Knitting has been one of Sohn Sung-ja’s favorite pastimes during winter, but this year, she has found another reason to pick up the needles ― to save lives.
“I am knitting bonnets for babies in Africa,” said Sohn, a 64-year-old grandmother of four, living in Seoul.
“I heard that many babies there die of cold, because temperatures drop sharply at night,” she added. “I have completed four and am now working on the fifth one.”
Sohn is among tens of thousands of Koreans participating in Save the Children’s annual hat-knitting campaign “Knit One, Save One.”
Participants in Save the Children’s knitting event work their needles. (Save the Children)
Newborn babies lose a large amount of body heat through their heads. Simply putting bonnets or beanies on them can help reduce the infant mortality rate, Save the Children says.
The hats will be sent to underdeveloped countries in Africa and elsewhere, where newborn babies die due to preventable and treatable illness like pneumonia, the international charity group says.
“Each year, around 2 million babies die within the first day of their life and another 4 million within the first month. Pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria and other preventable and treatable illness are among the main causes of death,” the group said on its website.
“A simple solution, such as clean knives or scissors to cut umbilical cords or caps to keep babies warm, can help improve their survival rate.”
In Korea, the campaign started in 2007 and has since run annually from October to March, Koh Woo-hyun, a spokesperson for the group’s Korean branch said.
“Year after year, we’re seeing more people joining and more hats arriving,” she said.
So far, over 237,000 Koreans participated, churning out over 560,000 baby bonnets.
This season, the Korean unit aims for 200,000 hats. It plans to distribute them in three countries: Cote d’Ivoire in Africa, and Tajikistan and Uzbekistan in Central Asia.
“It is more than just donation. Participants spend their time and energy knitting and while doing so, their caring for others grows,” Koh said.
For skilled knitters, a basic beanie for an infant may take just a couple of hours. For beginners, however, it takes some learning and practicing.
There is a beginners’ guide video, featuring singer-turned-actor Park Yu-chun, and anyone can knit one, following the directions, Koh said.
“The time required for knitting one hat varies a lot. For some, it takes just a few hours. Others work for a week or longer,” she said.
Save the Children also offers in-person knitting classes. Aside from its regular weekend classes, it hosts gatherings of over 30 participants to help them get their needles started.
To participate, one can start by purchasing a knitting kit at GS Shop, an online shopping mall, at 12,000 won. There are two types of kits offered ― one that contains two balls of wool and a pair of needles and the other with three balls of wool and no needles.
A knitting kit of two balls of wool and a pair of needles is being sold at online shopping mall GS Shop for 12,000 won.
Once completed, the hats must be sent to Save the Children by March 15 for delivery to the three beneficiary countries.
Additionally, for every kit sold, the entire 12,000 won goes into Save the Children’s fund which will be used to build basic health-care facilities in the countries.
For more information, visit moja.sc.or.kr or call (02) 6900-4400.
By Lee Sun-young (firstname.lastname@example.org)