Friday, June 29, 2007

The Blanket Project

It started as a way to help children in need; what it blossomed into was remarkable. After learning about the poor living conditions of learners in Namibia, an impoverished Sub-Saharan African nation, students in the Onalaska School District decided they could do something to help. Last October, they began gathering materials to make fleece tie-blankets. They started small, encouraging their families, friends and classmates to participate, but it quickly ballooned into a project that took roots throughout the Onalaska and La Crosse areas.

This past March after 31 days of travel, a journey which wasn’t without its fair share of obstacles, 15 boxes weighing 60 pounds each and carrying 235 blankets, along with additional fabric, arrived in the small Namibian town of Omaruru. While you are too many to name individually, I would like to express my sincere thanks to all those who supported the Onalaska blanket project to benefit the learners of S.I. !Gobs Senior Secondary School and Omaruru Primary School, both in Omaruru. These blankets represent the generosity, hard work and selflessness of countless learners, teachers, schools, families and individuals throughout the coulee region.

It is hard for me to adequately express how thankful I am to those of you who participated in this project. I am fairly confident that the majority of you have no idea how greatly you have helped the people of this small community. These blankets are not only the first for many of my learners, but they are also the first for many of the families of my learners.

With the extra fabric that was sent, I made 30 additional blankets with four of my Grade 12 learners. The women in my community came by the school daily to collect the excess fabric that we cut off. They will use this fabric to sew clothes and blankets for themselves and their families. Nothing will go to waste.

Now that we are in our winter months our evening temperatures have begun to drop, some nights to as low as 25 degrees. Because of your help, 265 learners, young people between the ages of 6 and 20, now have blankets to keep them warm while they sleep. And when the heat of our desert summer returns, these blankets will serve as mattresses for the many learners who sleep only on the metal springs of their bed frames. Knowing that you have directly impacted the lives of hundreds of young people should, I hope, bring you more fulfillment than any words I could ever write to thank you.

The blanket project was the brainchild of four young citizens of the world from Onalaska. Siblings Kelly, Patrick, Danny and Molly Garrity took it upon themselves to come up with a way to help children less fortunate than them. With the support of their parents, Timmy and Ann Garrity, these four children mobilized their schools, friends and family to take part in their project. Above everyone else, I have to thank them. It seems to me that there are few things more beautiful than young people helping other young people. Your compassion has inspired many, and your kind-hearted gesture will be remembered for years by the people of my community.

Along with the schools and community members who worked on this project, I’d like to express my gratitude to Mr. Don Weber and Mr. Brian Hafner, both of Logistics Health Inc. in La Crosse, who provided the shipping of all 15 boxes of blankets. I must also thank the United States Peace Corps for their in-country support of the blanket project. It is only because of your assistance that the children of Omaruru received their blankets in time for the winter season.

And finally, to the many people who worked behind the scenes-- including my mother Sheila Garrity, who has always been committed to serving those less fortunate-- your dedication to this project has been admirable and I am grateful to you all.

This type of project clearly illustrates how a small group of motivated people can make a great difference in the lives of others. Your work has touched my heart. I thank you.

The FedEx delivery arrives in Omaruru. I think the driver was a bit overwhelmed by our excitement.

Levi and Mario, hard at work on the first day of blanket making on our side

Trouble 1 and trouble 2, working as a team

The learners at Omaruru Primary School on the chilly morning of the blanket handover.

OPS is a former white school, which is why the courtyard and corridors are so nice. If you compare these pictures with pictures from S.I. !Gobs (not a former white school), you will clearly see the difference.

The happy recipients at OPS.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

i love love LOVE all these pictures, they are really satisfing to look at and know that the work of all these people payed off!! I LOVE YOUR BLOG i read it all the time!!


4:24 AM  

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