Coffee, caring and the powerful therapy of knitting

Bens Buenos Aires children

The children in Ben Whitaker’s ‘Food for Thought’ program wearing the hats made by the knitters of Robe in Australia.

The therapy of knitting

Isn’t it amazing how an unexpected call can result in a chain of connections, coincidences and good turns.  Although, perhaps this is the real human condition at work— creativity, responsiveness, connectivity and a willingness to act.

Wendy Leopold, knitter and parachutist!

Wendy Leopold, knitter and parachutist!

This call was from Wendy Leopold.  She lives in the small town of Robe, South Australia.

Wendy and a group of other knitters started to knit together two and a half years ago.

They meet every Wednesday afternoon at Mahalia’s Coffee House.  The namesake of Mahalia’s is Mahalia Layzell –  a passionate, aficionado of some of the finest, award winning roasted coffee in Australia.

What a wonderful place to knit among the mouth-watering aroma’s of freshly roasted coffee.

Wendy learned to knit because she had arthritis in her hands, although that’s not stopped her  adventurous soul.  How many women do you know who have done a parachute jump on their 70th birthday?  There’s a challenge for you all!

Wendy discovered that the therapy of knitting not only kept her hands supple but was calming, almost mediative.

It doesn’t take much research online to find out that knitting is now proven to have significant therapeutic benefits—a reduction in the stress hormone cortisol, coping with health crises, quitting smoking, reduced memory loss in the aged and increased cognitive health.

Wendy found while looking for a place they could send the results of their crafting. They had at that stage made more than 30 hats.

She explained that when the group knits with love for children who need their help, in addition to the other benefits of knitting, this was a hundred percent bonus.

Coffee connections


Ben Whitaker, collecting the hats for his kids in Buenos Aires

Coincidentally, not long after the hats arrived, Ben Whitaker came to visit.

Ben is the founder of Social Opportunities Group, owner of The Final Step cafe in Melbourne and another coffee aficionado.  His taste for great coffee originated in New Zealand where he was born, when his parents converted an old court house to a cafe.

Beyond a love of coffee, Ben has always had a keen social conscience.   As a music teacher he knows that all kids, no matter where they came from, are ‘naturally imaginative, honest, eager to learn and confident.’  He’d experienced the difference first hand when he taught in a low income area in London and was part of a nourishing breakfast club.

It was there that his idea to make a difference was born, Food for Thought.

Today Ben works in Buenos Aires with 30 underprivileged children and their siblings, providing nutritious food and creative educational activities in the impoverished community of Monte Chingolo.

More than that, they’re looking to create the correct recipe for sustainable social change, based on health and nutrition, education, using arts as a medium, social inclusion and ecology and the environment.

The Final Step and those obliging patrons who drink its delicious coffee are making it possible for Ben and his team to run the project and in part to build a new kitchen which will hugely improve their impact within the community.  Although they still require funds to complete the project.  You can follow their progress on their Facebook page. 

When it is done, they’ll be able to provide cooking and nutrition workshops for children and their families and increase their capacity to feed and educate more than the 30 children they currently work with.

Back to the knitting 

Even though Buenos Aires is sub tropical, like a lot of places in Africa it gets cold in winter.  I asked Ben if he would be able to get the 30 hats to his 30 children.

Now, these lovingly crafted gifts from our coffee loving knitters in Australia passed on to a coffee loving, caring New Zealander, adorn and warm the heads of these 30 children in Buenos Aires.

A wonderful circuit of creativity, care and responsiveness.  And proof that every act of kindness, no matter how small can enrich the lives of everyone involved.  Multiply these acts by millions and we, at CreateCare Global, believe we’re all uplifted by the human spirit that sits behind our acts of charity.

Ben is now investigating the logistics of getting squares to the families to make blankets.   We’ll keep you posted on our CreateCare Global Facebook Page.