More than 3000 knit for Operation Cover Up

Operation Cover Up knitter Sue Wylie (left) and co-ordinator Suzanne Lane, both of Dunedin, relax in knitted blankets, jumpers, gloves, hats and scarves set to be sent to poor and marginalised people in eastern Europe this year. PHOTO: MOLLY HOUSEMAN

Dunedin knitters have helped people in eastern Europe keep warm over winter for the past 20 years.

Each year, Operation Cover Up sends two “huge” shipping containers full of knitted blankets, clothing items and hygiene items to the poor and marginalised in Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Moldova, Romania and Ukraine.

Operation Cover Up Dunedin co-ordinator Suzanne Lane, of Dunedin, said for 15 years she had knitted for the cause run by umbrella organisation Mission Without Borders.

“We have all these social service agencies in In New Zealand like that in Eastern Europe.”

For someone who knew how to knit, it was an easy way to make a difference, she said.

“It is so easy to knit while sitting mindlessly and watching TV.”

But each blanket could cost upwards of $55 to make, as each ball of wool cost $5 or more, she said.

It often meant getting creative and using scraps purchased in sales to knit.

“I have seen some ingenious things and some beautiful blankets.”

Shipping per container was about $16,000, which was funded by Mission Without Borders donations, but Operation Cover Up relied on its own donations to provide wool to local knitters.

“Acrylic knitting yarn is cheap and plentiful, but we do not use that, as it is only wool that provides real warmth,” she said.

The operation has about 100 co-ordinators and more than 3000 knitters on board, almost all volunteers.

Over the years, it expanded to include school stationery, soap, toothbrushes, shoes, and sports equipment in the shipments.

Reflecting on the operation’s 20-year milestone earlier this year, founder Liz Clarke said it had far exceeded her original expectations.

“I prayed for 67 blankets for one orphanage in Moldova and we have now sent around 142,000 blankets and hundreds of thousands of other items to eastern Europe.”

Mission Without Borders director Andrew Wilks said through Operation Cover Up, children, families, homeless and elderly recipients learnt that people on the other side of the world cared about their struggle to survive and wanted to ease their suffering.

“It is putting loving concern into action.”

Local Dunedin knitters will have a get-together at Janet Cameron Hall, in Green Island, on Sunday _ a chance for knitters to meet each other, drop off their year’s knitting and “share a cuppa”, Ms Lane said.