With the strains of a Maori group singing farewell and exuberant cheers fading in the still dark morning the band of almost 500 people stretched out over the wet grassy path dissecting farmland. We were starting the Oxfam Trailwalker 2015, a fundraising walk that would end up taking our team 27 and a half hours. Seeing this mass of humanity walking in one direction, indeed being part of it, turned our conversation to the 17 million refugees who have fled their countries, most of them walking in long trains just as we were. But there the resemblance finished. We were walking with a sense of anticipation, with positive adrenaline, with the promise of a hot shower at the end and a support crew offering food along the way. We might face some moments of pain and discomfort along the way, but they would be fleeting. The refugees, on the other hand, would be walking in uncertainty and probably fear, perhaps having witnessed atrocities they would not yet have time to even grieve over. Who knows how long their food supplies would last? Where would they find water? Where would they bury those who fell along the way? Where would they even go? Would they be welcome? Would they come back? Would they see family members and friends again?
The determination to do something practical took hold. I discovered Lily – Love in the Language of Yarn. It is a non-profit organisation based in Turkey distributing handknit or crocheted items to Syrian refugee children who are flocking over the border and ending up in Turkish camps. Now New Zealand is a long way from Turkey and transporting bulky items like blankets is a potentially cost-prohibitive project. So, of course, I set out to see what could be done. As it turns out……. Air New Zealand came close to sponsoring a shipment, but they don’t fly to Turkey. They do, however, fly to London so the lady who runs LILY is currently trying to find out if someone in London would take a trip to Turkey, and I’m searching for alternative transport. Of course you could argue that I should just send money and let them buy some blankets locally, but I have lots of little balls of leftover sock wool that will make snugly blankies full of love to remind a few refugees they are not forgotten. And if I can find an inexpensive transport option I would ask all my crafty friends to get involved and knit or crochet a hat or pair of socks or even a blanket – in fact, the first two people I whispered this dream to were non-knitters, but both offered a way they could get involved on the spot. This gave me hope that help from the ends of the earth just might be able to happen.
So I will spend our Kiwi winter crocheting furiously to be ready to send a shipment to Turkey hopefully in November in time for the northern winter. And if I find a viable transport option, I’ll invite you to join me.
I was not going to post about this project until I had worked out if it would work – but I’m speaking up now in the hope that you might have a contact to make it happen. Please let me know if you do!
Refugee Blanket #2
Refugee Blanket #3 begun