Nothing we can do about a problem so large

by sandy on May 27, 2010

Oh but there is!

My challenge today. To impress on a large audience of 15 – 16 year old girls the immensity of the AIDS orphan issue in South Africa without losing them to despair. To compel them to understand, to feel compassion, to want to act.

To want to do something to make a difference.

It was a large Catholic Girls’ school hall, filled with the noisy hub-bub of chatting girls, about 150 of them. Teachers and the women from the local Catholic Country Womens’ Association dotted the room and herded the girls into position.

The meaning of the morning’s activities were succinctly and beautifully proposed to the girls before hand, preparing the way for my presentation.

It is a fine balance when you are describing immense pain and suffering and the scale of the issue, to not make the problem seem totally irresolvable. But the girls listened intently.

I asked them to imagine what being an orphan was like – a confronting request. And explained that in Africa, it was not just being an orphan, but most likely having lost your entire family and support network as well.

I explained the numbers. What does 1.4 million really mean. 23,333 buses full. How many is 500 children being orphaned a day? Four times the girls in the room at the time.

And then I asked them if they could make a difference.

I told them they were already making a difference by being there and listening. I asked them to tell their friends and family, as they now knew more then most people know.

Consider yourself part of a growing global community who want this to change, I suggested. Join the voices.

And learn to knit. All the while, a row of volunteer CWA women sat and clicked their needles. A gentle sound in the background to accompany my words.

Finally, I told them the story of the three month old baby girl, in the creche in Soweto, who had tried so bravely to smile when I stroked her hand. And I said it was for her that we needed to act. Her and the millions like her.

As my presentation ended, the girls were rearranged into groups. Knitting needles, wool and kindly older women were everywhere and learning to knit began in earnest. After a short while, the sound of “miss, miss I don’t know what I have done? or, can you help me? or, what do I do next?” died away and was replaced by the click clacking of needles and the laughter of young girls.

Afterwards, the school had prepared a litany in which a map of Africa and all of it’s countries was placed on the ground. They held a role play in which 35 squares were collected from 35 children and a prepared blanket was placed on a lone figure in the middle. Then the girls were asked to place flags on the countries of Africa, praying for justice and peace in all.

All the while, the girls sat and knitted. And connected. And made a difference.

Get your school involved.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Andrea Palmatier May 27, 2010 at 15:58

Oh Sandy, I have tears in my eyes. What a difference you have just made in those girls’ lives, as well as the children we all knit and crochet for. You are a saint! :o )

Annette McKernan May 27, 2010 at 22:53

My daughter was one of those girls Sandy and you touched her heart. She proudly showed me the start of her knitting and was eager to continue. She described how she too had tears in her eyes from your presentation and how inspired she felt to help. Already she has passed it on to her 3 sisters and I heard her telling her basketball team who listened intently. A flow on was the time she spent with the older women of our community learning a new skill of a lost art, and she has already organised Nana to help her to cast off or when she gets stuck with her knitting project.
Thank-you and Bless you. Annette

Libby O'Meara May 27, 2010 at 23:14

As a teacher at the above school, it is great to see the girls learning a new skill and getting involved in helping others at the same time. Even when I was on yard duty yesterday there were girls knitting at lunchtime.
Keep up the great work and God bless you, Sandy.

educational grants May 27, 2010 at 23:20

nice post. thanks.

Jana May 28, 2010 at 06:47

You do a good job of passing the word and promise of hope! :)

Rona Malewit May 28, 2010 at 16:54

Sandy, what an awesome job you’ve done! Just imagine how many squares those young ladies will make, and spreading the word — it’s just amazing. Thank you for detailing your presentation — could we video record your next one, and post it on the KAS website? I know it would be so inspiring!

Thank you for all that you do every day for the children, and knowing that you are out there working tirelessly for them keeps us all energized and determined to make just one more square before we put down our needles for the day. Know that we are behind you, 1,000%!!!!


Dawne Smith-Sliming May 30, 2010 at 22:59

You obviously did a fantastic job presenting to a large group of people! Bravo. And kudos to the school and it’s support of KAS; they are clearly behind the work and the cause.


sandy May 31, 2010 at 03:27

Thank you for your encouraging comments and feedback. I am greatly touched Annette that your daughter was so moved. And it is motivating too to have such support. Bless you all.

Zanny May 31, 2010 at 03:52

What a morning that would have been Sands, really sorry I was not there to witness another successful KAS presentation. So encouraging and bless all those students who are so busily knitting those needed squares right now.

Bridget B May 31, 2010 at 06:58

Hi Sandy,
As one of the girls in the above blog, I have to say that the day was so enjoyable and such an eye opener. Thank you so much for your very moving presentation and I have already told so many people about the amazing things you are doing. Thank you for coming and teaching us all about KAS. Good Luck!! :)
Love Bridget

bridget verwey May 31, 2010 at 07:37

how inspiring…..I would love to get our year 7s involved down at Rosebud SC

Jeanne Haessler June 24, 2010 at 17:39

Only just saw this now after reading up on the JKK and Nelson Mandela Day…I must say this is so VERY heartwarming. Bless you Sandy for putting any “nerves” aside and standing up there for the kids and telling their stories. This whole experience proves people have such GOOD hearts and they truly care about one another. What a beautiful, beautiful story…thanks so much for sharing it!

Jeanne :)

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