In the spring of 2013 I attended a meeting for my mom’s knitting and crocheting club, the “Knit Wits”. They had taught me to knit and crochet many years before and some of them I’d known for my entire remembered life.
The group of about ten women meet on Fridays and are often working on various service projects; their most recent project had been making hats and scarves for the homeless.
As a Semester at Sea alumna I frequently spend my free time recruiting students for the without-a-doubt-best-study-abroad-program-in-the-world. When I learned that my friend Christina would officially be taking part in the Spring 2014 Semester at Sea voyage I began considering what I could send with her to take to the orphanage I support in Ghana.
It would be a win-win for all involved if we could work something out. Christina would experience a well-run orphanage environment while in Ghana, the children would get visitors (something they thoroughly enjoy), and I would get to give something back to the children that taught me what joy really is.
Well, in short, I came to the Knit Wits meeting and kind of just threw the idea out there. Not really expecting them to agree to crochet 50-something blankets in less than a year, it was pure awesome when they announced they would do it!
Months and months of work went by. I emailed back and forth with Daniel, manager of the Egyam orphanage, and he sent me the boy/girl ratio. We ended up making a few extras which can be used for incoming children whenever they arrive.
By late December the blankets were finished.
Getting the blankets physically onto the ship was it’s own adventure.
During the weeks leading up to when the MV Explorer would be in the San Diego harbor I spoke with numerous Semester at Sea employees about the best way to get the blankets on board. All told me that it would be best if the two students (at this point I had now adopted another friend, Taylor, into my orphanage-visit team) could transport the boxes with them the day they boarded the floating university, officially and affectionately referred to as the MV Explorer.
I knew that Taylor and Christina would have their hands full with their own luggage and be busy trying to navigate the hectic and intensive first day — including crossing the Mexican border by shuttle and going through security in Ensenada. It didn’t seem like the best way to me.
January 9, 2014
The day before embarkation came and my plans were still not anywhere near final or concrete. Weeks previously I had bought a ticket to the TEDx talk that Semester at Sea was hosting on board the ship. After loading up my car with the two boxes and a dolly, I decided I would just drive up to the port and hope for the best.
As I began the two-hour drive from my hometown down to San Diego I prayed and prayed that things would go smoothly.
In short, this is how things played out:
Two nearby construction workers helped me get the boxes from my car onto the dolly.
I walked the 50 or so feet from my car to the TEDx check-in table.
Without even saying anything, the Semester at Sea employees I had previously spoken with told me to wait a moment while they checked if I could get approval to load the boxes aboard the ship.
A few minutes later they returned to give me approval. WHAT?! YES!
I got my badge and started the trek from the port entrance to security, where Port of San Diego workers cut open the well-taped boxes, unloaded the vacuum-sealed bags and put each bag through the metal detector.
While going through security I met a couple attending the TEDx talk. They were each alumni of the program, although from different semesters, and had met at a reunion event. Decades later and they were excited to see the newest SAS ship. As we began talking the husband of the duo offered to pull the dolly through the ship and into the storage room. I thanked him and offered to give them a tour of the MV Explorer in return — something I do annually for the Open Ship events, including one I had volunteered for during the week prior.
We easily put the boxes into place and off we went exploring the ship.
Then, during a break in the TEDx talks I went into Tymitz Square (a central location/entryway) where different companies and sponsors were tabling. I spoke with the founders of Global Grins who, without a second of hesitation, passed me four or five handfuls of toothbrushes to stuff into the boxes that would be given to the children at Egyam! Seriously?! Is this real life?!
I then spoke with a representative from TOMS shoes, a well-known retail company whose business concept is to donate shoes for those in need, equal to however many shoes they sell. We discussed the possibility of donating shoes to Egyam (shoes are actually what the orphanage needs the very most) during the Fall 2014 semester. This potential offer is something I’m now currently in the process of securing.
I couldn’t believe the way this entire day played out. But it kept on getting better and better.
Once back in the storage room I started counting the toothbrushes to see how many there would be. Even if there weren’t enough for every child some would be better than none.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15…
16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30…
31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45…
“Uh oh. Looks like it’s just a few short. Darn”, I said out loud to myself.
46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51……….
The exact amount of children at the Egyam orphanage.
In that moment I felt like I had been personally hugged by God, met fate or destiny, all the stars aligned and apparently, the universe was feeling particularly generous. I’m not too sure how I came to be so blessed. All I know is that this project is nearing full completion and I am so unbelievably grateful for every person that helped make this idea a reality. Beginning with yarn and ending with a box of blankets traveling across the world to 51 beautiful souls.
A years worth of a labor of love. Securely in place. On it’s way to Ghana as we speak. Today, February 9, 2014, the ship is arriving in Hong Kong and soon heading toward Vietnam.
The blankets will be hand-delivered by students of the Spring 2014 Semester at Sea voyage in April. Pictures, videos, and statements from the students and Egyam children will make up Part Three of this blog series. It will surely be my most favorite blog post of all time. I can’t wait to share it with you.