By Aine McGlinchey
A group of Derry knitters have sent over 1,000 blankets to help child refugees in Greece. The Derry Square Knitters have also made teddies and other items which are dispatched every month.
In addition they have raised over £3,000 and collected high chairs, nappies and other essential goods.
The group was founded by Mary Hunt in 2015, and was set up to help the refugee crisis. They have over 590 members on their Facebook group, who knit, crochet and sew. Each month, a container goes out to Greece for the refugees that are mostly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
The knitters have made hats, scarfs, and little knitted toys and raise money to provide families with essentials. Hilda Orr from Fund A Food Drop Group has been working with the knitters giving them advice on what the refugees need. Hilda said “the boost given to families when they receive these is amazing.”
Jean Doherty has been a member in the group for about four years. When asked why she was inspired to join the group she said, “Children don’t ask to be born into conflict or poverty.”
After seeing devastating images of refugee children she felt she needed to help. Jean has helped raise over £3120 and £250 in one weekend alone.
“I know exactly where these (clothing) are going and who they’re going to. And that was very gratifying to me because it wasn’t going to a big organisation that was going to be taken off travel costs and all sorts.
“We make the goods, I sell them and hand the money to her (Hilda) and she hands the money directly to the people who need it,” Jean said.
Recently, a staggering £560 was raised to cover the cost of new shoes and other needs for the children in Athens. For Christmas this year, the group set out 26 parcels for the children to have something to look forward to on Christmas day.
Their focus is on families and babies, and they now have gotten four families and 22 children off the streets. By getting them into hostels and raised €300 for an apartment deposit.
“Some of these people are fleeing for their lives and they are terrified.
“There’s already been a few killed, apparently they were recognised.” Jean says, as she talks about the devastating effects from ISIS, as the refugees can’t show their face on social media from the fear of being recognised.
“It’s a community and a common interest in humanity and caring for people who are less fortunate than ourselves,” Jean continued.
“The Irish were immigrants all around the world, and because of that, the mass immigration here, if we hadn’t been taken in as accepted by those countries, I think our history books would be reading very differently.
“As Irish people we have an empathy for people in that situation.
“We have a culture of creativity here with lots of skills. And kitting, crocheting and dress making and all that is part of it, and it’s dying out. It’s interesting that the vast majority in this group are older women.
“We live in a disposable economy. We live in a throw away environment and I would like to change that. And hold on to this creative part of our culture and history.
“The best way to help is to share. Spread the word and share.”