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A Meditative Act of Charity at Saint Maur International School

By Juli Harrington
A Meditative Act of Charity at Saint Maur International School

I began knitting and crocheting for the Knit a Square (KAS) charity in December 2014 as a way to get rid of all the yarn that had accumulated in my cupboards. Once I’d cleared the shelves, however, I naturally had to go and buy more, as I had grown addicted to making squares for KAS, an organization created with the goal of providing warmth to children in need through the meditative acts of love that are crocheting and knitting. My husband continually asks, “Have you completed 35 squares yet?” I have always been a knitter, so I thought I’d teach myself to crochet. I found the work challenging, but loved how quickly it came together compared to knitting. Motivated by the KAS mission and being able to tap into its forum really encouraged me to learn new patterns and improve my skills. In 2015, my goal was to make 35 squares a month. I did fairly well but only managed eight blankets that year. My husband and I both hail from Oregon, in the United States, but we have now been living in Japan together for 26 years. Our son attends Saint Maur International School in Yokohama, Japan. Saint Maur has an amazing Adult Enrichment Program that offers over 80 classes and tours throughout the year, all led by parents and community members. Participants can take French, Chinese, English, or Spanish. They can learn to prepare signature dishes from many countries. As for the arts, they can sign up to practice Ikebana (Japanese flower arrangement), drama, singing, or origami. The program offers tours to history museums, sake factories—you name it, the list is endless. My friends knew I was crocheting for KAS and wanted me to teach them, so I decided to offer a “Knitting Blankets” class through Saint Maur’s Adult Enrichment program. I enlisted an American friend and pro crocheter to help me teach. We decided to offer the class twice a month for 15 people, figuring 10 might sign up but not attend each session. We now have 20 active participants enrolled and they just requested we meet weekly. They’ve all become addicted as well! Each week we meet in the school cafeteria for 90 minutes. We started out with mostly beginners, so for the first three months I didn’t get a chance to crochet at all during class. I try to find new patterns that build on the previous skills they have learned. We keep a pattern file so that everyone has a range to choose from. Now we have some amazing people that crochet, and they all help one another so I can join in and crochet during class, too. We have members who sometimes bring their mothers or guests to class. Not everyone shows up each week, but we have about 20 people from 10 different countries, including the U.S., Japan, Philippines, Korea, Thailand, Taiwan, South Africa, Brazil, Russia, and India). I love the fact that KAS has attracted people from so many different backgrounds. I asked them why they joined. “To get rid of my yarn,” said one. “I love to be crafty, but didn’t know how to crochet,” said another. To some it just looked like fun. Others realized it was an activity they would never do it at home alone. But almost everyone stated that the main reasons they’d joined the group was “because it is for charity” and “because it’s fun to crochet with friends.” All of the women participating are currently in Japan because of their husbands’ jobs. Many of them will stay between two and four years before moving on to another country. I asked what jobs they’d held before coming to Japan; among us there are mothers, teachers, financiers, and lawyers. Most are trying their best to live in a new country and find the Adult Enrichment classes really help them to make new friends and challenge themselves. So far our group has made 245 squares, 20 hats, and 10 sets of hand warmers. Not huge numbers, but all of these items are made with joy. l Juli Harrington is a Saint Maur Parent and Chair of the school’s Parent Support Group.

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