By Edward Tsumele, CITYLIFE/ARTS Editor
There have been several initiatives started in the country for public benefit in recent years. Perhaps that is expected especially for a country with many needs and high levels of inequality defining a predominant feature of its contemporary life. Some of these initiatives and organisations have been met with a mixed bag of success and unfortunately failure for some.
But one of SA’s most inventive projects, Carolyn Steyn’s “goodwool” 67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day, continues to expand and innovate across our country and internationally. This year, 67 Blankets turns 9.
This Non-Profit Organisation 67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day has achieved spectacular success in the area of charity. Some of us who were fortunate enough to witness its launch nine years ago at the Nelson Mandela Foundation offices in Houghton, have witnessed with amazement its exponential growth in terms of impact and its reach over the years. Prisoners have been roped in to do good. The needy across South Africa, including the homeless, have found themselves covered, protected from the biting winter seasons over the past eight years. More and more volunteer knitting groups have been formed, coming on board to participate in this initiative. World records have been broken, putting South Africa further high up as a country with not only caring citizens but hard working and achieving people. Awards have come its way.
And now is the time for celebration, and it makes sense. At exactly the same venue where it all started nine years ago, 67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day, will celebrate these milestones at the Nelson Mandela Foundation offices in Houghton on Friday, January 27, 2023. These 9th anniversary celebrations are indeed well deserved for an organisation that has enjoyed tremendous support from good-hearted South Africans across all sectors of society g thsince its humble beginning. That is before it grew to become a force to reckon with in the area of charity in the country and even globally (some knitters contributed blankets from outside South Africa).
And for these celebrations high powered society people will grace the occasion and the entertainment programme is impressive with its line-up of high calibre entertainers.
And here is the journey for 67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day so far. It was started in December 2013 through a challenge laid down by Zelda la Grange to Steyn, to make 67 blankets for those in need. Since its inception, it has transformed into a “movement” of “Knitwits” who knit, stitch, sew, crochet and weave beautiful blankets and scarves which are distributed to the poor all over SA.
The campaign has reached important milestones: after just nine months. 67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day won CAMPAIGN OF THE YEAR at the South African of the Year Awards; on April 21, 2015, to mark 21 years of democracy in South Africa. 67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day smashed the Guinness World Record for the “The Largest Crochet Blanket in the World” measuring 3,377 square meters at the Union Buildings in Pretoria; on April 24, 2018. The largest portrait blanket in the world was unveiled at Zonderwater Correctional Centre, Pretoria and in June 2021, the Springbok blanket covered over 7000 sqm with 41, 310 balls of wool being used in its production.
Steyn says: “We pride ourselves on the fact that 67 Blankets does not sleep. We pride ourselves on the fact that we continue to knit our lives together and knit our nation together. I can comfortably say that in the past nine years, we haven’t made 67 blankets, but closer to 200,000 blankets. 200,000 people have been kept warmer during the cold winter months because of our efforts. We are miraculously achieving the seemingly impossible. It is in our hands now, and we are listening to our beloved Madiba with every stitch that we so lovingly make with our own two hands. Stitch by stitch we pledge to keep thousands upon thousands of people less fortunate than ourselves, warmer over all the winters to come.”
On January 27, 9th birthday celebrations at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Houghton will be hosted by 67 Blankets ambassador, Postmaster Corrie Campbell with entertainment from Timothy Moloi, Michael de Pinna and Hlumelo Ledwaba, PJ Powers and Nico Prinsloo from Mzansi Ballet. The evening will open with speeches by special guests Acting Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke and Cheryl Carolus.
And the jouney continues. 67 Blankets embarks on an ambitious crusade this year called Local Blankets is Lekka Tour 2023. The team will travel to Cape Town, Gqeberha, Bloemfontein, White River, Kwa-Zulu Natal and Mossel Bay, interacting with people and knitting up new projects.
“67 Blankets acknowledges with grateful thanks all its partners and sponsors over the last 9 years: The Nelson Mandela Foundation, Stuttafords Van Lines, MCC Aviation, The Douw Steyn Foundation, ABSA, Capitec, Auto and General, the Scoin Steyn City School, Kismet Yarns, Elle Yarns and Steyn City,” the organisation says in a statement released yesterday, January 26, 2023, on the eve of the big celebrations.
These achievements by this NPO indeed must provide encouraging light and comic relief for a country facing several challenges currently, such as the headache of the constant power outages ravaging the Beloved Country.