MACUNGIE, Pennsylvania — Poverty is much more than a lack of material possessions, yet the act of donating handmade items can make a significant difference in a person’s life, significantly benefitting children in particular. In 2020, the World Bank Group and UNICEF reported a finding from a pre-pandemic study indicating that one out of every six children were living in extreme poverty. Young children in the developing world are particularly affected, with 20% of children under the age of 5 living in extreme poverty.
Crafting for a Cause
The World Bank and UNICEF state that “the ongoing COVID-19 crisis will continue to disproportionately impact children, women and girls,” meaning international aid and donations are more important than ever. One way that people can help is by donating handmade items to various groups that distribute the crafts to children living in poverty around the globe. There are many organizations where an individual can volunteer their crafting skills, including Knit for Kids, Days for Girls, Little Dresses for Africa and ICROSS Canada.
Knit for Kids
Guideposts magazine started Knit for Kids in 1996 as a way for readers to donate handmade items they had knitted or crocheted to children in need. In 2009, Guideposts handed Knit for Kids over to World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization that works to improve the lives of children living in poverty worldwide.
Knit for Kids collects donated items at its headquarters in Sewickley, Pennsylvania. It currently accepts knitted or crocheted hats, sweaters, blankets and similar items for babies and children. Knit for Kids offers free patterns online, or alternatively, creators can use their own patterns. Knit for Kids is also looking for volunteers to sew and donate masks amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2019, Knit for Kids delivered 128,429 handmade items to children living in poverty. The organization ships donations all over the world, to countries including but not limited to Guatemala, Nicaragua, Haiti, Burundi, Mali, Lesotho and Afghanistan.
Days for Girls
Days for Girls is an organization dedicated to fighting period poverty, “a term used to describe the struggle that many women and girls face because they lack access to adequate menstrual health management supplies and education.” Days for Girls estimates that more than 500 million girls and women miss out on multiple days of education and/or work each month because they do not have access to proper menstrual health supplies. Many also suffer from ill-health effects as a result of improper period hygiene.
Days for Girls came up with a solution to the lack of menstrual health supplies with the Days for Girls pad, an item that has gone through years of tweaking and perfecting according to user feedback. These “pads contain two absorbent liners and one waterproof shield.” Volunteers make each pad from bright-colored fabric that requires little water to wash and lasts several years. Ambassadors then distribute these pads as part of the Days for Girls Kit, which comes with a pad, underwear, soap, a washcloth, instructions for use and a pouch to hold all the items.
In 2019, Days for Girls distributed 362,508 kits and impacted 1.7 million people in 144 different nations. To volunteer skills, individuals can join a local Days for Girls chapter and participate in sewing Days for Girls pads.
Little Dresses for Africa
Another organization that benefits from donating handmade items is Little Dresses for Africa, a Christian nonprofit that aims to improve living conditions for children in Africa. Little Dresses for Africa accepts handmade dresses from volunteers and delivers them to children in Africa. It is still accepting donations during the pandemic, with dresses shipped out every week. Along with the dresses, ambassadors from Little Dresses for Africa aim to make a difference through “clean water, education and community.”
ICROSS Canada is a charity that began in 1998 and has since garnered “millions of dollars worth of medical supplies” to ship to high poverty areas around the world. Along with these much-needed medical supplies, ICROSS Canada has also donated handmade items in the form of IZZY comfort dolls.
The name for IZZY dolls comes from Master Corporal Mark Isfeld, a soldier in the Canadian army who died in 1994 while serving overseas. His mother had knitted him a number of comfort dolls to give to children in areas he visited during his tour of duty. After his death, she shared her pattern with ICROSS. Now, thousands of volunteers across Canada knit these dolls and give them to children in poverty-stricken areas.
IZZY dolls aim to “comfort children in crisis.” In addition, for many children who receive them, the dolls are the only unique item they own. By providing every child in an area with a doll, ICROSS ensures that every child has “something to call their own.”
The impacts of these organizations show the difference that can be made by an ordinary individual donating handmade items.
– Julia Welp