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Get knitting to keep refugee babies warm in winter

Shetland Solidarity with Refugees is urging islanders to get knitting. The group's Inger Louise Kristiansen, whose daughter Johanne (pictured) is 1, said it was a chance to "help make a pretty horrible experience a little bit more comfortable" for children living in camps this winter. Photo: Shetnews/Neil Riddell

ISLANDERS are being urged to get their knitting needles out to meet the need for woolly clothes, hats and mittens to help stave off the cold for babies and young children living in refugee camps this winter.

The Shetland Solidarity with Refugees group has responded to an appeal from the Inverness-based Highlands Supports Refugees team, who got a request for the knitted items from one of the Greek refugee camps.

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It has now set up six collection points around Shetland (see below) for people to knit and donate snow suits, cardigans, hats and mittens for babies up to the age of two, along with hats and gloves for kids up to the age of 10.

One of the group’s members, Inger Louise Kristiansen-Bragg, said there would be a cut-off date of 30 November with the aim of shipping the donations in the first week of December.

“It would be wonderful if a community like Shetland can do something to help these people through the harshest time of year,” she said.

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Roughly 800,000 people have arrived in Europe by sea this year, many of whom have fled war-torn Syria and other troublespots in the Middle East.

Many of those are now living in camps dotted around the continent, part of by far the biggest refugee crisis this generation has faced.

The Inverness-based sorting space, where a previous Shetland collection of clothing and equipment was sent earlier this autumn for distribution to the camps further south in Europe, regularly receives requests for specific things that are required.

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Some of the tens of thousands of refugees fleeing Syria and the Middle East, pictured in Hungary. Photo: UNHCR/M.Henley

“They got a request from somebody working on the ground in one of the Greek camps, and put a request out to all the different Facebook pages [in the Highlands and Islands],” Inger said.

“So we just thought we should get involved because of how amazing Shetland is at knitting.”

The request was “specifically for babies, for the littlest ones”, Inger said. She added that, as a mother with a one year old daughter, it was heart-breaking to think that other parents might not be able to keep their children warm this winter.

“It’s so sad to think of those little ones who won’t have anything keeping them warm,” she said.

“We’re accepting second hand things as well [if they are in good condition], but we’re asking for people to get knitting.

Kaila McCulloch, Emma Harmer and Rona Arthur from the Shetland Solidarity with Refugees group, along with Shetland Transport's Hamish Balfour and Raymond Stewart, after packing up the final pallet ahead of shipping donations to Inverness six weeks ago. Photo: Shetnews/Neil Riddell

“When you see all the images in the newspapers and on the news, you do feel so helpless, so this is just a tiny contribution to help make a pretty horrible experience a little bit more comfortable.”

The six donation points for knitted items are as follows:

  • Lerwick Salvation Army (open from 2pm-4.30pm Monday-Friday)
  • Dunrossness Primary School
  • Rita Smith, 174 Sandveien, Lerwick
  • Emma Harmer, 6 Vallafield, Tingwall
  • Rona Arthur, 16 Hulsidale, Hamnavoe
  • Jeanette Nowak, Yell (phone 07717 132011)

A total of 114 sleeping bags, 80 tents and 57 bedrolls and ground sheets were among the donations – along with numerous pallets containing clothes, food and other essentials – shipped off following a collection at the end of September.

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