Once upon a time, not very long ago, in a small village somewhere in South Africa, a few grandmothers came together and decided to spend their retirement doing something useful for their community...
Alina Sr and Alina Jr hard at work
Salminah showing of her bed-socks
So they called themselves GAPA (Grandmothers Against Poverty and AIDS) and set to work. They started by planting a communal vegetable garden, doing all the work themselves. The proceeds from the garden are used to provide cooked meals for the poor in the community. All the cooking and preparing are done by themselves.
Selina and Beauty enjoying each other's company
Emily and Sanna
They soon realised that feeding the poor is not enough and started their next project. They found an unused house in their community and again, doing all the work themselves, they fixed it up and turned it into an old-age/frail-care home for abandoned old people. (AIDS take away mostly young, working-age people and leave behind children and old people who can't fend for themselves.)
The little house provides a home for 6 old people. The ladies from GAPA work in shifts taking care of these frail people day and night.
Sanna and Lydia concentrating on their lesson. (The 'teacher' is my mom, Anneke)
Some of the beautiful scarves for sale in the thrift shop
But as we all know, there is more to life than work and taking care of others. Everybody needs time to be creative, socialise and take care of thyself. This is where the knitting group enters their lives. Facilitated by the VVA (Vrystaat Versorging in Aksie) - a privately run welfare organisation, the ladies meet once a week to learn new knitting skills.
Their first project: Teddies for children who need some love.
Aren't they beautiful?
Their first project was making teddy bears using a plain garter stitch. This taught them the basic stitch, casting on and off, and finishing off a stuffed object. The teddies go to the welfare workers who hands them out to the abused and neglected children they deal with on a daily basis.
Every person in the old-age home received their own blanket
Once they were familiar with the basics of knitting they moved on to the next step, this time knitting scarves. This taught them to knit in plain and purl and to add fringes. The scarves are for sale at the Welfare office's thrift shop and the proceeds are being used to buy new yarn.
When I met these industrious ladies, they were already hard at work on their third project. Bed socks. This time they learned about multiplication and reducing of stitches, as well as using more than one colour at a time.
Bed-socks to warm the heart (and feet!)
The next step will be to teach them basic business skills like calculating the amount of yarn needed per item and pricing a product. Their aim is to use these skills to earn some money to fund all their community projects.
I met these ladies because my mom, Anneke, is their "knitting-teacher". We are both so inspired by these ladies' spirit of giving, sharing and hard work. In a country like South-Afica where there are so many needs it is great to find people who are willing to give of the little they have to those who have even less. And don't be mistaken, these women all have their own woes of arthiritis and bad backs, children who has died of AIDS, and orphaned grand-children. But they have faith in God and willing hearts, and that is enough to conquer any obstacle.
Even though they work hard and do not expect hand-outs, they can always do with a helping hand. They would appreciate any left-over yarn or other materials that can be put to use in any of their projects. Some of these ladies also do beautiful sewing and embroidery. If you have anything to contribute please contact me by e-mail.
...and they lived happily ever after. Have a great week-end!