Get Out Your Knitting Needles!

Afghani refugees studying in Pakistan– photo courtesy of Central Asia Institute

A dream and vision has lodged in my heart and it will not go away. I want to adopt one of the schools Greg Mortensen has set up in Pakistan and rally the hearts and hands of readers to make scarves for at least one classroom of girls to help them stay warm through the winter. I realize that bureaucracies and distances being what they are that it might be next winter when this dream is finally realized, but it’s my commitment to see it through. Toward this end I called the Central Asia Institute in Montana and they are unable to assist me with this endeavor as they have learned through experience (and I hear this) they must stay focused on the building and maintaining of schools. I support that. Can you imagine what that alone must take? What this has uncovered, however, is reflected in the next statement from Greg’s lovely assistant. “We get calls like this all the time, of people wanting to help, and we simply have to turn them away.” Ouch. So parallel with the Scarf Initiative is a need to find some solid leads where those wanting to help can plug in and make a difference. I’m working on that.

So I googled the Consulate of Pakistan. There was an office in Los Angeles, so I called there, and spoke at some length with a very nice gentleman named Ahsan Wagan, who has promised to help me find a safe delivery system for scarves. He has assured me (and I will doublecheck) that mail does arrive in Skardu, where Greg’s Gultori Girls Refugee School is located (for example). Here is his follow up note to me:

Dear Ms Kathryn,
It was pleasure talking to you today. I am delighted that you are thinking of doing some thing for the girls up in the mountains. I will certainly work with you to finalize it.
Best regards
Ahsan Wagan

I wrote back asking if he could also help me find some reliable NGO’s where folks calling Greg’s office might offer their assistance. I have promised the Central Asia Institute to pass along any information I get, and they seemed quite grateful for this assistance.

I fully realize there are more “practical” avenues I might follow. Even Mr. Wagan asked if it might not just be simpler to adopt one of Greg’s schools, raise funds and follow the education of a child or two. Yes. Money helps, and I know there are those out there who would far rather simply write a cheque and let someone else carry out the endeavor. I’ve done it myself. Last year I helped sponsored a little girl who needed funding to go to a private school in Nepal. Three minutes later it was done. I got a photo back. Sweet.

little Gita in Kathmandu, Nepal

But this is not the same.

Maybe the new dream was kindled by watching the vids of Oprah’s staff giving hordes of orphaned children in Africa a single pair of jeans and a pair of sneakers and a backpack. Probably so. Oh, the joy! Maybe it was reading in Three Cups of Tea that for many of the children the new uniforms with which they were provided were the first new clothes they had ever received. Can you imagine? Some of you can. Or maybe not. I personally had times in my childhood when the best of clothes adorned my closet and other times when the clothes I wore to school were largely second hand. They are different, important experiences, to know abundance and to know not so abundant. It offers up perspective, and, more importantly, compassion.

One other thing really struck me in reading Greg’s book. It is pointed out to him in Pakistan that it is popular in America to support children of, say, Tibet. Or Africa. It is not so popular to support Muslim children. It is no stretch to understand why this would be so. And I recognize that reticence in myself. I do. And I am staring that in the face, in the mirror, and I am breaking my own internal glass ceiling. I am going to help Muslim girls, future mothers of sons, however small a gift it might seem. It will be made by my own hands, and the hands of women who hearken to this request. And it will be made with love, for them, the clearly disadvantaged. And it’s a stretch for me. Calling the Pakistani Consultate was a stretch for me. (Will I now be on some weird list?) I mean really!

Anyone who has ever traveled outside America understands that when you meet ONE person from another country you have never visited, that person becomes the representative, the ambassador, the impression of that country for you. Oh, yes, “I know someone from Sweden [fill in the blank]. He’s nice.” Greg is that one person for thousands of Pakistani people. Seriously. He has risked his life over and over again to help educate girls.

Greg at Gultori Girls Refugee School, Skardu, Pakistan–photo courtesy Central Asia institute

But why scarves? I personally adore clothes. I do. I’m a clothes horse and offer no apology. It’s part of my artistic temperament–design, cut, fabric, color. I’m a palette. Dress me. I also tend to dress other people (ask my daughter) and I give tons of clothes away to shelters, dress for success places, etc. I just do. I also know that personal things can matter. It depends on intention. My intention in this dream/endeavor, the Scarf Initiative, is to share myself, my wealth, my contacts, my heart, my skills with children less fortunate than I was as a child. They have been blessed with a rudimentary education from the Central Asia Institute. They have been blessed with the opportunity to be given an unbiased basic education that honors their culture and traditions. I want to bless them with beautiful, colorful scarves, made by Western women (men welcome!) who cared enough about them to send them something warm and lovely to help them stave off the cold of Pakistani mountain winters, and to hold in their hands a personal handmade gift someone outside their culture sent them. I do.

What has heart and meaning equals joy. If you are inclined to join me, in knitting or crocheting scarves for the mountain children of Pakistan, would you please leave a comment below and I will email you back? I promise you that whatever scarves you knit or crochet and send to me I will get into the hands of Pakistani children!

Community school, Pakistan–photo courtesy of Central Asia Institute
Thank you so very much!

Love and blessings,
Kathryn xoxoo

UPDATE!: I have already heard from over three dozen folks who want to do this, some making multiple scarves and others asking friends to join! Please make scarves five feet long and one foot wide. Use colors and yarns that inspire you! Here are the woolen yarns I chose to use.

First scarf headed for Pakistani girls is finished! Here’s my little friend Perla modeling it for us!

I am currently taking a nose count on scarves. I have commitments for 24 scarves from 13 people. I’m waiting to hear back from another 15 people who said they would knit scares. (I need to know how many.) If they all make one we have 39 scarves! Gosh, if I made one more that would be 40. Much better number! Wow! Stunning response!

Alert! The President of the Alpine Club of Pakistan has now agreed to deliver the scarves to schoolgirls in a remote village in northern Pakistan which he and his staff have access to through their expeditions! More on this soon! xoxoxo

82 Responses to “Get Out Your Knitting Needles!”

  1. Hi,

    I am very interested in your project, and I would love to know how many scarves you ended up collecting, where they were sent, and whether you consider this a project that you would do again. I am considering doing something similar in my community, and would love to hear more about your thoughts in the “aftermath.” Also, any hints that you have on getting started would be much appreciated!!

  2. Good morning, Maria. Please see footnote above. Thanks for your query and best wishes! As for hints, I’d say, follow your passion, be persistent and consistent and visualize and pray a lot! 🙂 Kathryn xoxo

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