Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Sweet Charity Because I'm Living in the Global Village

Hmmm I just realized that I mean "Global Village" in about a zillion different ways..... But I digress.

Anyhow. A little bit ago I was surveying my room and my craft supplies and thought "Jeez have I got a lot of stuuffffff" And all that stuff was just lying around - you know balls of yarn, fabric GALORE, totes full of cross stitch patterns, rubbermaids with thread, blah blah blah. I knew I had to get rid of it, but you simply cannot throw away that one ball of unusually colored merino wool that you bought with the intention of making something fabulous for yourself that you've now forgotten what that fabulous thing was, but have been keeping said yarn because hey, you're going to use it SOME DAY right? HA! I realized that I needed to start making somethings and moving them out. I thought "oooh I could sell stuff" but eh, I'm not sure I could produce stuff at any regular pace, and I'm more of a giver than a businesswoman anyways. Plus I looked at Etsy to see if I could get a shop started. I read the first few "how to" sentences and was like "um yeah, NO." Jamaal has enough IT stuff to do without helping me set up an online store to pedal my wares, LOL.

An opportunity to move some of that yarn presented itself a bit ago. The author of a blog I lurked on forever (ok if anyone is reading this because I commented on your crafty blog or something, I'm not a creepy lurker, I PROMISE, I'm just a wee bit shy about commenting!!) mentioned her neighbor's need for fingerless gloves. Ahhh perfect opportunity to delurk!! I signed on to that, and I'm just about done with Mary's Mitts, just have to sew some seams.

Next came a chance to move some fabric out of my desk drawers (overflow from the bin). Cindy
requested blankets for an orphanage in China. Woohoo, finally a use for the leftover Hello Kitty flannel! I'll finish the fourth blanket today. Post office day will be Friday.

Today I finally did something I've been meaning to do forever (ok for a month or so). I read this blog pretty much every day. It all started when I googled "knit baby bonnet" and stumbled on these patterns *pauses to drool.* I continued to read Larissa's blog because 1. she knit great things 2. she told funny kid stories about her son that reminded me of my former boss Janet's stories about her precocious son Edward 3. she was a runner who had really worked her way into hardcore distance running, something I can really appreciate (see October 2005 archives about the Portland Half Marathon!) Recently she posted about her next running feat, a fundraiser for Congolese Women. While this will not get yarn or fabric out of my house, it's something I knew I had to support, even if I only could donate a little bit.

As you all know, Kenya has a special place in my heart, and some of my life's best memories are ones from my semester abroad and reunion visits. While I may talk about sunsets and cape buffalo, giraffe and lions, Maasai mamas and warriors and drinking at the small bar in Kimana, I don't often mention the tremendous poverty I saw there, the children sleeping in the streets, the limbless beggars, the not even close to adequate hospital I visited full of dying children lying on cots without mosquito nets or even bandages. While they're memories I'll hold forever in my heart and head, it's sometimes just too much to share, plus when people ask you about your vacation, they don't want to hear about some little girl whose face was burned off, no, they want to hear about lions and elephants. But it's those harder memories and my friendships with Kenyan men and women who truly became a second family during those months away are what fuels me to hit up friends, family, parents, and even members of my bookclub for the tri-annual school fees that send my friend Mboya's sister, Mumbua, to school each semester. Knowing that she is safe despite her brother's unemployment, being educated, fed and sheltered at school brings me immense comfort. I think this has also made me even more sensitive to the plight of the Congolese women for whom Larissa is running.

When I returned to college after a semester in Kenya, I took as many African history courses as my schedule allowed. This probably seems a bit backwards, but senior year was the first time I only had to take one bio course! I took "Colonialism, Democracy and Violence: The History of Central Africa" with the brilliant scholars David and Catherine Newbury. It focused solely on the Congo, Rwanda, and Burundi. That class is the reason you blog readers see me bitch about the Rwandan Genocide and talk about divesting in Sudan, the reason why I think it's incredibly important to support the Run for the Congo, why I think it's important for Mumbua, though she is fairly safe in Kenya, to go to school. In class we'd watch movies, terrible movies, with live footage of the Rwandan Genocide, and its aftermath. The good thing about these movies though is that they showed the one light at the end of the dark long tunnel, the fact that women were largely in charge of rebuilding the country - post-genocide, they women were 70% of the population (mostly men and teenage boys were killed). While that country slowly rebuilds, the aftermath of the genocide is still being felt in the Congo, where soldiers left over from conflicts in Rwanda and Burundi and other rebel forces are terrorizing women so brutally, that the first-hand accounts are incomprehensible. And while our eyes (some of our eyes) focus on Darfur (as they should) we forget about the DRC and its turmoil as rebels fight to control the resource-rich eastern provinces. Despite the tenuous peace agreement brokered 5 years ago and a newly-elected president, there is no control. There is complete and utter chaos in that country, and women are bearing the brunt of the disorder.

Ok by now you're like "Um Hi Allison you lured me in by talking about fabric, but now you're lecturing us about Africa...AGAIN! We-eeelll it's me after all, LOL. I guess this brings me back to my title (oh what a circular post this has been). Why am I helping people I do not know? Because I can. It's really that simple. We all share a home here on planet Earth, that's a common thread we all share. As citizens of a common place, it's our job to help each other out in any way we can. If I can use the resources I have in my good life, why should I not try to better the life of someone else? It may seem silly to some people, sending small security blankets to China or donating a mere $20, about 6 grande non-fat lattes at Starbucks, to women in the Congo. What if it makes a difference though? What if Mary's mitts warm her hands enough to allow her to do something she wouldn't be able to do, and that in turn benefits the lives of others? What if my little security blanket gives a Chinese orphan the courage to do something new, and what if that courage leads to greatness? What if Mumbua becomes the first prime minister of Kenya? Who can predict the doors that will be opened for these Congolese women? We don't know the answers to these questions, and that's exactly why we can't afford not to help. This entire world is filled with unknown and unrealized potential. We can't let that go to waste simply because we're too complacent or lazy or busy to help. The smallest gesture can change a life, I really really believe that, and that's why I gotta help out whenever I can. And of course, anything that gets rid of that yarn and fabric is a good thing ;)

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