Knitting to Save Lives
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Knitting to Save Lives

How the members of one knitting club turned their passion into a mission to save lives.

Knitting had always been just a fun hobby for Alice Habina. But it took on a new purpose when Amanda Sabalja, a fellow knitting enthusiast and coworker at the Brookside School, in Ossining, New York, gave her a newspaper article about Save the Children's Knit One, Save One program. The goal? Providing handmade caps to newborns in developing nations such as Ethiopia, Nepal, and Malawi, where millions die in infancy every year from preventable and treatable causes. Many babies suffer from hypothermia, since mothers often give birth at home or in hospitals without warming equipment. Habina, a school nurse, was painfully aware of the ways exposure could threaten a baby's fragile life. Yet she felt a flutter of hope. "I knew that the knitting group at our school could help these children," she says.

Habina and Sabalja's club members (and teaching assistants) Catherine Nelson and Helen Garcia shared their enthusiasm, and the group began making caps as fast as their fingers would allow. To the women's surprise and delight, eight of their students volunteered to help. "We quickly taught the kids how to knit so they'd learn what a big difference they could make in another child's life," says Nelson. After three months of frantic yet fun work, the group sent a donation of 135 caps to Knit One, Save One.

When the caps were distributed to new mothers at Black Lion Hospital, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, photojournalist Guy Calaf was there to capture the joyful occasion for Save the Children. New mother Zulefa Hilawi was thrilled to receive a brightly colored hat made by Nelson. "You and your baby are so precious," Nelson wrote in the attached note. "I hope you have a happy, healthy life!"

Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, December/January 2010.