cape Town in South Africa!

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We are going to need 50 squares for every foot climbed! [164 squares for one meter.]

Join us in warming the children and visit the sights along the way!

Christening Day!

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Well, I don’t know if we can actually Christen a Web site, but today is certainly is an exciting day for Knit-a-Square!

After 15 months of tireless work by Erica Smith, Chairperson of KasCare and IT wizard, and a group of volunteers, the old, out-dated, complicated KAS website is gone! We are all thrilled to announce the arrival of the transformed KAS website. You will find that it is easy to navigate and the information is always up-to-date. Please come and take a tour:

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Our website is a fabulous door to enter the KASWorld, but we also have a KAS forum, the Square Circle, that is filled with the wonderful people waiting to greet you, answer your questions or just chat. We would love to see you there! You can read Erica’s report on the launching of the website on the forum here.

An Extraordinary Year

This has been a very important year for Knit-a-Square.

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As 2013 draws to a close, we want to thank each and every person around the world who has helped us warm the AIDS orphans of South Africa.

You have all contributed so much.

From the undreamed of gifts of

G4S Solutions who gave us the KASVan and the business people who have provided our new home;

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To the tireless volunteers in South Africa who receive, sort, catalogue and coordinate our donations;

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To our sewers in South Africa;

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To our dedicated Forum Moderators who keep the information flowing and our wonderful community alive;

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To our 3,150 forum members who knit, crochet, inspire and support each other;

From Rachel, one of our first to Linda, one of our newest;

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To each person in over 60 countries around the world who knit or crocheted a square or a garment or a toy;

To each person in over 60 countries around the world who sent a donation, no matter how small;

To each person who doesn’t knit or crochet, but told someone about the children of South Africa and Knit-a-Square.

To all of you, to each and every one of you, we send our most heart-felt thanks. You have provided:

145,848 squares which means that 4109 blankets were made and wrapped around the shoulders of an AIDS orphan.

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Not to mention, 5 baby blankets, 529 tops/jumpers/vests/sweaters, 1323 hats, 114 scarves/neck warmers/shawls, 68 KAS Cuddles, 271 Bits and Bobs, 828 socks, 740 Teddies/toys, 43 T shirts, 1366 plastic sewing needles, 76 metal sewing needles, 93 pairs gloves/mittens, 53 packs pencils/96 pencils, 9 packs biro pens/20 biros, 158 books, 211 pairs underpants, 84 singlets/undershirts, 168 pairs knitting needles, 34 crochet hooks, 77 pairs disposable nappy pants, 50 plastic rain ponchos, 9 prs. slippers, fuel for the KASVan, food and paper for the children and the extraordinary Nancefield Creche Transformation.

The generosity that each of you has shown in 2013 has given all of us involved in KAS the motivation and determination to accomplish even more in 2014.

Co-founder Sandy McDonald retired this year, but with your help we continue to realise the dream she and Ronda Lowrie share, to make a difference in the lives of the forgotten victims of the AIDS epidemic. With a computer and a lot of heart, they have made the world a better place. We are privileged to be a part of that dream.

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May 2014 be filled with health, love and laughter

and a gesture, no matter how small, for the children of South Africa.

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Hope

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No matter what your religion, no matter what your beliefs, there is a gift we all can share this holiday season: HOPE.

We have all experienced despair and we know that what helped the most in that difficult time was a simple gesture of kindness, a smile, a hug, the comforting presence of someone to share our burden. That is what gave us hope to go on.

That is what we do at Knit-a-Square. Each square, each stitch is made to give hope to the AIDS orphans of South Africa. The past has dealt them a dismal present, but we must give them hope so that there will be a future.

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We cannot be physically present for the children of South Africa, but our squares can. Thirty-five squares wrapped around a child’s shoulders provide warmth and comfort and tell that child that he is not forgotten. He is important and loved and he must have hope. His life matters and it will be better.

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May your homes be filled with love and laughter. May your hearts be filled with hope. May you find comfort when you are in need and give hope to others when you can.

If you would like to see some of the beautiful Christmas-themed squares that have been created by KAS members, follow the links here and here.

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Every gesture, no matter how small, helps Knit-a-Square bring hope to the children of South Africa. We hope that you will join us!

December is a red month!

Each month on the Knit-a-Square member forum, the Square Circle, we have a friendly challenge. We suggest a theme to help motivate and inspire our square making. Because December 1st is World AIDS Day, the theme for this month’s challenge is the colour red. Having a colour-themed challenge is a wonderful way to do some stash busting or work up a bunch of single coloured squares.

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Wonderful variegated and solid yarns from Karen

Beautiful grannies from Susan

Beautiful grannies from Susan

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A big stack of Plain Janes from Anne.

The most well-known symbol for AIDS awareness is the red ribbon. Several of our members have made beautiful versions on their squares this month.

Both of these photos show the stunning squares done in crochet by Robin.

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You can find a free pattern for a knit ribbon square on Ravelry here. With this pattern you can make  a knit-purl version, an Intarsia version or, the one I find the hardest, a duplicate stitch version like this gorgeous square made by Bev.

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Another amazing red ribbon square is the illusion square. The amazing ladies who make these promise me that it is easy, but I have yet to find the courage to try! You can find the knit pattern here. This fabulous square was knit by Gloria.

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I’m sure that looking at these photos is inspiring your creativity! That is just one of the many wonderful things about KAS. We bring warmth and comfort to the orphans of South Africa by doing something we love. The Square Circle Forum is full of ideas and wonderful people waiting to share them with you. You can see all of the beautiful squares made for the December Challenge here. Hope to see you there!

Weekly spotlight: The Square Heart Award

Each month on the Square Circle, the very friendly Knit-a-Square community forum, we highlight the dedication of particular KASfolk, by offering them the Square Heart Award.

This month the Square Heart Award is given to Jeni Nesbitt from Glasgow, Scotland. Jeni has been a devoted member of KAS since 2009.

She started the wonderful Yarn-aholics thread on the forum which is so therapeutic for all of us!

Jeni makes beautiful hats, toys and garments, but her most extraordinary talent is taking the smallest bits and bobs of yarn and turning them into works of art.

Jeni has made many of these gorgeous blankets. Recently, Yumi, a new KAS board member in South Africa found a shelter for older girls in need. This beautiful collection of “Jeni blankets,” was given to them for warmth and comfort.

If that weren’t enough, Jeni also spreads the word for KAS. Here we see her beautiful blanket which won first prize at the spring Horticultural Fair!

Here is a particularly wonderful photo from Jeni. She decorated her parent’s Christmas tree with KAS squares!

You can see all of Jeni’s beautiful work for KAS here. Congratulations Jeni!

World AIDS Day

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World AIDS Day, observed on 1 December every year, is dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection. On the Knit-a-Square  Square Circle Forum, the entire month of December is dedicated to AIDS awareness. Our challenge, “It’s a red month,” is being led by Carol from the UK. You can join us here.

Here are a few important AIDS facts:

  • Close to 15 million children have lost one or both parents to HIV/AIDS (UNICEF).
  • 230,000 children under the age of 15 died of HIV/AIDS related illnesses in 2011 (amfAR).
  • Between 2009 and 2011 antiretroviral drugs prevented 409,000 children from HIV infection (UNAIDS).
  • As of 2011, 34 million adults and children are living with HIV (WHO).
  • There were 2.5 million new cases of HIV in 2011 (CDC).
  • In 2011, 1.1 million people died of HIV/AIDS related causes, bringing the total number of deaths since the pandemic began to 30 million (UNAIDS).
  • Every 9.5 minutes, someone in the U.S. is infected with HIV (AIDS.gov).
  • As many as 5.9 million people in South Africa are living with HIV (UNAIDS).
  • Bangladesh’s HIV/AIDS rate has increased by almost 25% since 2000 (UNAIDS).
  • In 2011, 83,000 children and adults were newly infected with HIV in Latin America (UNAIDS).
  • Estonia has the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Europe (CIA.GOV).

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The situation is extremely grave for everyone in the world affected by HIV/AIDS, but this sense of overwhelming must not lead us to inaction. Every gesture made to fight the disease or to help the people living with its consequences, matters. KAS makes a difference one square at a time. Won’t you join us?

Why a blanket?

When telling people about Knit-a-Square, we are often asked, “Why do children in Africa need blankets?” This question allows us to dispel two myths. First, it is not always hot in Africa. South Africa is very close to the South Pole, while the summers are hot, the winters are quite cold and it snows in South Africa! Second, doesn’t everyone need a blanket? Would you ever, no matter how much you might enjoy rugged, extreme camping, sleep without a blanket?

Winter in South Africa

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Everyone needs a covering to sleep well, but blankets are more than that. Think back to your childhood. Was there an object that you absolutely had to have in order to sleep? Even for the most loved, most secure children who grow up in warm homes, who lack nothing, security objects are essential for their development.

These are my children’s security objects. I lost many hours of my life searching for them, but gained many hours of peace and sleep once they were found! The yellow blanket (well it was yellow!) is in my son’s closet, but the three others are still slept with. I was glared at and interrogated by the kids as I took their things from their rooms to photograph. “Where are you going with that? Well hurry up and bring it back!”

These security objects are respectively 23, 21, 18 and 13 years old!

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The blankets we are helping to make will not just keep the orphans warm. These blankets will help them develop a sense of self, a sense of security. They will provide comfort and solace in a reality that must be cruel beyond our imaginings. These blankets will, I hope, stay with these children as they grow to remind them that they are loved and that they are not alone.

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That is why we make blankets for Africa. Won’t you join us?

Friday Sptolight: The USA Group

Knit-a-Square is an extraordinary organisation in countless ways. The one thing that I marvel most at however, since discovering KAS, is the power of direct action. The members of Knit-a-Square prove time and time again that one person can make a difference, that each gesture of kindness matters.

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Helen from Texas, leader of the “Table and cChair Drive”

This week in Nancefield, South Africa, we witnessed the culmination of an extraordinary gesture by the members of the USA group on the Square Circle Forum, led by Helen M. Flagg from Houston, Texas. Last April, Ronda and her group of volunteers distributed blankets, garments and food to a day care center in Nancefield. To fully understand, you must remove all ideas of what a day care center is in your neighborhood.

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The Mmelisizwe Day Care Centre was begun by one woman, Lindiwe who took over an abandoned gym to help the children in the area. The building is huge, terribly cold and quite inhospitable. It is surrounded by great poverty. The ONLY equipment was this slide that you see in the picture.

Everyone who saw the photos of this cold and empty gym last April, were deeply saddened by the immense poverty, but Helen refused  to simply accept this terrible situation. She called us to action. If we could only collect money to buy some plastic tables and chairs at least the children would not be spending their days sitting on the cold concrete floor.

The plea went out on the Square Circle Forum and with the help of Mary Anne Fellows who, by using Pay Pal, allowed members from all countries to donate, the Nancefield Table and Chair Drive began. In the space of six weeks, Helen and Mary Anne received the incredible amount of $1735.00. The money was transferred to Ronda in South Africa and she, Wendy and Leslie went shopping!

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The amount raised allowed them to buy much more than tables and chairs, far more than any of us could have hoped. They completely transformed the Mmelisizwe Day Care Centre! The makeover took place this week. Here are some of the amazing photos taken on moving day. You can read the full report and see all of the photos on the Square Circle Forum.

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Our heartfelt thanks go out to everyone involved in this extraordinary project with extra special thanks to Helen, Mary Anne, Ronda and all her team in South Africa!

Lindiwe in her transformed day care center.

Lindiwe in her transformed day care center.

Moving day. What a simple expression and yet today holds so much more meaning for me. Tragedy moved us to move together as a group. Moving day moved us yet again, but with joy. We can make a difference. We can make life better even for children who live on the other side of the world.

For me, KAS has made every day moving day and it has changed my life.