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Alaska Airlines Employees Crochet Tiny Sweaters for Needy Infants in Africa


When Arlene Horan heard about newborn babies born in poverty somewhere in Africa, being sent home wrapped in newspapers for warmth instead of clothing, the Alaska Airlines accounting specialist began recruiting colleagues and friends who could crochet or knit.

The world got a little smaller recently as a handful of co-workers in accounting spent the entire month of July crocheting sweaters for newborn "fish and chip" babies, as they've been called internationally by charity organizations looking for help. Fish and chip refers to the newspaper that is often used to wrap the food.

"No baby deserves to go home wrapped in newspaper," Horan said after she learned about an international effort to help the newborns from her daughter, Tiara, a student at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. Knitting and crocheting for the African infants, many born with the HIV virus from their mothers, has created a groundswell in Scotland, Ireland and England. Horan's daughter asked her mother to help.

Cathie Gustafson and Cathy McKee, both accounting specialists, joined Horan at lunch, before and after work and even on the weekends to crochet, using a basic pattern provided by Knit for Peace, the charity asking for sweater donations. McKee said she even crocheted at the Seattle Mariners game. Although Administrative Assistant Dawn Davis doesn't crochet, she donated some of the yarn—"I wanted to help in whatever way I could."

A few weeks ago, 59 sweaters were packed and shipped to London where a team of volunteers will distribute them and other donations to Zambia, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Nigeria. The agency confirmed last week that the sweaters were received and asked if they would consider making more.

"The pattern is really easy and it only takes a few hours to make," Horan said. "The only stipulation is to stay away from pastel and light colors since they are unlikely to be washed often."

Although the group says it has been a long time since they've crocheted, it came back to them like riding a bicycle.

"I am sure there are stitches dropped in the beginning and mistakes made, but I don't think anyone will notice those things," said Gustafson. "The important thing is that these babies—many of whom are orphaned—will have clothing when they leave the hospital."

Anyone wishing to make sweaters can learn more at http://www.knitforpeace.org.uk/. The charity has requested ong-sleeved sweaters and hats.


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