Monday, 22 June 2015

Maks a MUCKLE!

When I started this journey with Operation Orphan little did I know where it would lead! A couple of years ago while on holiday I got the chance to go to a Loving Hands (Crafting for Charity) meeting near Nottingham, where Cyrilyn Moore was a guest. She had come to tell us more about her charity and take away donations of handmade items we had brought – mine all the way from Shetland included the first blanket I had made for charity having only made smaller things up to then. Since that lovely afternoon I have regularly sent boxes of hats, gloves, scarves and blankets to Operation Orphan, made by myself, friends, family and complete strangers who leave items for me to pass on in one of the collection points we have around Shetland.

Last year I contemplated applying for one of their expeditions but missed out – she who hesitates … Then at the end of the year I got my 25 year bonus from Shetland Islands Council and decided it was going to be spent on going with Operation Orphan to Moldova in 2015 if they would have me – they said yes!

I started fundraising for the charity as part of my commitment to the trip. Friends generously donated online and I started a crochet-a-long blanket called Sophie’s Universe that was destined to be 6 feet across when finished for which I am selling raffle tickets. Sophie is now finished and so far the blanket raffle alone has raised over £400 with my fundraising total at over £700 including the money raised in an Easter Egg Raffle at Ollaberry School where I work.

When Operation Orphan started advertising for people to hold collections of winter clothing for distribution to Moldova, Ukraine and Nepal I wondered what we, here in Shetland, could do. The cost of transporting large quantities of goods from here is prohibitive as everything goes by sea. Only recently have we been able to take advantage of using Collectplus to send up to 10kg for £8.65 via Tagon Stores and the chances were if we started collecting it would take a lot of 10kg parcels!

 I mentioned this problem to a member of the local Rotary Club and he suggested I write to the club and ask if they could help in any way. The result was a cheque for £250! Thus armed, I decided to go for it and launched a Shetland wide appeal for warm winter clothing using BBC Radio Shetland, online Shetland News, the Shetland Times  newspaper – and lots of Facebook groups. A local transport firm, JBT, came onboard and offered to help deliver donations to Nottingham. We were set to go!

Then the donations started to trickle in along with the offers of help with being collection points. While I shouldn’t be surprised, because Shetland residents have a long history of generosity, I am amazed at the quantity of stuff that has since come FLOODING in. I have filled boxes of hats, gloves, scarves and blankets as well as jackets in all shapes and sizes and more shoes and boots than a centipede would know what to do with! So much lovely stuff and so many kind people: from pensioners knitting blanket squares to the children helping to sew them together into blankets, shops donating stock and packing boxes, folk clearing out their cupboards to folk going around the charity shops to buy things to donate, saying this way two charities benefit! I take my hat off to the lot of you – in fact I think I may have packed it!

The donations have come in from all over Shetland, from Unst  - the most northerly inhabited island in the UK – to Fair Isle, 50 miles to the south of the mainland of Shetland.  They have travelled in cars, vans, pick-ups, buses and ferries to be packed in our garage in Voe. We have had socks knitted by a 93 year old lady and a child of 4 helping to sew blanket squares together. It has been a true community effort.

The total number of boxes being delivered to Nottingham is 109, piled high on 4 pallets with many, many thanks to JBT who are doing this for FREE and to Shetland Rotary for their support which started the ball rolling.

Myself and Tony at JBT with the first 84 boxes, another 24 were packed after this.

I would like to thank EACH AND EVERY PERSON who has been involved, whether individually, as part of a group, school, care centre or business. Whether you have donated one hat or a bag full of coats or more, acted as a collection point or helped ferry donations around . Drivers, collectors, stitchers, donators, packers - Shetland, you should be proud – there are going to be a lot of children very grateful for what we are sending them to help them through this winter. EVERY donation will help a child.

At the end of October, I will be privileged to see the process through to the end in Moldova as part of the distribution trip. Some of the items donated from Shetland will no doubt be among those we give out – and some will go to Nepal and Ukraine. I will be taking photos that I will share when I get back, doubtless with a story to tell of how these items really will make a difference.

Thank you.


Sunday, 7 June 2015

Many a mickle ....

OK, I'm really bad at this blog thing - I started it with good intentions and then joined Facebook! However, this post is going to be easier as a blog post because I want to include several links and photographs in it.

I am currently collecting children's winter clothing for Operation Orphan, they are going to distribute it in Moldova, Ukraine and Nepal. I am going on the Moldova trip in October as a volunteer to help with fitting children to clothing that will see them through the really low temperatures they endure in the winter.

I have been called 'amazing' and 'inspirational' for this. I am not. I am someone who had an idea that Shetland could get involved in this project and started the ball rolling. What is AMAZING is:

  • Just over half way into the appeal, I have 27 boxes sorted and filled in my garage.
  • The 93 year old lady who knitted socks for the children.
  • The lady who went to the charity shops to buy donations as she didn't have any children's items to donate - 2 charities benefiting.
  • The huge number of people who have raked through their cupboards and donated lovely warm clothing for children they don't know and will never meet.
  • The generous people who are giving up space as collection points around Shetland.
  • The people who have rallied their communities from Unst to Fair Isle to help.
  • The donations of boxes.
  • The friends who have come to help pack (and my mum :) )
  • The box of nearly 200 (TWO HUNDRED!!) blanket squares knitted and donated to be made into blankets.
  • Each and every donation, no matter how big or small.
  • JBT - for storage and transportation.
  • The people who don't know me from Adam (well maybe Eve) who have contacted me to offer to help in lots of different ways.
  • Shetland Islanders! 

I have had several people say to me, "I'm sorry I could only manage ........" To them I would like to say, "The child who wears that one hat/ jumper/ scarf you knitted will appreciate the warmth, his or her mother will appreciate the time you took. They will not criticise you for only doing one, they will be grateful for it!" Each of us, in our own small way can do so much to help.

Several years ago I had severe anxiety and was off work for a time. I don't do sitting around and found it hard to do nothing. I found Loving Hands , a group of crafters who make for others around the world. The forum is where I found friends and the charities were an outlet for my creative side when I could crochet - or even knit. There are many on there who have found that making for others helps us as much as the recipients of our work, my own mother now numbers among them too. I learnt during that time not to sweat the little stuff - worrying doesn't change anything, but I can. One day at a time.

Every little we can do to help another person is enough for that person. If you can make one, two or ten blanket squares - joined with others they will make a blanket. If you can make a hat and someone else can make a scarf and another makes or donates some gloves, a child is warm for the winter. It is what we do together that makes the biggest difference. If you can't craft but would liek to help, here are some links that will take you to some charities doing amazing work that will appreciate every penny you can send:

Operation Orphan EVERY penny you send them gets spent on the children as their running costs are underwritten and do not come out of donations. They work in the UK, Africa, Eastern Europe and with Syrian refugees in Jordan and have now added Nepal to their list.

LILY - Love in the Language of Yarn An ex-pat Brit living in Turkey, Dianne is wonder woman made real! She works tirelessly for the Syrian refugees living in Turkish refugee camps and for the Syrians in dire situations in their own country. What started as an appeal for blanket squares has spread - she now supplies food, education supplies, nappies and baby milk, flour for a bakery in Syria, water purifying equipment for Syrian villages who are facing a summer of contaminated water, oh - and blankets - lots and lots of blankets!

Pennies can make a difference, I work at a small school - Ollaberry Primary - and last week we had a change appeal. Lots of coins - about 2/3 of a washing up bowl. Pennies, twos, fives, tens, twenties, fifties, pounds and two pound coins - decreasing in number as they increased in value. We made a picture from them for Operation Orphan's Nepal Appeal:

There were a LOT of pennies - I counted them all into £1 bags. The total raised was £401.59, those pennies working together are going to make a big difference.

I've rambled here a lot but I wanted to make the point that no-one should see people in need and say "I can't help!" or "I can only do a little so what's the point?" Every one of us can make a difference whether it's making something, donating money or a kind word to someone in distress. It is never too little!

Many a mickle maks a very big muckle!