The Photography of D L Ennis, and more!


Thursday, May 04, 2006

Komi Kids Yarn Project from Appalachia

In 2004, the Center for International Understanding, and the US State Department, asked me to travel to Russia as a tourism consultant. Dave, my husband, was able to go with me and we spent a delightful, educational and fun three weeks in Yaroslavl, Moscow and Syktvykar.

Yaroslavl, settled in 1100 A.D., is south of Moscow and is famous for churches and bell towers. Moscow is the capital of Russia and Syktvykar is in the Komi Republic in the northern regions of Siberia.

While in each region, I lectured, taught and consulted in rural tourism development, cultural, heritage and agriculture tourism. We were feted at every turn and were given many opportunities to visit museums, churches, leaders in the community, tourism and government.

The children of the Syktvykar, Children's House, (above photo of Children's House) quite simply, stole our hearts. All the children have special needs, and are either physically or mentally challenged and some are both. They suffer from a number of illnesses including Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Down's Syndrome and physical deformities.

All children are given a place to live until age 24 or 25 and then placed in the world to make their way. The children are taught life and work skills to help them make their way in the world. The girls are taught hand work including knitting, crochet and sewing and sew dresses, their curtains and bed coverings.

This little girl is knitting socks out of acrylic yarn and using what looked to be sharpened wire. Perhaps piano wire or bicycle spokes...I wasn't sure. She's also their star Special Olympics swimmer.

The girls in this photo are wearing dresses the older girls hand sewed; all the children were dressed in their finest and very excited at meeting Western visitors. Girls are also taught how to crochet and sew and make all their dressy dresses and their bedspreads, curtains and pillow coverings.

When Dave and I returned home, we talked about various ways we could help. Russia is very much a country in transition and her people are energetic and hard working. Her people have heart's as huge as their country and we were constantly being overwhelmed by their gracious and kind hospitality. How best to say "Thank You" in a tangible way as well as to help...?

Here at Thistle Cove Farm, I'm the resident farmer/shepherd, spinner, knitter, weaver, dyer and general fiber artist. It seemed appropriate to help in the way of fiber and since Fiber Folk are the kindest, most generous folk around, I decided to ask for their help. The call was placed, via internet and yahoogroups, for people to send me one skein of natural fibers yarn. In turn, Dave and I would see the yarn was mailed directly to The Children's House.

That's all...just one skein. People opened their hearts and love poured out and continues to pour. Some groups had contests to see who could spin the most wonderful natural fiber yarn, other groups took this as a special project and sent skeins of sock yarn, hat yarn, shawl yarn. We received mill spun, hand spun, farm spun yarn in wool, angora, llama, alpaca and mohair. Knitting needles, crochet hooks and acrylic yarn along with a few hand knitted hats are, even now, waiting to be mailed to Russia.

The April 1, 2006 issue of Woman's Day did a Reader's Snapshot on the Komi Kids Yarn Project and me and the result has been another three dozen plus boxes of yarn and knitting supplies. People have called me from all over the country and are excited about sending yarn to the girls. Some kind folks are enclosing small seed packets so the boys won't feel left out. One Catholic pre-K class in upper New York state made the Komi Kids Yarn Project a class project and each child sent a skein of yarn.

We've also received a few monetary donations to help with shipping - O THANK YOU! - and I'm, furiously, knitting hats and shawls and selling them to help raise more shipping money. When I demo at festivals, a jar is placed on the table for donations for mailing yarn to Russia.

Dave and I dream about returning to Russia and The Children's House to see what kind hearts have accomplished. Last year, the children sent me a hand crochet shawl as a thank you and every time I wear it, I cry. Some of the tears are sorrowful at the suffering of the least among us in this, sometimes, frosty world. But, overwhelming, the tears are of joy at the kindness and generosity of people neither I, nor the girls, will ever meet.

The Komi Kids Yarn Project isn't a non-profit project, not in the tax sense. It's simply two people who saw a need and then asked others if they wanted to help and people continue to respond. Several times a week the phone will ring and someone will say, "Hello. I saw the article in Woman's Day and I want to help. Mother died and left all this knitting "stuff"; can you use it?"

As long as girls are knitting at The Children's House, my answer will be, "Yes and thank you."


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