This Welsh Grandma Is Inspiring a Community to Knit 2,020 Jumpers for Refugee Children
Eileen Johnson, from Cardigan, wanted to do something worthwhile before she turned 80.
Grandmother Eileen Johnson, from Cardigan in Wales, first learned to knit when she was three years old, in the air shelters of the Second World War.
Now, the 79-year-old is spending the next year trying to knit 2,020 jumpers and cardigans for refugee children across Europe — and she’s got her community on board to help.
Helped along by the efforts of a local café, Stiwdio 3, Johnson has become the catalyst for the community project, with locals donating wool, knitting needles, and their time to help out.
Johnson decided to set herself the challenge of doing something worthwhile before her 80th birthday next year and, given that it’ll be the year 2020, she decided to knit 2,020 jumpers for children.
“I’ve lived through a war and I know a bit of what they [child refugees] are going through,” she told the BBC.
The campaign has been going since July, and by Oct. 2 the team had managed to create their first 100 items. At the latest count, on Oct. 22, they’d made it to 164 items.
Stiwdio 3 has been keeping their audience up to date with the project on its Facebook page — using social media to spread the message far and wide, and gather support from both the local and global communities.
Johnson spends a lot of her time in the café, knitting in the window, talking to people about the project, and helping teach kids to knit.
According to Stiwdio 3's Facebook, Johnson even inspired one woman from Boulder, Colorado, to collect a knitting pattern and take it back to the US with her, hoping to get her community involved in the project too.
“What a great way to unite people across the world,” the café wrote.
Earlier this month UNHCHR, the UN Refugee Agency, urged European states to do more to protect child refugees and migrants — who continue to face risks like unsafe accommodation, being incorrectly registered as adults, and a lack of appropriate care.
UNHCR published its latest “Desperate Journeys” report on Oct. 14. It found that from January to September 2019, some 80,800 people arrived in Europe via Mediterranean routes — down from 102,700 in the same period last year.
Of those, more than a quarter were children — many of whom were travelling without their parents.
“These children may have fled conflict, lost family members, been away from home for months, even years, with some enduring horrific abuses during their journeys, but their suffering doesn't stop at the border,” said Pascale Moreau, director of UNHCR’s Europe Bureau.
“Across Europe, unaccompanied children in particular are frequently housed in large centres with minimal oversight, exposing them to further abuse, violence, and psychological distress, and increasing the risk that they will move on or disappear,” he added.