“Your sympathy and compassion are not enough.”

Those were the words that Erin Wiesner read on RUC’s electronic board while driving from work to home one day. Soon after that she read “God helps those who cannot help themselves.”

One Sunday Leigh Robinson preached on each person using their gifts for the Lord. Erin wondered what she could do. She worked part time as a P.A., had 4 grown children and 2 grandchildren at that stage. What could she possibly do for the Lord? Responding to an appeal in our weekly bulletin for people to get involved in Rays of Hope, Erin went to see Jennifer Adams, the Coordinator.

She told Jennifer that the one thing she could do was “knit up a storm” and “crochet like a demon.” She showed Jennifer a sample of a crocheted blanket she’d made.

Erin started travelling into Alex once a week and a group of women began to form around her. At first there were just a few but it wasn’t long before 50 to 60 women were regularly gathering together with Erin teaching them how to knit and crochet. The room was abuzz with conversation as the women worked away and Erin moved among them chatting and helping them develop their skills. Little by little the quality of their work improved until they were producing beautiful blankets. She found that the women were gifted in doing repetitive work and became proud of what they had created. In the process they got to know and love Erin and affectionately called her Masichaba which means “Mother of a Nation.”

The blankets were made up of 24 squares sewn together and the women received R5.00 per square. Most were able to crochet 2 squares in an hour. Sadly, in their desperation some of these women had been sleeping with men for R15.00. The blanket project gave them a choice and filled them with hope.

Unfortunately more blankets were made than they were able to sell and consequently the project came to a grinding halt to the great disappointment of Erin and the women. Before they parted ways, Erin decided to have a special graduation ceremony. She threw a party and each woman came dressed in her best and was presented with a framed certificate in recognition of the skill she had gained. Leigh Robinson “happened” to drop in just as the ceremony was under way and he was impressed by the atmosphere of joy in the room, the sense of shared pride in their accomplishments and their deep love for Erin.

At this time Rays of Hope has 300 blankets which need to be sold. How about buying one for yourself, or as a gift for a friend? Perhaps you know an older person who could use a lap rug to keep them warm in the winter. These brightly coloured blankets were made with love by women who carry terrible burdens.

Erin will be making these blankets available for purchase in The Street of Rosebank Union Church on Sunday, April 28th and May 5th.

She is also busy formulating a plan to restart the project in a way that is financially sustainable and that gives a greater sense of ownership to the women.

These blankets are a part of Africa Works project, managed by Katy Robertson. Africa Works is aimed at the economic empowerment of women in Alexandra through skills development and trade. See www.africaworks.co.za.

Mother Theresa once said that “not all of us can do great things, but we can all do small things with great love.” That seems to describe Erin.