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

83 Responses to “Get Out Your Knitting Needles!”

  1. Question?

    Did I miss where to mail, and when?

  2. Good morning, Marjorie! Deadline November 1st. I will email you. Thanks so much for joining us! Kathryn xoxo

  3. Dear Kathryn: A friend of mine, Joanna gave me your web site information and thought that I might be interested in joining your group. I read Greg’s book and would love to contribute a few scarves from my dreamweaving collection. Where do I send them?
    Thank you,
    Jo Ann

  4. Oh, gosh, JoAnn, how kind. I am going to email you where to send scarves. Thank you so much!
    Kathryn xoxo

  5. Kathryn: My co-worker and I will each make a scarf to send to you for your collection. Please send me the address of where to send. We are happy to join you in your efforts.

  6. Dear Karen, I continue to be deeply touched by the outpouring of generous souls such as yourself and your co-worked. I will email you particulars. Thank you. Kathryn xox

  7. Kathryn: I’ll be happy to commit to making a scarf of bright colors for your collection. Thanks for monitoring a really great project!

  8. Welcome, Linda, and many many thanks for joining us! So appreciated! Kathryn xox

  9. Kathryn…I’ve lurked and smiled around your blog since you professed your love for your lovely new bamboo. So now I find myself coming out of hiding to thank you for sharing so much of yourself, and now allowing us to share as well. I would love to help with your wonderful scarf project!

  10. Welcome, Radiance, ex-lurker! ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you for coming forth and joining the continually unfolding Scarf Initiative! I will email you straightaway. And please watch for an upcoming post on exciting updates! THANK YOU! Kathryn xoxo

  11. Greetings!
    My mother is 88 years old and legally blind, so there are few things she can do to help others. She has been knitting afghans for veterans, but the size of the finished product prevents her from working on them as much as she would like to. The scarf initiative is a perfect idea, and she is very enthusiastic about getting involved. One foot wide by five feet long–and what do we do with the finished product? Any other details I can share with her as she begins?
    Thank you,

  12. Dear Nancy, Heartfully and tearfully I am happy to welcome your mother’s contribution. Very touching. I am going to email you details. Please watch for a post update very soon. Thank you for letting your mom know about the project and thank her for me. Hugs. Kathryn xox

  13. Dear Kathryn, I love your idea! I read Three Cups of Tea earlier this year and pestered everyone I know to read it as well. The idea of helping these youngsters makes my heart sing. I can’t wait to get started. Please let me know where to send my finished scarf.

    Thank you

  14. Dear Bee, Welcome on board! I am astounded that folks continue to find this post and are willing to join in. I will be posting an update this week! Meanwhile, I am emailing you particulars! Thank you! Kathryn xox

  15. Greg lives in my town (Bozeman, Montana), and I’ve heard him speak. It’s been wonderful watching his extraordinary work gradually gain notice and support. I love your enthusiasm and your committment to actually DOING something.

    But I do have some questions about this project. I don’t mean to throw a wrench into the works, but I am wondering whether a one-foot wide scarf can be used as a head scarf. All those on children in those photos–or on any Muslim women I meet–appear to be much much bigger, and either square or triangular. Are we sure that scarves in the dimensions you’ve requested will be useful, and will be used? Of course, they could be used as scarves, not solely as head scarves, but I’m just wondering. Perhaps a large triangular scarf would be more apropos?

    If you already addressed this question and I missed it, please forgive me!

  16. Hi, Kate, we certainly did discuss this and decided upon the children’s scarves being one foot wide and five feet long. It would never be our intention to replace the custom of wearing traditional headscarves. We are more focused on providing additional warmth and beauty. Thank you for your concern. ๐Ÿ™‚ Kathryn xoxo

  17. I’m getting yarn this week and will start a scarf for the kids!!
    Thanks for the beautiful website and for the inspiration!
    I loved reading “3 cups of Tea” and admire the work that Greg is doing.
    Needles are ready!

  18. Welcome, Swanee! Happy to have you join us. I will email you particulars! Kathryn xoxo

  19. […] person’s joy.ย  I all but finished the scarf I’ve been knitting for Kathryn’s (of Plant Whatever Brings You Joy) Scarf Initiative this evening.ย  There are a few tassels to add and odd bits of yarn to tuck in, […]

  20. I just discovered your wonderful idea this morning. (Oct. 21) I will send a scarf as soon as possible. Perhaps I could enlist the help of a few others here. Will you please send me an e-mail as to where to send them? Thanks!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  21. Hi, Shady Gardener, Good morning and welcome! We have a November 1st deadline. That might be a bit tight for you, right? But I will email you straightaway and you can decide. If it’s not enough time I will keep your name and add you to a growing list of people who wanted to participate and learned too late, but whom I will contact next year if we continue with this next year. I want us to go through one entire cycle prior to making that decision. Seems wise. Thank you for your interest and good will. Kathryn xoxo

  22. […] wonderful blog entitled Plant Whatever Brings You Joy and read her posting entitled the Scarf Initiative, you’ll see that Kathryn Hall has not only started this project , but has also […]

  23. Hi, Judy! It’s very kind of you to alert your readers to the Scarf Initiative! Thank you so very much for the nod across the pond! Hugs! Kathryn xoxo

  24. Hi Kathryn,
    I know that I have missed the deadline for this year. I hope you continue with the Scarf Initiative Project. Can you please add me to the list future knitters?

  25. […] make scarves for the children in Askole! Do you think my readers would help?” came her post Get Out Your Knitting Needles! Sure enough, people around the globe volunteered to knit scarves for the children. Other bloggers […]

  26. This is such a lovely idea, and as a Pakistani Muslim woman, I truly admire your self-examination re: helping Muslims.

  27. Good morning, Shabana! Thank you so much for your kind words. It’s been an interesting journey so far! And I’ve learned a lot and continue to learn. I am imagining that anyone who has taken part in this process now finds himself or hereself listening a little more closely when they hear “Pakistan.” We have now taken your country into our minds and hearts. It’s good. Blessings. Kathryn xox

  28. Hello,
    I just discovered your cause and I was wondering if you needed more help. I just started knitting and I thought that things like this would motivate me to continue. Congrats for all you’ve done and good luck for the future.

  29. Welcome, Jennifer! Thank you for your kind good wishes. Isn’t knitting wonderful? This project is complete. I hope you are able to find another that satisfies your inspiration! Thank you for offering. Very kind. Kathryn xoxo

  30. I’ve started knitting again and did 5 for my family before Chriatmas. Now I’ve completed a newborn blanket of 15″ x 22′ and am anxious to continue knitting for others since my family is looked after.

    I’d like to knit a scarf as outlined but this is 2010 and katheryn started this in 2008 so I wonder if has still has need?
    I’ve also just finished Three Cups of Tea!

  31. Hi, Sheila, and welcome! Yes, this was a project that reached its conclusion. I’m sure you will find another project where your talents are welcomed! Kathryn xoxo

  32. 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!!

  33. 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! ๐Ÿ™‚ Kathryn xoxo

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