Relationships, inclusion, diversity, respect, and awareness all play parts in adult abuse, neglect, and self-neglect, and isolation prevention. The work of many impacts the safety and security of a
“Knitting Warm” Together
The “We Need Yarn, We Knit Warm”, an annual initiative led by the Chinese Community Policing Centre (CCPC), recruited volunteer knitters and supporters from across Vancouver-based organizations to make scarves, hats, and warm clothing to include in safety packages for the homeless, seniors, and other at-risk individuals.
Over 300 gift and care packages were delivered to Yarrow Intergenerational Society for Justice, shelters in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side, and low-income, isolated seniors through
Vancouver Coastal Health throughout the Lunar New Year. Several hundred other packages containing adult abuse information, gift items, and Chinese New Year decorations were delivered to Vancouver-based seniors.
“This year, the Chinese CRN piggybacked on CPCC’s project,” says CRN Coordinator Daisy Au. “We have a seniors’ knitting circle who responded overwhelmingly well to the idea of knitting items for people who are less privileged than they are. (We wanted as many people as possible to enjoy a warm Chinese New Year this season.) The knitting connected our volunteers to each other too, especially during the pandemic when socializing is difficult and with so many of our seniors unwilling or unable to connect online.”
Knitters Found Connection with Each Other, A New Purpose to Serve Others
The yarn the volunteers are working with is connecting everyone across generations, cultures, social economics, and language.
Volunteer knitters from Frog Hollow Neighbourhood House and Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House – also based in Vancouver –joined to form this knitting task force, which included grandchildren of many of the volunteers who were taking up the craft for the first time.
“Abuse and homelessness are difficult topics to talk about. The activity of knitting provides space for thought. Over the knitting period, seniors shared stories of some of the challenges they have experienced living at home,” adds Daisy. “Elder abuse in our culture is quite prominent, and no one talks about it. While delivering the yarn and while knitting, we have conversations about this.”
With children also involved and learning to knit from their volunteer grandparents, the conversations wandered to in-depth talks about privilege – who has more and who has less, a
nd how to make a difference for future generations. One granddaughter was so inspired by the project that she took up knitting for herself and wants to do a project for school on vulnerable populations and what needs to be done to help them.”
“A lot of our Chinese seniors often ask: ‘Why are they homeless?’ or ‘Why do they live this way?’”, says Daisy. “I see this mentality changing. After knitting together for a period of time and having open conversations about abuse, neglect, privilege, and future generations, the questions are now: ‘I understand their situation better. What can I do to help?’ or ‘I am so fortunate. What can I share with others to make life a little bit better?’ The knitters were soon knitting for a different purpose.”
“It’s a recognition of lived experience,” says Joanna Li, Regional Mentor – Vancouver. “We’re looking for ways for older adults to tackle stereotypes and shift to a position of empathy and support.”
Weaving Community Together
The “We Knit Warm” initiative is a demonstration of the power of community when it works together to serve others, and the type of impact it can have in supporting its most vulnerable.
“Knitting is symbolic of weaving our community together,” says Joanna. “CRNs, our partners, older adults, vulnerable adults, residents of the Downtown Eastside, and Chinatown…everyone was brought together to ‘knit warm’. The CRN and CRN partners created a safe space for older adults to find their own ways of contributing to their communities
. They worked tirelessly to build on existing strengths and reimagining ways to innovatively reach out to vulnerable individuals and older adults, letting them know we are thinking about them. Their presence, input, and contribution are what make us a community.”
“It is about creating opportunities for older adults to connect and reconnect and encouraging them to use their passions to help others,” adds Daisy. “The smallest amount of encouragement makes a big difference. I’m not actually doing anything: they’re doing all of the work and taking steps to make a change themselves. The thread and yarn of this project represent the connection of all communities…and it’s the most beautiful thing to see.”
BC CRN Executive Director Sherry Baker says: “Congratulations to all involved for mobilizing so many community members to reach out and help those less fortunate. What an amazing project! And thank you so much for all you do to help keep your vulnerable adults safe and free from abuse.”
BC CRN was one of many supporters of this project. Kudos to HSBC, New Horizons for Seniors Program, Lotus Light Charity Society, Aberdeen Centre, CCM Canada, Frog Hollow Neighbourhood House, MOSAIC, Mount Pleasant Neighourhood House, S.U.C.C.E.S.S., and the CCPC: thank you for kicking off the year of the ox on a positive note for so many.
 MOSAIC’s knitting circle was 20 strong and they knitted over 140 items!