Unicorns, elephants, zebras, lions and giraffe are bringing a bit of cheer to South African children – and even to adults battling rare diseases. But like an infomercial… that’s not all.
The little woollen animals are also helping unemployed women put food on the table and contribute towards educating their own children.
The Rare Bear Project, is the brainchild of Rare Diseases South Africa (RDSA) – an NPO that assists patients affected by rare diseases to access life-saving treatment and supportive care.
“This started out as a community project with KyaKids – a community project run by the Bryanston Bible Church, Johannesburg,” said Megan Hunter, RDSA patient advocacy project assistant.
About 50 women from the Kya Sands community have attended skills clinics where they were taught to crochet the “rare bears”.
They have turned it into their full-time business.
We commission bears for our rare disease patients so that they have a friend to be with through their journeys of survival
Megan Hunter, RDSA patient advocacy project assistant
“We decided to commission bears for our rare disease patients so that they could have a friend that was all theirs to be with through their journeys of survival. But we didn’t want perfect bears, we wanted them to be rare.”
The women crochet up a storm making anything from giraffe, elephants and zebras to unicorns and sheep.
Corporates and the public donate the hand-made pieces – which cost R150 – to patients with rare diseases on a monthly basis.
Tendai Mkhoma loves making elephants but finds giraffe challenging. Through her animal-making – about two a day – she has been able to help her mum financially and put her four children through school.
“Through the sales of these animals, we are able to earn money to take care of our families,” she said.
A mother who lost her toddler to a rare disease last month posted on the RareBearSA Facebook page that the little girl “truly loved“, the crocheted giraffe that was donated to her.
“She truly loved it. I thank you guys from the bottom of my heart for just being there for us parents with kids with rare diseases.”