An item made by volunteers of the initiative | Credit: Knit Aid
An item made by volunteers of the initiative | Credit: Knit Aid

Knit Aid is a social business that started in London when two women decided to craft knitted items to support refugees. In two years, more than 8,000 articles of clothing and accessories have been created and sent to migrants in France, Greece, Turkey, Syria and Lebanon.

Knitting becomes a tool to help migrants thanks to Knit Aid, a social business in London that makes articles of clothing and blankets for refugees in need. The organization hopes to begin seminars directly in the countries that host migrants. 

The idea came from two women in the British capital, Shahnaz Ahmed, 33, and Karen Whitelaw, 31, who were touched by the migrant crisis and decided to offer their help by knitting items to keep migrants warm. 

Knitting in the service of refugees 

According to UNHCR, the two women felt the need to do something when the Syrian refugee crisis exploded in 2015 and the Mediterranean Sea filled up with boats carrying people fleeing their countries. Ahmed, who at the time was making some knitted items for her newborn daughter, began asking for donations of knitted items for refugees and received lots of responses via social media. "People kept emailing me," Ahmed told UNHCR. "It was so heartening, but also overwhelming". 

Whitelaw, who is also an avid knitter, had the same idea, and the two of them founded Knit Aid. The project began with the goal of giving support to refugees in France, in particular in Calais, and then spread to other areas affected by the crisis. 

From around the world for refugee empowerment

Since the start of its operations, the social business has attracted volunteers from around the world, from Japan to Chile.The activists have made blankets, scarves, gloves, hats and other quality garments from materials that are for the most part donated. "We run workshops, sell unique merchandise, and collect and send handmade donations. These products and services help to fundraise for causes that are close to our hearts," the two women said on their website. 

Thanks to donations, today the organization has expanded and owns a large warehouse in London, in New Malden. In two years of work, Knit Aid has sent more than 8,000 garments to Calais, as well as Greece, Syria and Lebanon.There are currently about 100 volunteers who participate in the project. In addition to fundraisers, Knit Aid also plans to hold training courses in refugee camps in the hosting countries, with the goal of allowing migrants to make their own knitting items. "Empowering refugees is at the heart of what we're doing," Ahmed said.

More articles