In the eighteen months or so since I first started “Beanies for Babies” I have sent more than 200 hats to South Africa, Malawi, Honduras, Micronesia and Mexico with plans to send even more. I have also given caps to the Floating Doctors Project for them to distribute on their two year travels around Africa providing healthcare to needy communities there.
According to the articles I have read, 4 million babies die within one month with about half of those in the first 24 hours. In sub-Saharan Africa, one in five women has lost a baby before it is a month old. Crocheted or knit caps which keep babies warm can save lives by preventing hypothermia and infection. Thus, the caps we send around the world do save lives. Moreover, Beanies for Babies has already made a significant impact in the community in that teens have learned the old craft of crocheting which they can pass down to others. Also, kids have the opportunity to help others in non-traditional ways. Ordinarily, kids are asked to raise money. In contrast, Beanies for Babies needs kids to make hats. It is very satisfying for a kid to make a hat and then know that it is going to travel across the globe to help another child.
There are some unexpected results, too. At first I was nervous about teaching younger kids (third graders) to crochet. I expected that they would have trouble, be unable to focus and not care. The 150 children from the Los Angeles Unified School District taught me a lot. These students come from poor families and live in gang areas and yet they were the most responsive and enthusiastic students I have worked with. When I presented my program to these kids and asked who wanted to learn to make hats to send to babies who need our help, these kids all responded with an excited, “Ido, Ido!” Even the boys and the kids who could not speak English were so anxious to learn. I think that these kids are not normally given the opportunity to help those less fortunate and they rose to the challenge. So, in addition to improving healthcare for babies in underdeveloped countries, this project really gave a boost to inner-city students and provided them with an opportunity to participate in a global service project.