This project began after my husband traveled with Strategic Water Teams in 2013. This is an organization run by a man named Jim in O'Fallon Mo., that has been installing water purification systems and repairing hand pumps in Haiti for several years and has stepped up the effort since the earthquake in 2010. They work with a pastor in country, who does much of the leg work in organizing villages in need.
Along with that effort is a "sister organization" that is run by Jim's wife, Cindy, which lends support in the Tabarre area of Haiti, just outside Port au Prince. Their mission is in caring for an orphanage of 18 girls, presently, as well as a student sponsorship program to help local children stay in school. After meeting all of those involved while in country, my husband, I could see, was growing a fondness for Haiti and its people. The children, the pastor and his wife, the translators, those running the guest houses, they were all so grateful, so appreciative for anything and everything being done for them., I too, wanted to find a way to help.
I can't say that I have many "skills" in my set of skills, and I wasn't sure what I had to offer to the people of Haiti. My husband suggested that I knit or crochet some lightweight afghans for the girls at the orphanage. "It's HOT in Haiti" was my initial reaction. Yes, it is. However, the nights are chilly and in the 60s, "okay, I'd like something to cover up with as well", I guessed. And so it began, in July. You see, I had decided to travel to Haiti in October with Cindy to learn more about this country, more about the girls and the school and to possibly experience this newfound fondness that my husband had grown....
I quickly realized that creating 20-something afghans (one for the Pastor's daughter, one for the Pastor and his wife and extras for any new girls coming in) in a 3 month period would be an almost impossible task for me to undertake on my own (I do work full-time, outside the home). I reached out to my Wednesday Night Ladies bible study group and a few friends outside of the group and my mom (who was a HUGE help in this undertaking!). And quite a few ladies stepped right up! Even some that either hadn't yarned in years or even had any idea whatsoever on the "how-to"!....And so I asked for donations of yarn from everyone! I asked for volunteers to come, chose from the donations or buy their own yarn. I supllied an easy pattern or asked them to chose their own, based on their skill level. I, myself, have a preference for "Vanna's Choice", and although I wanted to make this an opportunity to do something good for the girls in Haiti, I didn't want it to cost a lot of money for my volunteers.
In my mind, I also wanted to re-light a flame for the hobby for those that haven't yarned in years...and maybe even teach a new skill to others new to the art! And it worked just like that! I asked my mom to assist me in teaching/refreshing skills to those wanting to learn.
We opened up a room at the church for about 4-5 weeks. In that time, we taught 3 ladies beginner crochet--2 of them finished an afghan for the project--1 of them went on to make three! We refreshed a few other ladies skills and they, too, donated their afghans! We even had two ladies that were brand new to our church (I had met them just ONCE!) jump right in and said that they would be glad to create and donate! One woman has a friend in Canada(!) that learned of the project and even she created and mailed hers to me (all the while that her grandson is suffering from an aggressive form of cancer). I had two ladies at work ask to be involved and one of the women's grandma donated one as well! An older friend of ours had three afghans created by her now-deceased mother and wanted them to go to a good home! Even my Granny, who has been an inspiration in my own desire to learn to use yarn as an art, donated some blankets herself! We've seen renewed interest in the art--I've been asked to teach another friend to crochet (when she wasn't on a time crunch to get the project completed!). I've also been asked about Haiti and have seen interest peaked in the country's well-being as well as asking how they can "do more" in terms of supporting them. We've had several school sponsorships come from our efforts as well as a successful food, clothing and toiletries drive. We've even raised some cash to be donated to the organizations as well.
Meanwhile, this afghan project was really coming together. I couldn't believe it! But all the while, the "stress" of being sure it was all going to get done, making sure we had enough yarn for everyone, etc., kept "getting in the way" of the original focus. My mom prayerfully summed it up perfectly....We were knitting these blankets together, just as God had knit US together, in love. We were to be praying over the girl that would soon be receiving our gift, praying for her future, for her happiness, for her to know that although we are a world away, we care about her, we care about her happiness and her heart, just as God cares for us.
With God's help in giving me courage to tackle this project, to reach out to others for help, together we created and donated 28 afghans! I brought them in totes, shrunk down with the help of (also donated) vacuum seal bags (wow! what an incredible invention they are!). They were given to pastor and his wife to hold for Christmas with the message that we prayed about above, that they were knitted together in love specially for each girl.
On December 28th, I received an email with one picture showing the girls just after they opened their Christmas surprises!! I couldn't have been more grateful to see their happy faces!
My mom and I are currently brainstorming for the next project ideas for Haiti, as I too, have now fallen for the people of Haiti and the mission that Joy in Haiti has to offer. My husband and with both be returning this year, possibly even twice! We no longer see "regular" vacations in our future. We see Haiti in our future. And several ladies who created blankets are praying about possibly missioning with us in the future.
With God's help, both organizations will continue to bring Haiti clean water, continued education, God's Word and moments of happiness. And I will be always grateful for those who lent a hand (two hands!) in our original afghan project.
Thank you, Lion Brand, for the patterns, for the yarn, for the instructional videos and for this opportunity to tell our story!