A North Mainland school has become involved in a project to help Syrian refugees, with some pupils learning to knit so they could help make blankets.
The 13-pupil Ollaberry school took up the cause after staff member Julia Odie found out from an online forum about the plight of Syrian children living in refugee camps in Turkey.
The pupils had been doing a project about “compassion” and embarked on knitting squares for blankets for the children – one pupil even learned to crochet so that he could make a crocheted square.
Squares had already poured in from other people who had heard about the appeal and the Ollaberry children kept tally of the donations and added to them by knitting (or crocheting) their own squares. Squares by pupils, staff, former pupils and former staff were sewn together to make a school blanket to be sent to Turkey. Hats were also made and donated for the refugee children.
Now Mrs Odie, Ollaberry head teacher Marianne Raikes, together with Janette Ruddick from Ollaberry and Kathy Manson from Mossbank, wish to thank all of those from across the isles, including the Ollaberry pupils’ parents, who have helped with the appeal.
Mrs Odie said: “We have been overwhelmed by the generosity of knitters and crocheters the length and breadth of Shetland.”
The women also want to thank the shops and businesses which acted as drop off points: Shetland Art Company/ Shetland Fudge, Lerwick; Central Garage, Brae, Ollaberry and Tagon Stores, Voe – and, of course, Ollaberry School.
Mrs Odie said: “We have parcelled up over 18kg of squares as well as 145 hats in all sizes from premature baby and up. Some of the squares have been sewn into blankets and are ready to go when they get to Turkey, others will be sewn together by a group called LILY (Love in the Language of Yarn) when they get there. We also received funds towards the cost of postage, both through direct donations and through the sale of knitted Easter chicks – and we knitted a lot of them!”
Mrs Raikes said pictures of the scenes in the camps showed places of “great sadness”. The camps appeared to be bursting at seams, she said, with children with no shoes lining up to get water, and, in one shocking image, three new-born triplets lying on a piece of newspaper in the snow.
Mrs Raikes said: “We just decided to start doing it [knitting]. We talked to the children at school and every child has learned to knit, Julia and I taught them with another parent now that knitting is no longer taught in school.”
Every pupil, from P1 to P7, produced a square. So many were eventually produced by parents and members of the public that three boxes went to Turkey at a postage cost of £80 per box, making the money made from the sale of small items like the Easter chicks to sell to pay for the postage especially welcome.
Mrs Raikes said: “I really hope it makes a difference to people that they know someone’s thinking about them. A lot of them could have left their fathers and brothers behind or lost all their families. This is a real way to help people.”
Any further donations will be used for charities with a UK base, and the women would be delighted to hear from anyone who would like to continue to help the charities.
This will include Operation Orphan’s Keep a Child Warm project in Eastern Europe which supplies coats, hats, gloves and scarves to children; Greenfields Africa who supply ‘mama bags’ to pregnant women who attend ante-natal classes. These contain a one-metre square blanket and a full set of baby clothes – cardigan, hat, bootees, babygro and vest.