We are bombarded with disturbing and deeply sad stories about a staggering number of suffering children everywhere, none more so than in South Africa and Zimbabwe.
I’m Sandy McDonald, founder and CEO of CreateCare Global, and co-founder of the program Knit-a-square.
My family and I were born in Zimbabwe, or Rhodesia as it was at the time. My memories are of a beautiful and mysterious land, full of vibrant colour in glorious sweeping landscapes.
The sadness that is Zimbabwe today
Today, the sweeping landscapes remain, but for the people of Zimbabwe who have endured wholesale government corruption over many decades, life is harsh. Ravaged by disease, a lack of food and employment, their lives are a matter of grim survival, especially for the children.
From afar, knowing what can be done to help is troubling. While many donate generously to not-for-profits who provide services in these countries, you can be dissuaded from donating further by stories of money not reaching the intended recipients.
The smaller, grassroots organisations on the ground are hard to find and to contact. Even when you do find them, it’s not guaranteed that what you send will arrive safely.
How do you choose who to help?
Your ability to directly impact on one suffering child is almost impossible, unless you actually live in the country where so many children suffer so greatly. Even then, it is a matter of choosing – which one deserves attention over another?
It is often painful work. My aunt and co-founder of Knit-a-square, Ronda Lowrie and her team of amazing volunteers, have wrapped thousands and thousands of greatly disadvantaged children with beautiful and lovingly made blankets. Each blanket has been sewn from squares sent by thousands of knitters from around the world.
She has written much of the devastation and suffering of these children, and how utterly heartbreaking it is to witness. She also writes about how in a bleak and sometimes hopeless world, the children’s carers are buoyed and feel hope, when their small charges are wrapped in warmth with messages of love from around the globe.
Why Knit-a-square works so well
This is what has made Knit-a-square such a successful program. The caring crafters know that every square they send will be made into a blanket and reach the children for whom it was made.
CreateCare Global’s charter is to facilitate help for suffering children wherever they are. We have been investigating widely to find organisations where we can ensure the same level of trust as we have been so grateful for in Ronda, her team and their work.
We also wanted to find work to make a difference that was as accessible to individuals or groups, especially school children, in the same way that knitting a square is for anybody who is game to pick up a needle or crochet hook.
It is in partnership that we can make a collective difference to the lives of suffering children
So, we were delighted to be introduced to ZANE (Zimbabwe, A National Emergency). ZANE was set up initially in response to the dreadful circumstances many Zimbabwean pensioners were placed in when their life’s savings were wiped out overnight in 2008.
Now their mandate extends to also supporting groups of suffering children. They are involved in several projects, all of which are worthy of support from our community.
We are introducing one of their programs, the Clubfoot Correction Program into our CreateCare Kids program. We believe too that church and other community groups can get involved, and by assisting a child to walk will make a massive difference in his or her life.
These loyal and committed people work tirelessly in Zimbabwe to ensure that every cent that is donated goes directly towards the blessing of mobility for a child.
There are 14,000 untreated cases of Clubfoot in Zimbabwe and an estimated 500 babies born every year with the condition.
Clubfoot is an inward pronation of the feet. It is painful for the newborn, but even more so as the child grows and attempts to walk which is mostly impossible. Neglected, Clubfoot leaves children stigmatised and unable to attend school, exposing them to a lifetime of loneliness and poverty.
Dr Ignacio Ponseti developed a method for treating Clubfoot nearly 60 years ago, which is now the international standard of best practice and endorsed by all major paediatric orthopaedic associations worldwide.
The treatment consists of a using a series of casts, gentle manipulation and a special brace. In infants the method takes about 4-6 weeks.
The cost of one of these treatments is US$350. This is do-able!
How you can help
In our school’s program CreateCare kids, we suggest all sorts of challenges to raise the money – running distances, egg and spoon races for the younger ones, bake-a-thons, and knit-a-thons (as an added bonus, the squares can go to Knit-a-square South Africa). These efforts will make sure one child who would not be able to walk, will walk and can have a future.
For our global friends, we want to invite you to raise the US$350 to help a child walk, through your communities and then to send us photos and the story of how you did it to inspire others.
We will publish them and in return we will receive photos of the child whose feet were corrected as a result of your work.
What has been so encouraging in talking with Nikki Passaportis who works for ZANE Australia, herself a Zimbabwean and recent immigrant to Australia, is that money raised for these projects can be shown to deliver exactly what was intended by the donation.
So far, ZANE along with their partners has continued to fund the Club Foot correction program, and consequently 2,110 children are currently in the Clubfoot program and 149 medical staff have been trained with eleven centres of remedial treatment established in Zimbabwe.
We believe this is a wonderful project to be involved in. There are 14,000 children we need to help and another 500 yet to be born this year alone. That is a lot of children who might walk because you have decided to adopt this project.