It has been a year now since my husband, Steve, our daughter, Ellie, our entire family, and I made a decision to make some big personal changes and focus our family’s mission on KidKnits. What does that mean exactly? For months Steve and I would stay up late, after he finished work and I was done homeschooling our daughters, to work on developing the KidKnits materials and program. Steve taught himself to knit on a round loom; I taught myself how to create marketing materials. As we were juggling and trying to find a balance, we couldn’t shake this push in our hearts that we should be doing “more” for the women in Rwanda. We prayed, we talked, we prayed some more. Finally, last fall, we decided to move our family to a situation where both Steve and I would be able to have “more” time to focus on KidKnits. Deciding to define your young family’s mission as one with the goal of changing lives on the other side of the world can be a bit overwhelming and there is not a handbook that shows you how to do it. So Steve and I, armed with our faith and our family, set out on our own KidKnits’ story.
In the fall of 2010, we first committed to buying up to 100 balls of yarn each month from our partner, True Vineyard Ministry, their maximum capacity at that time. Steve and I remember leaving an early meeting with Diana Wiley, Executive Director of True Vineyard Ministries, and learning that every woman employed by TVM would be working on spinning wool for this order. We got in the car and looked at each other with an excitement tinged with trepidation. Would we be able to sell 100 balls of yarn per month? We had never done this sort of thing before and now we really had to sell that yarn. The KidKnits story is a beautiful story to share and we got an order from a church friend who was going to give KidKnits kits as birthday gifts. We then got invited to host a knitting party with my niece and ten of her friends. Next a college friend of mine invited Ellie and I to come and teach a handful of moms and daughters about KidKnits. Then a school principal had the vision to sign up her entire fourth grade for the KidKnits project in her school. Then Ellie’s fifth grade teachers decided that they would like to knit KidKnits hats as their service project.
Each ball of yarn, being sold one at a time, convinced us that KidKnits was a story being written with Rwanda and with children here. We realized that being empowered to show how they care about the world can, in fact, change a child. We started to receive pictures of kids who had completed their KidKnits hats and our hearts sung when we saw the joy and pride on their faces as they modeled their new hats. We talked with Diana about growing her capacity. One hundred balls of yarn, which at one time we were fearful of selling, was just not enough to satisfy the number of people who wanted to buy KidKnits kits and be part of this beautiful story.
Diana and True Vineyard Ministries has grown in response to the demand for KidKnits kits. When we first met, TVM employed ten women, this grew to twenty last July, and has now grown to thirty-five women. These women work on creating the beautiful yarn that we purchase. But Diana does not run a factory, she runs a ministry which provides a holistic response to the poverty and tragedy these women have experienced. While she employs these Rwandan women to make yarn, the integrity of her mission depends on being more than just an employer. Diana was excited about the demand that we were seeing, but she didn’t want to grow too fast and impact the holistic nature of her mission. We understood.
We prayed. When you want to buy more supply of a yarn that supports employment for vulnerable women struggling with the day-to-day realities of world poverty, it’s not quite like going to the grocery store and buying another gallon of milk. Where would we find women who were in need of employment and yet also had the ability to spin wool? We prayed more and we asked our friends to pray with us. We were introduced to the women of Rwanda by a remarkable chain of events that some would say border on miraculous. But did God want us to stay in Rwanda? Was Ellie’s story about being moved to care about women in Rwanda, a story that could also be relevant in other countries and other situations where great poverty suffocates and traps families? After months searching for another source of wool, our prayers were answered.
We learned of the Ursuline Sisters, working in Chillan, Chile. The sisters run Casa Ursulina, a school where they are able to teach women in the community how to spin wool among other things. We reached out to them. Would they be interested in partnering with a nonprofit founded by a young girl and run by her parents? Our partnership would not be like any other. We wanted to know the women who were working with them, visit them and share their stories with the many students making KidKnits hats. We talked with our new friends, Sister Ruth and Sister Mimi. Steve and his dad took a trip to Chile to meet the sisters and women of Casa Ursulina. And we continued to pray.
We are so excited to share that KidKnits will be growing to help support 16 additional families in the country of Chile through the Ursuline Sisters at Casa Ursulina. Their beautiful yarn is now a part of the KidKnits kit family online and we are developing a comprehensive curriculum to integrate with this new product in schools.
KidKnits is about Rwanda, it is about the strong women who dance and sing with joy as they work to spin yarn and who openly loved on my daughter, Ellie, when she went to visit them. KidKnits is about Chile and the families that struggle through cold winter months with indoor fires and open walls in their homes and the Ursuline Sisters who have humbly given their lives to serve them with their own beautiful smiles and hearts. KidKnits is about the large number of students in our schools who are getting a chance to know how it feels to help change the world. It is about inner city students taking a field trip to walk through the door of a local mission and give a large donation of their KidKnits hats for the homeless shelter. KidKnits is about our families and friends who have shared the KidKnits craft kits with their own kids and empowered them to change the world. KidKnits is about all of these stories. It is about sharing the message that you really aren’t ever too young (or old) to change a life on the other side of the world. So, as we work for the women in both Rwanda and Chile and share their stories, we thank you for being part of our story, we hope you will be excited for our growth into Chile, and we hope that you’ll stick around to read the next chapter.
In humility and devotion, with love and gratitude,
Kristin (mom of Ellie)