What started as a few throwaway balls of yarn to a tiny knitter in Jordan’s Zaatari Syrian refugee camp inspired a goofball idea: I asked crafty folks everywhere to toss a few hats in the ring. The reaction has been jaw-dropping. So far we have collected some 4,000 handmade hats for Syrian refugees.
Hand-made or store-bought, brand new or gently used: the idea was to cover the heads of as many of the camp’s 60,000 children as possible before winter winds arrive.
Nighttime temperatures in Jordan’s eastern desert drop dramatically and winter can be surprisingly cold. Unobstructed winds push freezing air through the flimsy walls of this fabric tent city. Folks who upgrade to uninsulated sheet metal huts fare no better, particularly when it snows.
See a few of the bags of hats we collected, awaiting shipment to Amman, below.
This is a typical housing unit in the Zaatari camp where the hats will be delivered.
I’d been to the camp before with Canadian artist and philanthropist Jean Bradbury. She ran a raucous art workshop for kids and I jumped in with some knitting fun with their mothers and big sisters. The women were fantastic. Aside from the setting (ring-fenced in barbed wire, air sometimes chewable with sand and dust), there was no difference from the vibe of my Amman Stitch ‘n Bitch gang. We talked about clothes and food and men and music while swapping tips and techniques on our needlework. Many knew knit and crochet basics and were happy to teach others in the group, but they lacked materials to create new items.
So every day we hauled in bags of donated yarn, and every next-day they’d come back to show us what they knocked off their needles during the night. These chicks blew my (hand-knit) socks off. Like magical Middle Eastern elves, they made jumpers, dresses, and hand-warmers. They made scarves in the colors of the Syrian flag.
It’s amazing what you can do when you have no home kitchen to cook in, books to read, gym to workout at, games to play, car to drive or TV to watch…getting a glimpse into life in a refugee camp? This one is the fourth largest city in Jordan.
The experience solidified our aim to create a steady stream of art, educational and craft materials to the camp to allow the community to continue regularly scheduled classes and workshops. But what about those who have no interest in arts and crafts? Don’t they get cold too?
We put a call out to our own circle of friends and family. Thanks to social media (and connections made from our nomadic lives) we soon had people in the USA, Canada, Ireland, Jordan and Great Britain stepping up to collect hats.
US, Canadian and UK Our Irish organizer (and Green Prophet Brian Nitz‘s better half), Virginia Nitz, single-handedly collected over 3,000 hats and even arranged for donated air freight to Jordan!
Check out the phenom on a Facebook page created expressly for this project, Save the Babies: Hats for War-torn Syria – link here. And peek at Jean Bradbury’s Studio Syria, the NGO that incited all of this and under whose umbrella the project is being run – link here.
Throw a few bucks (or hats) (or yarn) our way. If you don’t want to dig around the links for info, send me a personal message for details ([email protected]). We’ll be posting pictures of hordes of warm headed kids shortly. Syrian cats in hats – dig it.
All images from Nitz, Bradbury and Balbo