Challenging stigma: Knitted Knockers to Rwanda
Remember our post about Barbara Demorest and the Knitted Knockers Foundation? After losing a breast to cancer, Barb was given a “knitted knocker” – and has devoted her energies ever since to sharing knitted knockers with breast cancer sufferers all over the world. Here’s Barb to tell you about the Foundation’s latest adventure…
Life in East Africa is difficult enough, but imagine having breast cancer and a mastectomy, and then knowing that the ultimate insult is to be told, “may your mother have her breast cut off”. Philippa of the Breast Cancer Initiative of East Africa (BCIEA) tells us that life is very challenging for breast cancer survivors to live without their breasts as they are stigmatized and although breast reconstruction is not an available option for most women, mastectomy is the main treatment approach.
Knitted Knockers are soft, light, huggable and made with love by caring volunteers so when Philippa asked if we could help teach the women of Rwanda to make breast prostheses for the women of East Africa we knew immediately the answer was a resounding YES!
Philippa went on to explain that silicone prostheses are expensive, heavy, hot, and hard to take care of due to poor living conditions– some have been eaten by rats, they require special bras and so many have “shunned” the donated traditional breast prosthetics. We agreed that the soft, hand knit knitted knockers made of breathable cotton that can be worn in a regular bra could be a great solution for their women. She had taken a couple of sample knockers with her for the women to try to make their own.
While they are great knitters, many cannot read patterns so their first efforts were admirable but not functional! Philippa asked if we would consider going to Rwanda to inspire the women to make knockers for their fellow women. Practicing the principle, “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” these women would in turn go out to the 1200 tribes of East Africa to teach the women how to make them for themselves.
Making Knitted Knockers could become a small income-generating activity that would enable women to escape poverty and take charge of their lives and their families’ while making a difference to cancer patients. The plan is for hospitals and organizations to buy the knockers from the women at a reasonable price and then donate them to the women that can use them. This works on all levels and is sustainable. The women of East Africa would be making knitted knockers for the women of their community while assisting themselves out of poverty.
Knitted Knockers wasted no time responding to the need in Rwanda. In February, we donated and shipped 100 knockers to BCIEA, after a successful “call for action for 1000 knockers” by Stitches West, a large Fiber Arts Expo in California. We selected an assortment of beautiful colors and they were received with great joy and delight, we were told.
Philippa has invited us to participate in the 8th Annual Ulinzi Walk in Kigali, Rwanda in October 2016. This will be an opportunity to educate women and the medical profession on the availability and suitability of these breast prostheses. Resources are limited with the typical family surviving on just $1 a day. We believe that by sharing the knitted knocker story and the impact on women’s lives, we can inspire these women to make knockers for their own communities. With a little help, many of these women can be empowered by giving them a skill, and they can, in turn help someone else.
This is where you can help. The yarn and needles have been graciously donated by Loveknitting.com, Cascade Yarns, Brittany Needles, and Bryce Distributing. Knitted Knockers Support Foundation is a 501(c)3 run 100% by volunteers. With up to 1,000 knockers a month being distributed worldwide we survive strictly by donations. We have volunteers ready and willing to take the journey to Rwanda to teach these women but we need funding.
Please help us by contributing to our East Africa Fund to help the women of East Africa to gain a skill and help someone else while bringing themselves out of poverty.
The LoveKnitting team with Barbara Demorest
What can you do to help?
- Checks can be mailed to: Knitted Knockers Support Foundation, 1780 Iowa St., Bellingham, WA 98229. (Please put Rwanda on the check.)
- Donations can be made via credit card here, (please designate as Rwanda on the donation line.)
Bless you for blessing others!
Founder & President, Knitted Knockers Support Foundation
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Last updated: July 26th, 2016.