The Ultimate Upcycle: Saving Syrian Children’s Lives in Jordan, With Hats


In Ireland we know about cold bones. This is a story about how we started collecting hats in Ireland for cold kids in a Syrian refugee camp.

I confess! Not all of the previously mentioned “4,000 hand made hats” that we sent to Syria for kids were actually hand made. It is true that more than half of the donated were lovingly knitted and crocheted by local crafters in Ireland and around the world.

But several hundred warm hats were collected and rescued from the depths of drawers and the bottoms of bureaus to be repurposed from forgotten to fantastic!

It all started with an innocent email from a friend, Green Prophet contributor Laurie Balbo. She was volunteering at Zaatari UNHCR Syrian Camp and felt the cold of these children in her bones. She asked for help. My name is Virginia. My partner Brian is a writer for Green Prophet.

irish_children_donating_hats_for_syrian_childrenLaurie emailed me to ask if I could manage to gather around 200 hats for her husband to carry back in his suitcase?

In Ireland we know about cold bones. The rain and the damp of an Irish winter will chill the hardiest souls. So, we hoard hats. But we might not have known about this particular need if it weren’t for Laurie’s first-hand experience at Zaatari. People who’ve never been to Jordan often imagine the entire Mideast as a place of eternal warmth and sunshine. They forget that the winter nights in the high desert can be colder than even the worst Irish winter.

So, I told a few friends, who told a few friends, who told a few friends. Parenting networks, School groups, charity groups, children’s clubs churches and private business owners all asked their friends and members and clients to donate “hand made and gently used or new hats” for Syrian Refugee Children. A Facebook page was created.

The first donation of 19 children’s hats came in the same day from a mom in my six-year-old’s school with five children of her own, who had sorted through and found all the hats her kids had outgrown. She was delighted to see them go to good use, and personally asked her friends to do the same. Small children were handing me hats in the schoolyard for the last four weeks.

hats_for_syria_in_schoolA local teacher told her teenage students and 296 hats were quickly collected from Irish homes. A note was posted on the Cuidiu Facebook page, a national Irish parenting network, packages came in the post from all 32 counties of Ireland, with lovely hand-written notes. “This was my daughter’s favorite hat, I hope another child will like it too.”

CGI, the Irish Girl Scouts organization, has collected hats from Dublin to Wexford. My daughter’s local Malahide troop collected 127 hats in two weeks.

A nearby childcare center owner put an appeal out to the parents of the kids in her creche, who donated 96 gently used hats.syrian_hat_collection_table

The local Presbyterian church put a notice in their bulletin and church members brought in hats in the one’s, two’s and dozens. One church elder donated over a dozen hats from his life-long collection of souvenirs from his many world travels. Each hat had personal meaning to him.

All told, 3229 hats were collected during the 40 day drive. That’s 80 hats per day. The purpose of upcycling is to give an unused item a new lease of life, and to save it from the landfill. Well played Ireland, you Rock!

The hats were sent to Amman, Jordan and were merged with the hats that Laurie had been collecting. They were just delivered to the refugees. For more donations and collection points in the US, Canada, Ireland, Turkey, Jordan and Israel, please email [email protected] 

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6 thoughts on “The Ultimate Upcycle: Saving Syrian Children’s Lives in Jordan, With Hats”

  1. Hello – have been trying to contact Laurie to make a little cash donation towards customs charges etc (for the hats for Syrian children) but no reply to my email of 4-5 days ago. Maybe she is away for Christmas? Also looked for a contact email for Virginia but no luck. Could some one just email me a contact email address/skypename/or equivalent. Thanks! Jean

  2. julie binnington says:

    Hello – I have been forwarded your contact details from Save the Babies: Hats for War-Torn Syria. I have collected over 500 woolly hats for the Syrian children and I wondered if you would be able to accept them and if so, when you are next scheduled to ship them over?

  3. Amina says:

    I am doing small action in my child’s school and community …would you please be able to deliver a box of few hundred mittens,socks and hats to them as well.i am looking for a way to send it somewhere .
    Would appreciate any help or advice , thanks

  4. laurie says:

    Well-played, Virginia! I can’t wait ’til you set your sights on world peace.

    1. Teresa Toole says:


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