Gillian Ames sits with her and Nancy McArthur’s knitted teddy bears (Submitted photo)

Local knitters send teddy bears for international disaster relief

Gillan Ames and Nancy McArthur’s bears have been sent to Asia, Africa, and eastern Europe

Gillian Ames and Nancy McArthur are two of La Rosa Garden’s most avid knitters. The pair knit bears that get sent to the Compassionate Warehouse in Victoria, then to countries all around the world.

“We’re always delighted to get the bears. We use them for trauma counselling, and send them for comfort,” Compassionate Warehouse volunteer, Gloria Morneau said.

“They’re wonderful because we can tuck them in with our boxes. We don’t want to send boxes that will collapse or have a lot of space in them, so we put those in to buffer everything we’re sending, so people get little surprises when they open them.”

Ames and McArthur’s bears have gone to Jordan, the Philippines, Thailand, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Libya, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Zambia, the Ivory Coast, and Transnistria.

Morneau said that the bears are making a difference in the lives of children who receive them.

McArthur started making the bears two years ago after one of her friends at La Rosa got her into knitting them. The two bonded over the project and became close friends. Her friend later became ill and passed away. So, McArthur decided to take on the task of knitting bears, and recruiting other knitters at La Rosa to the cause.

“I’m always doing something to keep my hands busy,” she said. “If I can grab knitters I’ll do it. I’ve just got to try and find them.”

McArthur also makes little knitted bunny companions to go with the bears, so the kids will have two toys to play with.

Ames was recruited by McArthur to make the bears. Since she began November 2018, she’s made 120 bears – 20 of which were made in 2020.

“Nancy was knitting them. I saw them and thought they looked interesting, so she gave me the instructions and it just went from there,” Ames said.

She only makes the bears ‘when the spirit moves’ her to do so. It takes Ames about eight-hours to make each bear, and she usually makes two bears in a week. Ames is happy that people are enjoying the bears.

“It just felt good to be able to share them,” Ames said. “To knit them to sell is no fun. That’s business. I wanted something that was just for fun.”

Despite her intentions not to sell the bears, Ames did sell a few. She donated the money directly to Compassionate Warehouse.

Ames said it was important for her to send the bears to areas where children have nothing, rather than sending them to local hospitals.

“We don’t realize how blessed we are here in Canada. We have so, so much,” she said.

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