about the essentials of life...knitting, designing knitting, yarn for knitting...you get the idea...

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I'm a knitter, knitting pattern designer, and spinner. I also dye yarn with both acid and natural dyes.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Red Scarf Project 2007

Let me tell you a story...

A couple of years ago, I was teaching first grade in an inner city Houston school. It was close to the end of the year and the kids (not to mention teachers) were getting that antsy 'aren't we done yet?' kind of feeling. Just before lunch, my door opened and the attendance clerk walked in with an unfamiliar boy. "Here's your new student!" she exclaimed brightly, and she turned and hurriedly left the room.

Now, the arrival of a new student is always disruptive. A new student just as we're leaving for lunch is guaranteed to create havoc. A new student at the end of the year? Unthinkable! I was less than pleased.

The new student himself was not encouraging. He stood at the door, not moving, not looking at anything. He was small, even scrawny. His face, when I got close enough to see it, was expressionless. He was unresponsive when I asked his name. He was unresponsive when I asked him to get in line for lunch. He wouldn't take my hand. He ignored the super-kind boy I asked to be his buddy. It was like he somehow wasn't there. His body was, apparently, but only his body. My class needed to be on its way for our 3 minute get your lunch window, but this small boy was plainly not going anywhere, never mind hurrying.

And so it went. My heart went out to this nearly invisible soul. Even if his face hadn't been a mass of bruises, his behavior, his absence from his surroundings, his unwillingness or inability to acknowledge the existance of those around him, all spoke to the extent of the abuse he had suffered. The other students were at a loss as well. He wouldn't talk or play but he took their things. They were uneasy because they knew he was different, sensed that he was damaged, but in their 6 year old law and order minds they had difficulty reconciling different treatment for him than for them if they behaved similarly.

He only stayed a few days, a couple of weeks. We tried mightily, but we were unable to warm him up even a smigeon. One day, he just wasn't there.

Of course, he was a foster child, just removed from his home. His one year older sister had been removed as well, but she was functioning normally. My guess is that he had been the scapegoat child. We were part of his first placement, but he was moved again quickly to a place farther away and considered safer.

This small boy challenged me and my perception of myself as a teacher and person. I was known in my school as the teacher perhaps most concerned with the emotional and psychological health of my students. I was the one who recognized symptoms of mistreatment and got help for the kids. I was the one referring families for counseling, getting clothes for cold kids and those wearing shoes they could only fit their toes into. And yet, here was this child, plainly hurting, whom I couldn't reach, couldn't communicate with. Who also disrupted the hitherto smoothly running classroom constantly and made learning difficult for the other only relatively less struggling children. I couldn't figure out how to cope with him.

All of this, to introduce the Red Scarf Project. The Orphan Foundation of America works with children in the foster care system. Only 50 % of children in foster care graduate from high school and less than 10% go on to college (from the Foundations website, Care Packages page). These resilient few go to university without the family support system to back them up. The Red Scarf Project is an attempt to let them know that they are in the thoughts of someone, that someone cares.

The Red Scarf Project collects hand made, unisex red scarves and distributes them to these foster graduates. The scarves are to be mailed in January, so there is plenty of time. The request is that they are red, 5-8 inches wide, and about 60 inches long. Go here and here for more information, a free Lily Chin cable pattern, and the mailing address.

Check out my sidebar for a simple, simple free pattern.

Send a scarf in honor of the small boy from Houston.


Blogger Norma said...

That is such a lovely tribute to a small boy and a great reason to knit a scarf. Thank you.

August 29, 2006 5:12 AM  
Blogger crazycatladymel said...

Wow. That was so touching! I'm already knee-deep in plans for the project and just started my second scarf (can't finish the first until I get a little bit of a yarn I ran out of). I hope folks read this story of yours and want to help!

August 29, 2006 9:57 AM  
Blogger Marie said...

Thank you both. I hope it does encourage knitters to make a scarf for this great project.

August 30, 2006 11:52 AM  

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