Solidarity is… knitting

Dianne Jones created Lily, an association that creates blankets for Syrian refugee children. Worldwide support through Facebook and a blog

“I am English and I live in Turkey. I arrived here 11 years ago. I married Mehmet 6 years ago. I spend most of my time knitting”, said Dianne Jones, a grandmother like many, who decided to make the most of her passion for knitting to help Syrian children hosted in Turkey’s refugee camp. In 2012 she founded the association Lily, that stands for “Love in the Language of Yarn”, which is also the name of her first stillborn grandchild, died in 2010. Dianne receives hand-knitted 20-cm woollen squares from all over the world, she sews them together with the help of a group of volunteers turning them into blankets. In the first seven months of activity of her association, between March and October 2012, over two thousand blankets were sent to the refugee camps. Since then they sent countless numbers of blankets. The latest parcels, received on April 2, were shipped from Australia, England, Bahamas, Japan, Malesia. For each package received Ms Jones expresses her gratitude on Facebook, with the picture of the next package of blankets for the children. A few days ago she conveyed another of her appeals on the web: “I just heard that there’s a Syrian family in need here in Kuºadasi. I put together what I had for them, but I’m still lacking clothing for 10-14 year-olds. I would appreciate if anyone could hep”. On the other side of the world, people with a big heart take out their knitting needles and silently start working. Sarah Numico interviewed her for SIR Europe. When did your activity with Lily begin? “When I retired I needed to do something that would keep me busy. I used to knit and I opened a blog for knitting enthusiasts. My daughter was pregnant with my first grandchild; I prepared the clothes and wrote on my blog. On Sundays I reviewed volunteering works with knitting needles and wool. On July 18 2010 my granddaughter Lily Iris Gibson was born dead. It was devastating. I wanted to do something in her memory so I looked for charity organizations in Turkey where I could knit, but there were none. One of the projects I reviewed in my blog was ‘knit a square’: on the creation of blankets for orphan children of Aids-victims in Africa. Then the war broke out in Syria and the refugees started seeking shelter in Turkey. So I had this idea and I started with Lily on March 14 2012”. How did you manage to spread this proposal? “I opened a Facebook page and a blog (http://love-in-the-language-of-yarn.blogspot.com.tr), without imagining that it would have grown so fast. In a very short time I started receiving the woollen squares from all over the world, from people from various different backgrounds. The blankets are made with the love they convey along with a sense of security and comfort to the Syrian refugee children who fled from their homes because of the war. And they intend to be a message of love”. How does Lily work exactly? “We’re in Kuºadasi, in Western Turkey. A group of people meet every Tuesday to sew the knitted squares that are shipped to us and we make the blankets. Many of our knitters are migrants. They have free time and want to help out. If they can’t come on Tuesdays they bring the squares home with them and sew during the week. It takes 64 20cm squares to make a blanket; 36 cm for a child’s blanket. We soon started to receive also knitted hats, gloves, scarves, socks, knitted and embroidered pullovers. Everything is sent to the refugee camps in Turkey to help children keep warm during the winter. In the summer we send light clothing. Many of these children have left Syria only with what they were wearing. We have also sent woollen dolls”. Where do the woollen squares and packages come from? “From all over the world. I don’t think there is a Country from which we haven’t received hand-knitted works! Great Britain, USA and Iceland and the Countries that contributed the most”. What happens when all the material is ready? “We rent a van, and two drivers bring the blankets to the refugee camps in Eastern Turkey and near the border with Syria, a 12-hour journey from here. We make a delivery every month. We get in touch with the camps and ask them if we can deliver the packages. There are 22 registered camps in Turkey. We have recently discovered three camps in Izmir, which is only one-hour away from Kuºadasi. They are not registered and therefore didn’t receive aids yet, so now we are focusing our efforts to help them”. What’s your greatest joy? “To see the children’s smiles when they wear a pair of new socks…” Now Lily is collecting funds to buy water purifiers. Is that true? “The World Health Organization made known that there is a real danger of cholera in Syria with the arrival of the hot season. In many areas there is no drinking water and people have to drink polluted water. We have decided with Lily to help overcome this scourge by collecting money to buy water purifiers for the villages”.

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