I wrote this article for my knitting guild late last month – what I’d really like for Christmas? Donations to MSF. A good, solid way to help those who are in need. Without further ado, a slight adjustment of what I wrote*:
Helping Refugee Children
The short version: A small charity named LILY (Love In the Language of Yarn) is run by a British woman in Turkey. She is collecting blankets to keep the Syrian children in refugee camps warm through the winter. She’s requested knit or crocheted 8” squares, and I’ve begun sending things to her. If you’d like to join me, her address and info is:
‘LILY’ c/o Dianne Jones,
Yildrim Apart 11/2
Parcels have to be less than 2kg (which cost about $30 to mail), and marked “Knitting for Charity – No Commercial Value”.
The longer story – a bit about why I feel such a strong tie to Syria; some statistics about the current numbers of refugees, a little more about LILY, and the websites for the information I reference.
I’m Kourtney; I’ve been a guild member for four years now, I think. Maybe five? I’m paying my dues for 2014, at any rate. I knit a lot, and design a fair bit as well. I’m also profoundly glad to be a Canadian. I was born here, and I’ve lived here all my life. I’m curious about the world, though, and I like travelling. In 2005, I went to Syria and Jordan with my best friend as part of a guided tour. I anticipated my trip, despite the fear-mongering of my coworkers. I’m delighted to report that the only horror story was food poisoning one of our tripmates had; our trip was fantastic.
Syria was especially wonderful. We were welcomed by everyone – from artisans in Damascus who lured us in with tea, then dazzled us with carpets, to the ladies in Hama that we shared a pizza with. I spent a lot of time with our Syrian guide, Bashar, discussing the finer points of language (the difference between jealousy and envy, for instance). The culture was different, but people really are mostly the same everywhere. If you look lost, someone will generally help you. If you’re in a fabric store, odds are good a stranger will help you decide if the red is better than the blue. Little kids who drop a plate will look stricken. And so on.
Stricken and powerless is how I felt when the Syrian civil unrest began to develop. My favorite charity is MSF – Doctors Without Borders – but even though they are active in Syria*, it just didn’t feel like I was helping. It’s hard, when the problem is almost an entire world away, and so much larger than the usual problems I help solve – things like finding library books, making supper, or knitting the perfect toque (pink, with earflaps, in case you wondered).
Syria is frankly an awful mess, with a violent civil war ongoing. There are over two million registered refugees, and about eighty five thousand that are awaiting registration. Since June 2012, that’s “2,210,712 people of concern”, to use the numbers and phrasing of the UNHCR (United Nations Refugee Agency), current as of November 6, 2013. Imagine twice the current population of Calgary; imagine them leaving their homes and fleeing to try and find safety for their families. These people have gone to Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, and Iraq. About a quarter are in Turkey.
As a very rough number, half those people are under age eighteen. Forty percent are under the age of twelve. That’s over a million children, homeless in refugee camps. And winter arrives in Turkey***, a bit milder than it does here, but still with snow in most places. To be honest, I started trying not to think about Syria. About the people that I might have known, that may have fled – or worse yet, stayed in place in the middle of the war.
I can’t tell you how overwhelmed I was to stumble across Dianne Jones, and the charity she has organized, LILY – Love In the Language of Yarn. Dianne is a Brit living in Turkey, and LILY is very small and completely non-profit with no paid employees. She is collecting knit or crochet blanket squares that are 8”x8” across, to sew into blankets for the Syrian children in refugee camps. She also collates other things – she recently posted that they took their first delivery of Winter 2013 to the camps. It included “150 full size blankets, 100 baby blankets, 495 sweaters/cardigans, 2,000 hats, 1,890 pairs socks, 271 pairs baby socks/booties, 138 scarves, cowls etc, 152 pairs gloves/mittens, 115 baby vests, 125 packs baby wipes, 2,000 bandages (various), 36 packs women’s hygiene products, 52 packets pain killers and 50 packs baby formula”. LILY celebrated its first birthday in March 2013 and Dianne reported “they received 270,982 squares and sent out 5,964 blankets, along with baby layettes, gloves, hats, etc.”
I contacted her and asked her a couple questions, wanting to make sure that it wasn’t just a scam of some kind. She graciously replied, and I recently completed my first parcel and sent it off. It should be there in another week or so. Dianne always posts on the Facebook page when items arrive, so just like when my step-mom calls me to let me know a package arrived, I’ll know that the blankets are one step closer to keeping someone warm.
I’m continuing to work on things to send to her – mailing is expensive, but I don’t think I can put a price on feeling like I’m actually helping. My first parcel cost around $35 to mail; parcels need to be less than 2 kilgrams – that’s 4.4 pounds – and marked “Knitting for Charity – No Commercial Value”. That size of parcel costs less to ship AND doesn’t have the same kind of customs issues.
Her mailing address is:
‘LILY’ c/o Dianne Jones,
Yildrim Apart 11/2
I’m very lucky to be able to afford to spend some of my time and money on this project, helping to keep children and their families warm. If you’d like to help, but are loathe to commit to mailing costs, please email me and I’ll cover shipping costs for as long as I can.
If you’re not certain about a small charity, another great option is donating to MSF – Doctors Without Borders. They are a registered charity, and will provide tax receipts to you while they provide medical aid around the world. MSF is one of the world’s leading independent international medical relief organizations, working in around 80 countries worldwide and with operational centres and national offices in 19 countries. Website is http://www.msf.ca/ ; 1 800 982 7903.
*MSF’s Syria webpage: http://www.msf.ca/campaigns/crisis-in-syria/ MSF in Syria is running six hospitals and much else; despite ongoing negotiations with Damascus, MSF has not yet been able to start any activities in government-controlled areas but has sent medical and non-medical supplies to those areas.
**UNHCR webpage: http://data.unhcr.org/syrianrefugees/regional.php
***Wikipedia page about Turkey’s climate: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_of_Turkey
*I tweaked a couple phrases to make this make more sense to non-members; this is the Gilli-hook Knitting Guild. Also, I’d offered to do some mailing for the Guild members, if they were interested in helping. Too tricky to organize unless you are here in Calgary…