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The Red Yarn Project knits for incoming refugees

By Nick Ogden [10]

BELLEVILLE – A new community organization has begun preparations for helping Syrian refugees [11] upon their arrival to Canada.

The Red Yarn Project [12] is a group that plans on knitting winter clothing such as mittens, tuques and scarves for the refugees as they battle the cold Canadian weather. The project formed a Facebook page [13] last week and has already developed support from the Belleville community.

The Red Yarn Project [14]Jessica Fairchild, the creator of the Red Yarn Project, said she came up with the idea while she was reading comments on Facebook about the refugees while she was knitting. She said she was surprised about all the negativity people were expressing and thought about what she could do to help. Fairchild decided that knitting winter clothing for the refugees was the best thing she could do.

“It literally just dropped in my head. It just seemed to click in the right moment. I was doing one thing while talking about another and they just seemed to collide in a way that made sense to me that I could actually accomplish – and that’s what we did,” she said. 

The Facebook page was created on Thursday night and since then over 3,000 people have interacted with it, says Fairchild’s father and the project’s social-media co-ordinator, Jeff McCann. Both of Fairchild’s parents jumped on board with the idea immediately and have done everything they can to help bring the project to life.

Fairchild said she wanted to do her part to help, no matter how small her contribution was:

http://www.qnetnews.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/National-Policy-RYP.m4a [15]


Some of the incoming refugees are expected to be housed initially in barracks at Canadian Forces Base Trenton, and Fairchild noted that she herself has experienced what that’s like. While attending a cadet camp, she spent nights in barracks in Belleville and Trenton, she said, and they were not winter ready:

http://www.qnetnews.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/RYP-Barracks.m4a [16]


(The barracks are undergoing renovation work [17] to better accommodate the refugees.)

The 26-year-old stay-at-home mother says she has had a passion for social-justice issues since she was in high school. She was a member of her school’s Make Poverty History team, which raised money to support people in need. She also belonged to a model United Nations club that dealt with international issues in a local way.

Fairchild and her husband have been busy knitting hats and other winter necessities since last week and have already handcrafted 14 items. Her parents have knitted 11 hats, and a friend of hers has crafted 15 miscellaneous items. And these numbers are only their doing. The Facebook page has just over 140 likes, but Fairchild says they have collected between 300 and 400 hats, scarves and pairs of mittens since Thursday.

The project has embraced red as its main colour. “It offers hope – it’s like love. Red and love, red and Canada,” said Fairchild.

All the hats are brown, red and white and they all look “so Canadian,” she said:

http://www.qnetnews.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/RYP-Roots.m4a [18]


Fairchild hopes to be “drowning in knitted items” come mid-December, when at least some of the refugees are expected to step off the plane into the harsh Canadian weather that they may not be used to.

However, once the campaign is over, she said, it won’t be the end: “The possibilities are endless. This is just the beginning of something else. Once this project is finished, we’re looking to see where the next need is.”

Fairchild’s local project has become a national campaign. The organizers have been talking to people from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick about potentially starting up a Maritime branch of the Red Yarn Project. More and more people have been reaching out to Fairchild to support her dream. Friends from Cloyne, Barrie, Toronto and Ottawa and even family in Ohio have contacted her asking to become a part of her vision.

Fairchild said she thinks people are getting involved because they can actually do something for the cause:

http://www.qnetnews.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/RYP-make-A-Difference.m4a [19]


She isn’t just receiving support from individuals, she said, but also larger companies.

“I was even talking to a guy who’s a (chief financial officer) of a yarn wholesale company who called me and was talking about how he can get us as much yarn as we possibly could ever use, just because he heard about us. It almost makes no sense.”

Fairchild said she has been busier than ever before these last few days as she works with Quinte Immigration Services [20] and other community organizations. But no matter how big her idea gets, she still takes time out of her busy day to put her hands to work and knit.

An information night at the Quinte Sports and Wellness Centre [21] took place last week with over 30 people coming out to knit and find out more about the project. People can donate money online [22], or bring in supplies for knitting at different drop-off locations. At the moment the only confirmed drop-off spot is Starbucks at the Quinte Mall, but Fairchild said she hopes to announce more locations soon.