Cover Story

Handmade goodness

November 27 - December 3, 2019

Gulf Weekly Mai Al Khatib-Camille
By Mai Al Khatib-Camille

Gulf Weekly Handmade goodness

Ladies and children are being urged to join the Learn and Serve initiative which not only teaches a trade but the handmade goods are also donated to migrant workers in the kingdom.

Organisers Ashwini Anil and Reem Bali, who started working on this initiative in 2015 alongside Facebook page administrator Anshu Adrekar, arrange workshops for teacher volunteers as well as the collection and distribution of scarves and caps in Bahrain. The group has also donated some caps to cancer patients as well.

Although Anshu is now living in Australia, she still continues to post about the charitable cause, co-ordinating with students and the teachers.

Meanwhile, Ashwini stages workshops herself six days a week in Hoora, Mahooz, Ras Ruman, Adliya, Juffair and Jasra.

Ashwini, a former software developer turned homemaker who dedicates her days to her 8-year-old daughter Advika and charity work, said: “This initiative doesn’t just stop with charity as ladies who join learn how to crochet and knit which is a great stress buster.”

Sarah Clarke, author of Baloo Books and founder of Baloos Buddies, joined the Juffair Learn and Serve batch to knit scarves. She said: “I had a half-finished knitting project in my cupboard – a multi-coloured sweater with an abstract design. I started it in 1987 and it has travelled around the world with me ever since, waiting to be picked up again.

“Except 25 years on, I can’t remember how to knit. I saw the Learn and Serve knitting and crocheting workshop and thought what a fabulous idea. I would relearn to knit and make something useful and greatly needed. Surprisingly, having not crocheted since I was 16, it came back to me immediately – it must be like riding a bike. You never forget! That should come in handy because the sweater needs finishing.”

Ashwini and Reem usually start arranging meets and workshops before winter, gathering teacher volunteers to show students how to make scarves. These handmade mufflers are then donated to the needy. Students only have to pay for the materials and the teachers give the class for free.

“Some of the shops such as Go Handicrafts and Mony Crochet help our project by offering a discount,” said Aswhini. “We take the utmost care whilst creating them, using quality wools and working out the right sizes and dimensions to provide warmth and care to the needy through beautiful pieces of works.”

Ashwini learnt crochet and knitting from her mother Durga Devi who used to make stuff for her and her sister to wear. After two years of living in Bahrain, Ashwini decided to take up the skill again to keep herself occupied throughout the days.

“I rarely remembered to do crochet at that time and did not have any materials too,” she said. “Luckily, I found a crochet hook and started making yarns from plastic bags. Next thing you know, I’m crocheting again. Now, I crochet 3D structures, accessories, clothing and decorative items. I do all kinds of crafts with waste materials.”

Ashwini is a goodwill ambassador for the Mother India Crochet Queens group who have achieved four Guinness World Records. In the first Guinness World Record, Ashwini made blankets and for the second accolade she produced scarves. She created 3D objects for the third record and Christmas ornaments for the fourth Guinness World Record was achieved this year. “As part of the third Guinness World Record, I crocheted structures such as the Bahrain Financial Harbour, Bahrain World Trade Centre and BCCI Bahrain building,” she added. “I also crocheted a 3D version of an Arab man, a camel and a car. The group and I displayed these items in Ramli mall and at the Indian Embassy with a message of “Go Green, Protect Wildlife, Follow Traffic Rules.”

Workshops for children will start in December.

“We will be very happy if more ladies join the group so that we can share warmth to more under-privileged people who work in open spaces,” said Ashwini. “Even children are welcome to join the knitting and crochet cause.

“We are planning to distribute the items as soon as the scarves are done. We usually take count of the scarves when they are done and decide on a site to donate them. We don’t want to miss anyone.”

There will be a class in Juffair today and a workshop in Hoora on Thursday.

Those interested in joining the cause and learning a craft can get in touch with Anshu, Reem or Ashwini by visiting the on Facebook. Anshu added: “I would also like to thank each and every mother who has contributed so far and supported the cause.

For details, contact Ashwini on 35315065.

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