You know the saying, there are only three certainties in life, birth, death and change? Well, there's a change afoot in KAS. A rebirth you could call it and it's ALL good!
Did you know that you're one of more than 12,000 in our KasClan? That's an estimate based on our various online communities, but it's probably much larger.
It grows every day with people like you who care enough about the children to knit, crochet and send squares to southern Africa, or to spread the word about their tragic plight.
Just a little history
For those of you who have recently joined the KasClan, you may not know how this remarkable community came into being.
Very often now, I have the privilege of speaking to groups of people. I tell them the shortened version of the KasStory, which I'll do here.
The founding members of this charity are from a family, now divided by the wide Indian ocean but who were born, and once lived altogether, in Zimbabwe.
I explain that but for three colliding events a bit like the film Sliding Doors, things might have taken a different turn, as so often happens in life. In 2008, these three events happened within a few months of each other.
My husband Roger and I went to an Internet Marketing seminar and learned about the power of the web to connect; my mother Zanny who is an passionate knitter, made me a beautiful blanket out of squares and Ronda visited us here in Australia.
She told us about the plight of children in southern Africa who were orphaned or made vulnerable as a result of HIV AIDS and poverty.
She explained that she regularly gave out cheap blankets to children on the side of the roads at night. We were appalled by the thought of these children alone and cold.
In September 2008, there was an light globe moment. Inspired by our 'square' blanket, what if using our recent learnings about the Internet, we created a website to ask the world's knitters to send squares to Ronda. She could then make blankets to warm the children.
The online concept and name for Knit-a-square was born.
We started the quest in 2008. To write the content for the website, we had to do a lot of research about knitters and what they liked on the one hand and the plight of the children on the other.
It was a poignant speech delivered by Stephen Lewis, the UN Special Envoy for HIV AIDS in Africa in 2005, that turned a deep concern into a passion.
You can find it at the end of this page on the role grandmothers must play to support their orphaned grandchildren. Iimplore you to read it. It will move you as it did me all those years ago.
The first web page went up in early October, 2008 and by January, Roger and I had written and posted tens of thousands of words on dozens of pages, all written so that Goog le would find you and direct you to the website! Find us you did, which was SO exciting.
I worked with my mother, Zanny to create some of the early knitting patterns and to do a How to Knit Series and we were over the moon when we saw that people had downloaded them. It was working!
Lion Brand changes the picture
In February 2009, Lion Brand, the largest yarn manufacturer in the world, found us too. They asked if they could feature us as their Charity of the Month. Everyone's lives were about to change! Overnight we had a massive following. ..but it was not yet a community.
Our early KasHeros
That came about because passionate people, our early KasHeros, like Kerry Paris andKyla Austin, were instantly taken by what was being done to help the children, they started our first forum and then created the first challenge. Then Jeanne Haessler,Anne Powell and Dawne Sliming-Smith joined in and became our early moderators in the Square Circle Forum.
It happened too because folk like Debbie Postmontier were so engaged by the project, they took it to their schools and got the children involved, to learn to knit in the meadow, a lovely place to reflect on children less fortunate and half a world away.
You, everyone of you, matter
Countless others, too many to name individually, but cherished none the less, have contributed much.
They have run challenges, become moderators, taken the program into their schools and communities, continued to knit and send vast quantities of beautiful squares stitched with love and concern.
The amazing work that is KAS
Many of you will know from the initial Square Circle Ezines and now KasSnippets from our forum administrator, Pam Antink, and the reports from South Africa by Wendy Hardy, the inspiring stories of the work Ronda has done over the last five years.
She gathered together a remarkable team of hardworking volunteers to help her, including the dedicated Lindiwe Ngwenya and Wandile Mkhwanazi to open, sort and bundle the thousands of squares arriving.
Between them and a coterie of wonderful people they have now handled nearlythree quarters of a million squares, hats, jumpers and toys. What a marathon feat.
Lindiwe and Wandile introduced us to the hundreds of small day care centres that dot the shack settlements throughout Soweto.
For the most part, that is where the children are wrapped with your blankets, have the hats popped onto their heads and the beautiful toys you have made put into their little hands.
They are told by Ronda and the volunteers that they are unique and special and loved, and that they have a role to play in their country.
A family affair
Many of our family joined in: Erin, Ronda's daughter who helped with the workload and distributions in South Africa; our cousins Tracy in Zimbabwe and Davina in Port Elizabeth; our daughters Kalai who started the the Facebook Groupand answered countless correspondence, Cressida who worked with us to develop the KasKids™ program and the Teacher Resource,and my husband, Roger who wrote loads o f content for the websites and dozens of fundraising proposals.
But it was you and the KasClan that made it all happen. You devised amazing challenges to keep people stitching more and creatively. Last year we had the KasBus challenges: how many buses could we fill with 1,225 squares? Enough squares to make 35 blankets.
The latest challenge, KasHeights has you going on a journey around the world to knit 178,000 squares, the exact height of Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa. You should join the race if you haven't already!
It's not enough that you stitch and send, but you also seek to educate the children where you can, like this wonderful challenge run attests to.
You just keep knitting, crocheting and sending. All the while thinking up wonderful ideas to spread the word.
So what is changing?
In 2009, we incorporated in Australia as a not for profit and called the organisation KasCare. In 2010, Ronda incorporated as Knit-a-square South Africa.
In South Africa
Enter Wendy Hardy who was introduced to KAS SA in 2010 and has worked tirelessly to support Ronda first by organising prisoners to sew the blankets and then with the KasVan.
Not long ago (in July) you rose to the challenge to help us with a critical appeal.
Wendy has worked with the funds from that appeal to move KAS out of Ronda's home and into new offices. She continues to work to take KAS in SA to a new level and one that will ensure the longevity of the organisation for and as long we hope, as the children have needs.
After a couple of years, the McDonalds had reluctantly to leave the work they had been doing full time for KasCare to help establish the organisation and return to paid work. Not long after that, Erica Smith who is a moderator and also lives in Melbourne, Australia stepped in to fill some of the gap.
Erica has been a constant in the last years, always looking for ways to do things more efficiently and with a greater result for the community and the children, to assist Ronda and the team in South Africa and Pam and the mods in the forum.
A new chair of KasCare
So it is with great delight that I am able to tell you that Erica has agreed to take over the stewardship of KasCare.
KasCare has as its current mandate warmth and comfort for children made vulnerable or orphaned as a resul t of HIV AIDS as well as raising awareness for their plight worldwide. It is also the custodian of the global clan and looks after the various web presences that keep us all connected.
As things have grown and changed in the work we do, the mandate needs refreshing. This will be done in the next few months and Erica will be able to communicate that to you in her role as Chairperson of KasCare.
A new website
Erica has already worked tirelessly together with Pam and the mods to transfer the old Site Build It site to a new, better organised and easier to use website which will be lauched very soon. It will make the job of communicating to you and keeping you connected much easier.
You are as we've said many times, a remarkable, amazing and inspiring community of people who care enough to ACT to warm these small, vulnerable children often half a word away.
You grasped the concept that the squares were a currency of hope. I'm sure that as long as you believe there are children that need blankets wrapped around their little shoulders, you will keep stitching.
What a five years it has been. But now, it's time for the McDonald team to say farewell.
In time, we'll take up the work again to introduce programs to school children, so that they can help children less fortunate than they. Knit-a-square is a wonderful program for school children, to learn both to knit and the power of making a difference.
For now, we will watch with delight as KasCare moves onto the next stage of its journey in the safe hands of Erica and her board.
Our grateful thanks for the journey, the opportunity to learn and grow from you all and now to teach others the remarkable benefits of community. I tell them, inspired by you:
What we can do together is yet to be imagined.
With love to you all
Sandy McDonald, co-founder.
Thank you Sandy for the incredible amount of work your family did to create the cornerstone on which Knit-a-Square was built. Your dynamism turned Ronda's dream into a practical reality - thousands upon thousands of children have felt the loving spark of KAS touch them and fill them with hope.
We wish you and all the family endeavours much success, now and in the future. Long term we know you will never leave KAS, as neither, will KAS leave you. Farewell, blessings and good fortune - you truly deserve it.
Dear Sandy and the McDonald Family,
Thank you so much for your selfless and dedicated work in initiating and establishing KAS, so that it is the organisation that we see today. Without you, the path of KAS would have been completely different. You were definitely the right people at the right place at the right time. One cannot call this serendipity, but Divine Providence. Many tens of thousand of lives have been touched and changed as a result of your courage to act and persevere.
I would like to thank you on behalf of the volunteers for you have given us a hands-on opportunity to make a difference in the lives of children that are thousand of miles away, but at the reach of a keystroke.
May God bless you in your new endeavours.
Good luck to you all and may everything work out for you all xx
Sandy, you and your family have been such an inspiration! Blessings on this new chapter in your lives, and in the life of Knit-a-Square.
Sandy - who would have guessed when those first few squares arrived early in 2009, that the KASfamily would grow so much, accomplish so much, and now five years later, continue to grow and set our goals even higher.
Thank you for all the nurturing and hard work you have done to help us get to where we are today. We all wish you well.
Thank you Sandy, and the entire McDonald family, for your five years of dedicated service.
You've nurtured and guided KasCare from a fledgling idea to an international phenomenon. You've poured yourself into this group, and it shows in all the best ways. Your creativity, ingenuity, persistence and dedication will be long remembered and celebrated.
You have left a mighty legacy, and impressively large shoes to fill.
Thank you for trusting the community to continue to thrive even as you take a step back, thank you doubly for trusting me to take on your role in this community, and above all, thank you for creating this organization that we all feel so strongly about.
We must congratulate you too, Erica! Thank you so much for ensuring the continuity of KASCare. The shoes may be large, but you will fill them well, and we will be here to do whatever we can to help!
Wishing you much success and happiness! xoxox
I would like to add my thanks to you Sandy for having the vision to create this amazing organisation and for all your hard work in making it the extraordinary force for good that KAS has become. I wish you every success in your future endeavours.
Thanks are also due to Erica for stepping into the breach. I feel sure that, under her stewardship, KAS will continue to grow and thrive. I know I speak for the entire KAS community when I say that she can rely on our whole-hearted support.
Thank you Sandy and all the McDonald family! You'll surely be missed. Many blessings and best of luck in your next endeavor, and may it be as successful and rewarding as the journey you have just completed! xo
Many thanks to you, Sandy, and the McDonald family for your tireless efforts on behalf of the children. You hard work and persistence will continue to pay off in the success of KAS and KASCare. If we all do our part, we CAN make the world a better place. Wishing you many more happy successes in whatever you touch!
Your vision started something that has grown and grown into a huge worldwide community that makes a real difference every day. Thank you Sandy, and all of your family, for so much hard work getting KAS going and to Erica for taking it forward from now.
Thank you Sandy and all of your family for the work you have done to nurture KAS. Thank you too for your love and kindness to all of us. We have missed the girls as they have gone on to fulfil their lives and we will miss you and of course Roger's poetry ! I wish you every success in the future, and much happiness.
Thank you Erica for stepping into the role , congratulations and I am sure we will enjoy having you at the helm.