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DECEMBER 2015     » Projects Index

Flying Fingers Knit 15,000 Teddies in the UK!

Seven years ago, Atma and Cynthia Trasi, Coordinator and Secretary of the TOS in the United Kingdom, placed an article in the Telegraph & Argus, a newspaper in Bradford, England, asking for volunteer knitters to help make teddies. These little nine inch bears, complete with costumes, are knitted for a programme called ‘Teddies for Tragedies’, our Featured Project this quarter.
The response to Atma’s and Cynthia’s ad was overwhelming. Fifty knitters and groups responded and the needles flew. To date over 15,000 teddies have been knitted in the UK, 5,000 of them by the Bradford TOS alone as the newspaper article (shown below) attests. With time, the number of non-TOS-UK knitters has diminished. The International Aid Trust recently awarded a certificate to the TOS, the Salvation Army and others upon reaching the 15,000 mark for teddies knitted in the UK. We applaud and congratulate the TOS UK for this astounding accomplishment!

In July 2015, the Telegraph & Argus published this article about the Teddies for Tragedies project picturing Cynthia and AtmaTrasi engulfed in a sea of knitted teddies.
The TOS Teddies for Tragedies project began in 2000. We don’t know who had the original idea, but Maureen Atkinson, Chair of TOS England, introduced the project to the TOS, and it took off. These soft little teddies, knitted with loving hands, are sent to children in need of a friend to comfort them. The TOS UK sends their teddies to children in hospitals in Third World countries. Atma says: “Doctors found that children having their own teddy to cuddle in their cot get better more quickly than those who do not have one. Each child keeps the teddy and can take it home, so the doctors need a continual supply. It is not an organisation or a charity. It is an idea for anyone to take up.” The idea has been taken up by other TOS knitters in Italy, France and Australia who have sent teddies to parts of the world where children are experiencing tragedies, such as war or conflict, natural disaster or extreme poverty. TOS groups in Kenya, Tanzania, India and Ukraine have distributed them.

Furniture for Education Worldwide (FEW) is one of the two charities that very kindly transport the teddies abroad for the TOS UK free of charge. FEW even calls at Maureen’s home and collects the teddies. The charity collects discarded school furniture and equipment such as computers, which otherwise would go into landfill sites, and sends them to third world countries to help schools there. They place the teddies in the furniture and any space available in the containers. Recently, FEW has been asking for warm knitted clothing as well, such as hats, scarves and gloves and jumpers (‘sweaters’ to our American friends).

It costs them £5,000 to send a container abroad. So each year they hold fund-raising events to cover the costs. To make these events attractive, they have a theme. One year they asked Maureen if she could supply some of the teddies dressed up in formal attire (bow ties and hats, ball gowns etc.!) Another year the theme was Halloween, and the teddies were dressed up as witches, etc. Maureen designs and produces the beautiful costumes and props singlehandedly and dresses some of the teddies that she has collected appropriately for the theme. She even knits some teddies from scratch to make up the numbers. The teddies are raffled with tickets of £10 to raise additional funds. We give heartfelt thanks to Maureen for involving the TOS in this worthwhile project and for the many, many, many teddies she has personally knitted and the costumes she has made. This year’s theme is winter, so we have Santas, elves, reindeer, snowmen, snowball and skiers, fairies, stockings, carol singers, etc.,some of which are pictured below:
If you or your group would like to join in on this project, the knitting pattern for the teddies can be found on our website under Resources,
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