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Inspiring Ellie Founded Her own Charity by Knitting Hats with Wool from Rwanda
The young knitting enthusiast Ellie founded her own non-profit organisation called KidKnits at the tender age of 9. Inspired by hand-spun yarn she received from Rwanda, she wanted to find a way to help local yarn-makers. Encouraged by her parents, she came up with the name, idea and slogan for KidKnits: “You’re never too young to change a life on the other side of the world.”
Here is a short video about KidKnits.
Today, KidKnits not only operate in Rwanda, they also buy yarn from Chile. They operate through local non-profit organizations that are helping women develop skills and earn an income. The hand-spun yarn is then bundled with a loom and simple instructions to form a kit for making a hat. The kits can be bought from their online store.
According to Ellie’s father Steve, KidKnits is also an important education vehicle, as KidKnits has partnered with about 40 US schools that use the kits as a learning activity based on a curriculum designed by KidKnits. The knitting circles are used to educate kids about the world and poverty.
KidKnits has also expanded their operations to include Kenya. Their Kenyan partnership is with Uhunzi, a small company dedicated to producing products that are recycled and sustainable as well as environmental friendly and promote fair trade. The Kenyan recycled aluminium KidKnits can also be found in the online store.
In an interview with One, an international campaigning and advocacy organization, Ellie had this to say:
What was it like traveling to Rwanda and Chile and meeting these women for the first time? What did you learn?
I went to Rwanda when I was ten, and I did not know what to expect. I had actually never been out of the United States. When I arrived, I found that everyone was so welcoming and kind. In Musanze, the town where the ladies live, there were not very many cars, paved roads, or skyscrapers. When I first met the women that work with KidKnits, they jumped up and down, screamed, and gave me lots and lots of hugs.
It made me feel really special and it made me realize that even a small non-profit like KidKnits could really make a huge difference in the lives of people in developing countries.
When I went to Chile, I experienced the same kind of friendliness and joy, but I also experienced a different kind of poverty. All of the women who work with KidKnits in Chile have the basic life essentials they need, which is unlike the women in Rwanda. However, school is not free after sixth grade, so many kids do not continue going to school. Most of the women use the money they make from KidKnits to pay for their children’s education.
What has working with Kid Knits taught you? Has it influenced what you want to be or do when you get older?
KidKnits has taught me that “the other side of the world” can be very far away or it can just be in your own town. I have traveled to different countries, but I have also traveled across my town to different neighborhoods where kids are very different than me. I have gone to these different schools to teach kids how to knit hats and I have realized that, just like kids in Rwanda and Chile, kids on the other side of my town may look or live different than me, but they are really quite the same. They have just as much fun knitting as I do and they like to laugh and smile just like me.
I have also learned to think less about just my family, my friends, and myself. Rather, I have learned to think about the world – everyone, including the people I don’t know. I know that right now there are kids having to get up and work all day instead of going to school and that doesn’t seem right especially when I know that they are just kids like me.
What advice do you have for other kids who want to make a difference in the world but don’t know how?
If you want to make a difference the world, start by looking at what you enjoy doing, like I enjoy knitting. Then, using what you enjoy, think about how it can help others. I just had an idea of using a special kind of yarn from Rwanda and Chile to do what I already enjoyed doing. I also think it’s important to know that even if you help someone in your city or neighborhood, you are helping to change the world.
The most important thing that you need to remember when you are making a difference in the world is that you should never give up. Keep trying and you will find that even small ideas, like knitting, can really help to change a life.