This discussion aims to give you an up-close and personal look at what happens on opening days at the Knit-a-Square barn. I'm a partially-sighted volunteer who who attends with my guide dog Tango and my driver Bongi, who has also become a keen volunteer. While everyone else opens parcels, sorts squares and packs items ready for distribution, I listen and take mental notes so I can pass on something of the atmosphere on the ground. Enjoy!
I'm glad to report that Ronda is doing well and looking good. She has been following doctor's orders by resting each afternoon and avoiding going out in the cold, especially at night. As a result, she was very much her usual upbeat self at this week's opening day.
She was sitting at her desk, deep in conversation, when Bongi and I arrived at the barn. After making my way along the table, greeting the volunteers who were already sorting squares, she got up to greet us and introduced the woman with her. "This is Nellie from IBM," she said warmly. "IBM have offered their support, as you know, and we are just discussing what form their involvement might take."
Nellie explained that IBM encourage their employees to choose charities that they feel aligned to, but that this year she was the only one who had chosen Knit-a-Square. "I'm hoping to attract others to join me because I love what Knit-a-Square do," she said.
I suggested sharing some of the posts from our Facebook page on the company's intranet. Ronda suggested that she invite a few of her colleagues to join her on a distribution and take pictures. By publicising the very real and relevant impact that KAS has, she will be sure to drum up more interest, especially among employees who are as yet undecided about which charity to support.
After Nellie had gone, Ronda told me some exciting news. Knit-a-Square now has a registered trademark! The non-profit has been registered for ages but the name had not been filed for protection under the law. The filing of the trademark came about because Wilma, who works for Spoor & Fisher, a trademark company, has been contributing beautiful knitted squares for about 4 years now and happened to ask whether Knit-a-Square had the necessary legal protection for its name. When Ronda admitted that it did not, owing to financial constraints [and, frankly, not much understanding of how the whole process worked], Wilma made enquiries with the company and came back to announce that they would do the work pro bono. So, the trademark is now registered, and all through corporate sponsorship, which is a real blessing!
Ronda also reported to me that a patient receiving radiation therapy at the West Rand Oncology Unit, part of the Flora Clinic complex, contacted her about squares. These are squares knitted by patients in the waiting room ahead of their treatment. A large pile had been produced and were awaiting collection. Ronda duly fetched them and brought them for sorting this week.
In addition, a woman named Dinah called from Womaranstad, Vivienne's home community, four-and-a-half hours away from Johannesburg. Dinah is desperate to sew up squares into blankets and supply them to the 45 children, plus 10 special-needs children, who are in her care. it was arranged that, sometime in June or July, Vivienne and Thomas will load up the van with blanket packs and other items, then head to Wolmaranstad for the day. While there, they will train the gogos and discuss ideas for a distribution.
We have been delighted by the arrival of lots of toys in the mail lately. Following my comment that we were running low on soft toys, it seems that our members have picked up the challenge and really come to the party. It's wonderful to hand out a toy to each child who receives a blanket, and whether that toy is hand-knitted or commercially made, the smiles on the faces of the recipients are enough to light up the whole neighbourhood! Please keep them coming!
Postage is continuing to be a challenge, with the Post Office insisting on putting a handling fee onto all parcels arriving from overseas. This fee isn't a customs duty or tax; it seems to simply be a way to boost the postal service's income following many years of mismanagement and financial losses. While the situation is at a stalemate for the present as far as the Post Office is concerned, we can ask you to consider ways of consolidating the packages you send. For example, some of our members club together to send several packages of squares in one box. Or you could save up your squares and send them in a larger package when you have enough to fill a box. However, please don't think the handling fee is a reason to stop sending squares altogether as we are well-supported by our monthly donors and, at least for the time being, can afford to pay the weekly postal charges.
To those of you in Europe and other parts of the world where the weather is warming up, enjoy the sunshine! We are experiencing cooler weather, reminding us that winter is on its way. What with the weakening of the rand, the hike in the petrol price and the increase of VAT from 14% to 15%, the poor are having a hard time. All the more reason to bring warmth and comfort to vulnerable children with our knitted and crocheted gifts.
Thank you Leanne once again your report is a joy to read. I am very happy that Ronda is looking well and taking her much needed rests. A great peek into KASBarn and the concerns like the postage costs, the hike in paetrol prices too no doubt.Thank you to Wilma who arranged for a registered trademark ! Here's hoping IBM staff fall in love with KAS like we do.! Thank you Nellie. So much to take in Leanne, I always feel I have been at the Barn with you !
oh dear appauled to read about the postage charges! am sending a tiny donation to off set the number of parcels sent recently.
Thanks for such a newsy update about all the activity in the Barn. It will be great to have some tech support from IBM. A registered Trademark is big news, and the fact that an organization is helping, pro bono no less, is fabulous news.
Of course I am very happy to know that so many toys are arriving for the little ones. We done fellow KASers.
Thank you Leanne for a very informative read. :))
I sent two parcels in April and I do not see them receipted in on the April list. Perhaps they are held up somewhere. I can confirm that they left the United States but nothing after that. I will continue to make squares as I just love doing so.
It is most likely that your parcels will not be on a list until at least May or June.
I send my parcels by seamail from Australia and although my postal information tells me it should take 8-12 weeks to get there, I find they don't appear on a list for sometimes up to 6-7 months.
I think perhaps the SA postal system is not the best.
Oh, thank you Bev for the reply. Wow that is a long time from Australia. I will be patient.
Likewise Susan. My sister and mother and I all knit for KAS. Last year we were becoming concerned as our numerous parcels were not showing up on the lists, and then they all came together after 6, 7 or 8 months! I suspect it may also have to do with how long it takes to gather enough post to fill a shipping container at this end.
Lovely to hear about the Knit a Square trademark being registered and protected at no cost. I hope the IBM employees will also support KAS.
Sorry to hear about the postal fees and increase in costs for petrol though. I have actually been saving up my goodies lately till I have a parcel of about 3kg. Mainly as the more I send the less it costs, so will continue to do this.
I will also go and make a purchase in the KAS shop to help.
It really is a shame that the SA Postal service is in such a mess though, hope there will be some sort of resolution to the 'fees' situation soon.
Thank you leanne for all this information. Your reports are always so interesting to read and I feel so much closer to yoou all in SA after I read them.
I didn't attend opening day this week but I do want to report on what an exciting day the volunteers had. According to Ronda, 29 huge boxes arrived via four separate courier companies, courtesy of Louise Tidman, UK; Knit for Life, UK; Ute Sadler in Wales and Andreja in Croatia. It will take several days to sort through the contents of these wonderful boxes but they certainly have come at a good time.
We were plunged into a cold snap this week, with temperatures falling sharply to single figures on account of widespread unseasonal rain. Usually, the winters here are dry with clear skies, meaning one can easily find a warm patch of sunshine during the day to sit in, and children attending school can find relief from their chilly classrooms. However, when there is no sunshine, it comes as a huge shock. People rush to turn on their heaters, often leading to power outages. Or they light stoves in their shacks, which leads to shack fires. Warm clothes and blankets are highly-prized items in poor communities, and the demand always exceeds supply.
The other reason we are so glad for the arrival of the boxes is that, for some odd reason, we have found ourselves short of squares. As you know, we focus on just a few items—namely, squares, beanies, hand-warmers and soft toys—and it seems that our members have been working hard to meet the demand for the more complicated items. Yet blankets are still at the heart of our organisation. We love the fact that a single blanket can contain squares from knitters around the world, and that a blanket can bring warmth and joy to a child for years. As simple as squares are, they represent the love and care of people across the globe, provide work for our gogos who sew them together, and can change the life of a vulnerable child.
So, we love receiving squares! Thank you so much to those who contributed to the boxes we received this week, and for the incredible generosity of those who paid for them to be shipped. We know it's a joint effort and appreciate every knitter and crocheter who puts needle or hook to yarn. To everyone else, thank you for your commitment too, and we look forward to bringing joy and cosiness to many, many children this winter!