Knitting Towards A More Peaceful Afghanistan

Saturday, December 01, 2007

More than five years after the overthrow of the Taliban, Afghanistan is still one of the poorest countries in the world. Rebuilding a nation ravaged by three decades of conflict is slow work. In this ABC7 Salutes, we meet Bay Area volunteers trying to make sure the Afghan people know they are not forgotten.

War-torn Afghanistan is half a world away from this San Francisco basement. But these women are trying to bridge that distance, one stitch at a time.

Ann Rubin: "Knitters have traditionally always responded to crisis and war by knitting for refugees and for soldiers. It's a long tradition."

This knitting project is called "Afghans for Afghans." It began in 2001, after American troops entered Afghanistan.

The American Friends Service Committee in San Francisco decided to send a container of relief supplies. Ann Rubin thought it would be nice to include some hand knit items so she put out the word at a Bay Area knitting convention.

Carol Mckenzie, Vallejo: "When she told me what was happening, I just went home and started knitting, and I just have kept knitting and I've done 40 ... I don't know 50, 60, who knows ... sweaters."

A lot of other people started knitting for Afghanistan too. Word spread, and more than five years after Ann started the project, packages full of hand knit goods still pour in from all over the world. Every few weeks volunteers gather to open and sort them.

Megan Jones-Smith: "It's amazing to see what people have knit, just from the quality to the imagination to the different kinds of yarns, and it's beautiful, beautiful gifts of knitting and crocheting."

Many come with notes.

Note: "I can't tell you how much pleasure it gives me to knit these garments, all the while thinking about a child I'll never meet wearing them."

This one came from a U.S. Army reserve soldier stationed in Iraq.

Note: "I hope you find a good home for this blanket. It was made with love from one war-torn country to another."

All these hats were made by male prisoners at a federal medical center in Minnesota. This blanket came from a middle school in Illinois. Afghans for Afghans has now sent almost 50,000 knit items to Afghanistan. The biggest challenge is getting them there.

Ann Rubin: "We partner with reliable relief groups that we research and that can guarantee transit."

One of those groups is "Afghans for Tomorrow." Marsha Maccoll of Greenbrae is a vice president. She just returned from Afghanistan where she taught at a local school and delivered 500 pairs of hand-knit socks.

Marsha Maccoll: "The children were just thrilled with their socks. They were very excited and I got to see them wearing the socks the next day in class."

Afghans for Tomorrow just finished building a new women's health clinic. Now knitters are being asked to work on supplies for the new babies that will be born there.

Ann Rubin: "Keeping a baby warm with a blanket or hat is one of the easiest ways that we can try to improve the quality of life at the beginning."

Afghanistan is extremely cold during the winter months. The need for warm clothing is huge. Afghans for Afghans only sends high quality items made of real wool and they that hope sending handmade items will show the Afghan people many Americans really care.

Carol Mckenzie, Vallejo: "When we see the pictures coming back from there and you see the kids and the smiles on their faces, you just want to go home and knit some more."

And so ABC7 Salutes the volunteers of Afghans for Afghans.

How To Help

  • To make a cash donation to afghans for Afghans or get guidelines about sending hand knit items:
  • To find out more about Afghans 4 Tomorrow, another organization working to help Afghanistan:
  • To find out more about American Friends Service Committee which is assisting and donating space to the afghans for Afghans project:

    Written and produced by Jennifer Olney.

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