In July I wrote about my friend, Teddy Sawka, who is a missionary working in Shichigahama, Japan — an area that was ravaged by the tsunami in March 2011. Teddy started an outreach program called Yarn Alive for the displaced, mostly elderly, women of the area because she was worried about them living with little privacy and no way to keep busy. As so often happens, after learning to knit or crochet the ladies found that their time together became a time of healing. As one of the ladies said, they “knit and chat and comfort each other one stitch at a time.” I like to call it the Sisterhood of Yarn.
I told the story about sending a large donation of yarn to Japan in 2012 and how I needed help sending another donation in 2013. Wow, thank you Annie’s readers! Did you ever come through with the donations! Yarn came streaming into Minnesota from Annie’s readers all over the country. If you ever wondered what 2000 balls of yarn looks like, this is me standing next to the yarn after it was repacked and ready to go to Seattle.
From there it was loaded onto a shipping container and made its way into the hands of the beautiful ladies of Yarn Alive in Japan. I call this the Miracle in Seattle (part II). Teddy and I are both in awe of the way God has brought together strangers from around the world to help each other.
Getting the yarn to Japan is just a small part of the story. What happens with the yarn once it gets there is the true story of giving. The ladies of Yarn Alive lost all of their material possessions in the tsunami. Many of them lost family and friends as well. Even now they are still living in temporary housing and it might be another three years before they have their own homes again. One wouldn’t blame them if they used the yarn to clothe themselves and their families but the emphasis of the group is on helping others who are less fortunate.
In a recent email, Teddy told me about how she sees the handiwork of her ladies all over town. For instance, she noticed afghans on the chairs of the postal workers; a gift made to keep them warm in their temporary office. The Yarn Alive ladies are often called on to help others with their creations and “they are so happy to be useful and respected for something they are doing.”
Annie’s readers, you won’t believe what they’ve done with some of the yarn you sent this summer. They focused on helping the children of Syrian refugees in Jordan. With the yarn from Miracle in Seattle II, the ladies in Shichigahama, Japan made more than 200 articles of clothing to help comfort and keep warm a group of refugee children. Teddy told me that the ladies were so eager to help and very grateful for the donation from their Yarn Sisters in America.
I am truly humbled and thankful to think that I was able to play a small part in such an amazing story and I hope those of you who donated feel the same way. Teddy puts it this way: “Can you imagine that yarn that you helped collect went by way of Japan to be made into something useful to bless the poor and needy in Jordan!?”
Another important part of the story is what handwork and the community of knitting and crochet gives to the participants in Yarn Alive. Teddy writes this: “Last week I was talking to a lady that I gave yarn and needles to right after the tsunami. She has a restaurant on a hill that overlooks the ocean. She grew up down below in the village right at sea level. When the earthquake happened, all the people living down below ran up to her restaurant that was a designated safe area. She could see that the tsunami was going to be higher than her restaurant so kept calling for the people to come higher. Many would not move, so she watched in horror as they were washed out to sea and of course, died. It was such a traumatic thing for her, as you can imagine. She told me the other day that the yarn helped her so much when she couldn’t sleep at night. She created many beautiful things that first year. She thanked me again. She opened her restaurant again on the first anniversary of the tsunami. She is doing well now, but I feel so thankful to have had a part in keeping her “sane” through that dark time. Knitting and crocheting can be so helpful, as we know!
Yarn Alive continues to grow. Right now the program is offered in two temporary housing areas and Teddy has been asked to start another group in town. The yarn itself doesn’t stay just in Japan either. Plans are currently afoot to get knitting and crochet supplies to the Syrian ladies who are refugees in Jordan so they too can keep their hands busy and hopefully create a new Sisterhood of Yarn. In addition to yarn, the Yarn Alive program could really use your financial support. They often need to buy supplies in Japan. Also, it was difficult to get items into Jordan so a volunteer actually travelled there and hand-delivered them packed inside of duffel bags.
Please consider making a monetary donation to Yarn Alive this Christmas. There is a PayPal donation button on their blog that you can find here: www.yarnalive.wordpress.com
Even if you aren’t able to make a donation, be sure to visit the site. You can’t help but be inspired by the creations and have your heart warmed by the smiles.
Next July, I will once again be sending yarn to Japan (the Miracle in Seattle III). It’s not too early to think about helping. If you have extra yarn in your stash, set it aside to save. If your LYS has a sale, consider buying some special yarn for Yarn Alive. Also, send me your email address now so I can contact you with plans this summer; my email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Finally, please say your prayers for the ladies of Yarn Alive and for their angel, Teddy Sawka.
Carri Hammett is a popular contributor to Annie’s and is the author of More Than a Dozen Hats and Mittens available on AnnieCatalog.com Carri is also the instructor of the Annie’s online class: Knit Finishing Techniques and has written several books which are available at your local yarn shop. Carri welcomes emails from her readers at email@example.com.