Knitters keep thousands covered

Elsa Pullenger encourages people to pick up their knitting needles to support those who will battle the cold in the Eastern European winter.

As Bay residents feel the cold bite this month, a nationwide organisation encourages them to pick up their knitting needles to cover those who will battle freezing temperatures in Eastern Europe’s next winter.

Operation Cover Up was started by Liz Clarke 22 years ago when she discovered children of a Moldovan orphanage where she sponsored a young boy had no blankets on their beds.

Extremely saddened by this, she called upon Taupo knitters and hoped 67 blankets would be created for each of the orphanage’s children. With people so keen to help out, 240 blankets were made.

Since this time Operation Cover Up has grown and spread across New Zealand, with Liz saying there is now about 100 coordinators across the country’s regions.

Traditionally from December through to February, Eastern Europe’s winter average temperatures can reach minus 25 degrees Celsius. “We’ve sent 150,000 blankets and about one million items in all – and the people that are a part of [Operation Cover Up in NZ] absolutely love it,” says Liz.

Left behind

Operation Cover Up’s Bay of Plenty coordinator Elsa Pullenger says in countries like Moldova, winters can be as cold as minus 35 degrees Celsius and that women and children are often left without support.

“In a lot of the villages [in Moldova] there are women and children just living there. The men will go out of Moldova to other countries like Italy to get work and often they don’t come back,” says Elsa.

“They’re supposed to send money back to support their families and they don’t, so there’s a lot of poverty.”

Liz, who has visited Moldova, has seen the effect on people there receiving getting blankets and clothing. “They just can’t believe that someone so far away cares about them and would do that for them.”

Cosy threads

Elsa says people shouldn’t be shy of getting involved in Operation Cover Up – even if you’re a knitting novice – as all help is appreciated.

“Some people will just knit strips or squares and then we have other people who will sew those together and make blankets,” says Elsa. “We try to focus and encourage people to do the bigger rugs.

“Often in a small house in a village there might be one big bed and three people might share that bed, so if they have one big rug they can put that on the bed,” says Elsa.

Donating quality blankets and clothing is key for cutting cold chills, says Elsa. “We prefer pure wool because it’s warmer – we don’t encourage synthetic stuff…we try and provide what’s going to give people the most benefit.”

To support, Operation Cover Up’s Bay of Plenty Elsa asks residents to bring donations, woolen blankets and clothes to LifeZone Church, 7 Oak Lane, Judea, from 9.45am this Wednesday, June 22.

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