The focus of my blog is nature, but i have a story i’d like to share about a remarkable outreach program stretching all the way from Arlington, Virginia to children ‘on the edge’, living in the sprawling, impoverished and densely populated townships here in the Southern Peninsula. South Africa has a shameful statistic, a staggering 3.7 million children are orphaned or affected through the HIV/Aids pandemic.
For the past few years i have volunteered in the setting up of a foster home in the nearby township of Masiphumelele. The project had a positive momentum from the start; an energy or synchronicity which inspired those involved. Members from the St Francis Anglican Church in Simon’s Town formed a trust, but what really drove it along was the partnering by St Peter’s Episcopal Church in Arlington, Virginia in the United States. In little over a year enough money was raised and the first “Home to Grow” family home was built and completed in Kanana Road. A suitable house mother was found and by October 2010 the first of the five children arrived, placed through the social welfare services.
The idea of the “Love Quilts” came about prior to a mission visit to South Africa by twenty-seven members representing the St Peter’s congregation. Their vision was to create a gift which could carry a meaningful message to each child as well as keep them comforted and warm. The children of the St Peter’s Sunday school were tasked to draw pictures denoting their interpretation of friendship and love and so the first six patchwork quilts carrying messages from American children to orphaned children in South Africa were assembled and sewn by the women of the parish. A seventh quilt was specially designed for the house mother in a traditional pioneers’ pattern of the Log Cabin to denote the symbolism of the bonds of the home. The response to the quilts was overwhelming and Gretchen Ginnerty the co-ordinator, on her return home was spurred on to expand the scope of the project. It took off with organisations such as schools, churches and scout troops participating. The project is also used as a teaching aid – American children learn about humanitarian aspects of compassion and giving. Further information can be found here at St Peter’s excellent website. Quilters and sewing groups throughout the States came forward to give of their time and expertise. In just over a year a further fifty magnificent quilts were ready and Gretchen along with her mother Roberta, daughter Micaela and her longstanding friend Lori arrived back in South Africa with the precious cargo.
Above are photographs of the quilts and the special squares created by the children which were on display at the Fish Hoek Civic Center over the weekend of the 12 -13 January. Those who viewed the quilts were treated to a visual feast, the rich colours and designs made for a most wonderful exhibition. The quilts incorporate twenty of the hand-drawn children’s squares which are placed in the heart of each block forming the pattern of the Log Cabin design.
The hand-over ceremonies are moving events, the community spirit along with the love and good wishes from America which are imbued in the making of the quilts are handed on. The quilts were distributed to thirty-six children from the “Home from Home” organisation in Masiphumelele, Oceanview and Vrygrond. Gretchen envisages that in eighteen months time they could be back with a possible further one hundred quilts. Each quilt is a unique work of art, but the thought, the design and the infinite care in which they are made sum up this most magnanimous gesture.
Further information on the “Home to Grow” project can be found at http://www.stfrancistrust.org