How to Welcome New Families to America through a Gift of Love
You’re invited to partner with the Welcome Blanket Project and knit for refugees and other new families to America
Ever since I first learned the true meaning of the word “refugee,” I have felt an intense desire to help. I believe it’s a natural response when your eyes are opened to the horrors so many around the world face. Naturally, since I’m a knitter, I have wondered about the benefits of knitting for refugees.
I first learned about refugees when I heard of wartime atrocities taking place in Syria and in much of the Middle East. This was followed by learning of the horrible hardships faced by many in South America who come to the border between Mexico and the United States.
Later, I learned about Rohingya–people forced to flee the nation of Myanmar for their religious beliefs. And most recently, the return of the Taliban to Afghanistan, and the invasion of Ukraine, has brought the flight and plight of refugees back to my attention.
Many of the refugees listed above include people who were threatened with torture or death because they wouldn’t change their religion. Or embrace the warped form of religious offered by terrorists. Others have been forced to flee because of gang violence.
I don’t like writing about such things, much less thinking about them. Sometimes it’s all I can do to read about them. You don’t know how much I sometimes long to turn away. To pretend such things aren’t happening. That they’re some hideous nightmare.
But once you hear about the evil that humans can and often do to one another, I’ve found that I can’t pretend.
Can Charity Knitting Really Do Good in the Face of Such Evil?
This is a question I have confronted many times over the years.
Hats, scarves, blankets, and other knitted items can’t keep broken people from continuing to inflict pain on innocent lives, of course. But neither can they prevent cancer or prematurity or homelessness or one of the many other reasons we knit for charity, right?
Just like with those charity knitting causes, what we can do to make a difference is to tend to the survivors.
As I wrote about extensively in this guest blog post for Real World Bible Study, one of the greatest needs for anyone suffering is simply to be seen. That’s especially true, I suspect, when that suffering has come at the hands of another.
This is why I have written extensively about knitting charities that respond to the needs of refugees. You can see a complete listing of the articles I’ve written about refugee knitting charities here.
An American Issue
In the United States, we have our own issues. I’ve been distressed at how our government seems to be making it harder and harder for migrants and refugees to rebuild their lives in the United States.
I believe our government is currently spending too much of its precious resources filling pockets of people who really don’t need further filling. Consequently, we’re shutting our country’s doors to people who may most desperately need to enter.
(I promise this is as much as I’m going to say about my country’s politics! I find political talk as distasteful as anyone.)
That’s why, when I first heard about the Welcome Blanket Project, I was so incredibly moved.
The Welcome Blanket concept is simple: take a proposed 2,000-mile border wall between the United States and Mexico, and reimagine it in fabric. Specifically, in blankets.
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The Welcome Blanket Project: Reimagining a Border Wall as a Welcoming Wall of Blankets
This project began in the spring of 2017, as its cofounders imagined a beautiful welcoming “wall” of blankets to greet new immigrants to the U.S. Each blanket would be handcrafted and filled with the love of its creators. The Welcome Blanket Project encouraged creators to include a note of welcome along with the creator’s own immigration family story.
In its first year, these finished blankets appeared in the Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago. You can see photos of many blankets, as well as the exhibition itself, here.
I almost forgot to tell you the best part! The blankets weren’t just for display purposes. Each blanket went to a new immigrant family to the United States. I think this is an amazing way to welcome a new family to this country!
Past and Current Welcome Blanket Projects: Knitting for Refugees and other New Families to America
The second Welcome Blanket exhibition was shown in the Museum of Design Atlanta in Georgia. This exhibit ran from June 3 to September 9, 2018. You can see photos of the exhibit here.
In between exhibitions, the Welcome Blanket Project created a virtual exhibit that they refer to as “Welcome Blanket On Call.” Want to see blankets donated in the past? Take a look at the virtual gallery here. (If you look carefully, you’ll see my submission!)
Welcome Blanket currently does not keep information on its website about how to donate your creations to the Project. In order to receive this information on an ongoing basis, I highly encourage you to sign up for their mailing list. Every page of the Welcome Blanket Project website includes a signup form for their mailing list; simply fill in your information, and you’ll be kept in the loop!
One new opportunity offered by the Welcome Blanket Project is virtual craft-alongs. I haven’t attended one yet, but I love the idea: a virtual gathering whereby you can see lots of people from all over the world crafting whatever they happen to be working on. Isn’t that wonderful? Signups for the craft-alongs are offered in every email (yet another great reason to join the list).
For more information, including blanket guidelines and the next exhibition or donation opportunity, you can fill out their Contact form on this page.
If you live in the United States, and you long to knit for new families to America, I think this project is just what you need. Please consider making a blanket to offer a warm welcome to refugees, migrants, and more!
Does the yarn have to be washable wool bulky. Will any bulky acrylic yarn be ok
Hello Candace! The only guideline, according to the Welcome Blanket Project: “(Strong preference for machine-washable Welcome Blankets.) We are asking for 40”X40” and the main design guideline is something you would like to receive.” So, yes, any bulky acrylic yarn is fine as long as it makes a blanket you would love, and it’s 40 inches by 40 inches in size.