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Knit for Malawi gives new lease of life for care home residents

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Big-hearted residents at Shropshire care homes are helping abandoned and orphaned babies in Africa and in turn boosting their own well-being.

Residents and staff at Briarfields Care Home in Shrewsbury (L-R) Geoffrey Booth, Muriel Pool, Sylvia Hunt with (standing) shift leader Sarah Ducket and care assistant Holly Evans

Residents and staff at Briarfields Care Home in Shrewsbury (L-R) Geoffrey Booth, Muriel Pool, Sylvia Hunt with (standing) shift leader Sarah Ducket and care assistant Holly Evans

There are more than 30 million orphaned and abandoned children living in Africa, including more than 1 million in Malawi, many of whom live on mud floors in the open air. They are in desperate need of blankets.

Residents at Coverage Care Services homes responded to the need to help orphaned children by launching their ‘Knit a Square for Malawi’ project - inspired by a knitting group at their Stone House home in Bishop’s Castle called ‘The Jolly Jumpers’ who knit jumpers for the Malawian children.

Coverage Care Services, a not-for-profit organisation with 15 homes across Shropshire, provides community-based care and support services for older people, people with a disability and people with age related conditions.

A baby in Malawi with a blanket made by residents of a Shropshire care home.

A baby in Malawi with a blanket made by residents of a Shropshire care home.

Activities are encouraged in the homes to promote well-being, social interaction, structure and motivation. Calling themselves ‘The Square Knitters’, the residents hold coffee and cake mornings with friends and families, while knitting for this great cause. People from the local community also join in and many of whom used to spend days by themselves are now meeting for coffee mornings to knit and chat with new friends. Kind donations of wool and needles have been received to keep the project going together with fund raising events throughout the homes

People who found themselves alone in the community have rekindled friendships or found new ones. Local cafés and coffee morning groups who are supporting ‘Knit a Square for Malawi’ encourage people to pop along to meet new friends and have a ‘knit and a natter’. Even those who cannot knit or crochet have volunteered to stitch the squares together to make the blankets, including one or two gentlemen.

Kay Lennox, people support administrator and organiser of the project said: “I am extremely pleased with the project, which has far exceeded my expectations. Not only is it a great social activity for the residents in our homes, but has brought community spirit together in our towns. We already have over 8,000 squares which have been made up into 260 blankets. Our target is 500 blankets so there’s a bit to go yet.”

Children in Malawi receiving jumpers from the residents based at Coverage Care's Stone House

Children in Malawi receiving jumpers from the residents based at Coverage Care’s Stone House

Marie Batey, Head of Acute and Lead for Compassion in Practice commented: “Compassion comes in many forms and what this shows is that by using their skills, or learning new ones, people want to care and have plenty to offer. The residents in Shropshire are demonstrating compassion their way – one that has practical benefits for vulnerable babies thousands of miles away and which fills the knitters with purpose, well-being and connects them with others in the community.

“Kay is to be commended for getting this project off the ground and for having the courage and initiative to bring the local community on-board.”

In September, Kay took to the skies, raising £325 for the project by taking part in a sponsored skydive. While waiting for her turn, ‘fate’ introduced her to a lady also waiting to dive who was born just two miles away from the Malawi village where the blankets are going to!

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