BIG-HEARTED Moray folk have risen to the challenge of helping Malawi’s so-called ‘fish and chips babies’.
‘The Northern Scot’ is backing an appeal by the Moray West Presbyterial Council of the Church of Scotland Guild for donations to help newborns in a country where more than half of the population lives below the poverty line.
Families have little money for food or clothes, so babies are often sent home from hospital wrapped in newspaper for warmth. And it’s not just toys and clothes that are needed in the African country, where life expectancy is low and infant mortality high.
Guild members and their friends from across Moray have been busy following the ‘Fish and Chips Baby’ patterns for bonnets and tops.
That effort has now been bolstered by donations of clothes, toiletries, toys – even medical supplies – from readers of the ‘Scot’.
“We have been absolutely overwhelmed by the response to date,” said front office employee Linda Kay.
Among those to hand in a donation was Phyllis Dean, of Elgin’s Springfield Gardens, who knitted bonnets and vests for the appeal. Mrs Dean said she will keep her needles clicking until the goods are sent off next month.
Reader Irene Campbell, who donated knitted bonnets, squares, and wool, said that hearing of the youngsters’ plight “touched her heart”.
Meanwhile, Liz Tait, professional lead for clinical governance with NHS Grampian, handed over medical equipment including thermometers, nurses’ uniforms and needles for children’s vaccinations.
“Because I do international work, people give me items that are surplus to requirement. For example, we changed our uniforms, so paediatrics gave me the old uniforms to take out to Africa when I go,” she said. “When I saw your appeal, I decided to hand over some of that, because the delivery is going out quite soon. It is better to go now than when I next go out, by which time I will have more items ready to go.”
The teams at Moray Reach Out’s ‘Start to Knit’ shop, in Elgin’s Commerce Street, and ‘Buckie Yarns’, at 33 West Cathcart Street, have also joined the campaign.
‘Start to Knit’ project co-ordinator Shirley Nicoll said that reading just how much the donations are valued galvanised their decision to get on board.
Volunteers, who knit baby items to sell in the shop, have switched their energy to knitting baby vests, bootees and hats, while a batch of recently donated crocheted cot blankets will also be included, along with knitting needles, wool and knitted teddies.
The ‘Scot’ appeal has also been displayed in the shop’s window to attract the attention of passers-by.
Liz Dunbar-Nasmith, a regular volunteer, said: “Hearing about the levels of poverty and picturing a baby leaving hospital wrapped in newspaper moved all of us to want to do whatever we can to help and to raise as much awareness as we can to encourage others to support the appeal.
“It makes us realise that, for all our own troubles, there are people a lot worse off, who still lack the very basics, and we wanted to help mothers to be able to give their new-born children a better welcome into the world.”
Mo Whishart urged the people of Moray to send out a message of “hope and encouragement”, along with practical help.
The team at ‘Buckie Yarns’ are giving out the ‘Fish and Chips Baby’ vest pattern and collecting knitting needles, wools, patterns and materials to donate.
Project manager Susan Clarke said: “We would encourage everyone to try to do something to respond to an appeal that has really touched us and got us all motivated to do something to help. Even the smallest gesture will help add up to a response Moray can be proud of.”
Guild members will package all the items together in April for onward transmission by the Raven Trust.
Items for donation can be handed in to the offices of ‘The Northern Scot’ at 74-76 South Street, Elgin, by 5pm on Monday, April 15.
Donations required by the primary health community – which works to help orphans and other vulnerable people – include: cakes of toilet soap, toothbrushes, cotton wool, bandages, gauze, rubber gloves, vaseline, clothing (for adults and children), knitted or crocheted blankets, and toys.
Craft centres, set up to enable local people to provide for themselves, require: wool, knitting needles, material, pencils and coloured pencils, and knitted or crocheted squares to be made up into blankets.
Hospitals are also in need, requiring: Cotton baby vests, cotton babygrows, knitted hats, booties, blankets and woollen jumpers for children.