Knitting from America to Rwanda

With most of Americans having a far greater global perspective than years' earlier and with many Americans seeking personal and professional ways to aid in the promotion of peace, Cari Clement, Director of Marketing for Bond America division of Caron International (and formerly president of CC Product Co/Bond America) with offices in upstate New York, Vermont and North Carolina, has initiated a program to contribute to the cause of peace and regional prosperity.

Her company manufactures the only home knitting machine manufactured in the USA, the only craft (sold in yarn, craft and discount stores) knitting machine made in the world and the only knitting machine retailing at under 0.

 

Rwandan refugee recently arrived in neighboring Burundi.

"I have always wanted to assist in creating a women's economic cooperative, but did not know where to start or how to begin. As for many of us, September 11th pushed aside those rationales and gave me added resolve to see how we as a company and I as an individual could contribute in our own small way to encouraging global economic cooperation which ultimately leads to greater global peace.

Because much of the world's problems stem from poor economic conditions, assisting countries in becoming more self-sufficient is one way we can help to combat poverty whie is a major factor in driving a country to violence," says Clement. Her goal was to donate 120 machines plus the cost of shipping to help establish cooperatives and would assist in setting up the programs in the recipient countries.

Refugees recently returned to Rwanda working on making baskets to benefit widows and orphans.

A UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) ad in the New York Times soon after September 11th sparked Clement's call to the organization. She was referred to Jeff Meer, UNHCR's executive director, who expressed serious interest in the offer. Meer and his associate, Tina Zwicker, contacted his people in the field in countries he felt would be most benefitted by the donation and by mid-March, the UNHCR office was getting regular e-mails from Rwanda asking when the machines would arrive!
But due to the years of genocide that decimated the country's wool production and spinning capabilities, they also needed yarn.

Clement's company is a member of the Craft Yarn Council of America, a trade organization composed of yarn spinners, publishers and other yarn-related manufacturers. Clement presented the Rwanda program and her company's donation to the CYCA members at its annual meeting in June and received the endorsement of the organization and the agreement by many of the members to donate yarn to the effort .

 

The Rwandan Women's Initiative for returnees to the country conduct sewing classes for women to gain practical experience for work and home. Teaching women how to knit on the Sweater Machine will be of a similar format.

The company has shipped 60 machines and over 1,500 skeins of yarn to Kigali, Rwanda, which has just arrived there. Soon, Clement and members of UNHCR will fly to Africa to train the women to use the machine and produce quality sweaters and blankets for re-sale. Initially, the garments and blankets will be used in the country itself, which is very cool due to its elevation.

When Clement returns, she will work with sweater importers to create a market for the finished goods in the USA. Another 60 machines have been requested by Eritrea, so once the Rwandan program has been put in motion, the next country to receive the machines and yarn will be Eritrea.

Rwandan refugee's hut at
Kubumba camp, Zaire.

Ultimate Knitting, a new magazine of which Clement is editor-in-chief, and Family Circle Easy Knitting, will be following the Rwandan project from its inception through it's ultimate goal of providing an income for the women of war-torn country of Rwanda.

For more information on:

UNHCR, visit their website at www.usaforunhcr.org.
Craft Yarn Council of America, visit their website at www.craftyarncouncil.com