Friday, October 11, 2013

Bear Necessities is Online!

Bear Necessities is a small project based in Chintsa on the Eastern Cape of South Africa. The project is in the very beginning stages of it's (hopefully long and successful) life. It is a project which aims to give a little something to the children of the local area who don't have much, if anything, of their own; a small knitted bear. Because it really is a necessity for everyone, no matter how big or small, to have something to call their own.

The Inspiration

When browsing through my facebook wall one day I came across an beautiful photo of a little girl clutching a knitted bear with a huge smile on her face. I followed the link from the image and came upon a project called "The Mother Bear Project". I am totally inspired by the idea of the Mother Bear Project which is an non-profit organisation and international initiative where people knit simple teddy bears which are then distributed to developing countries who are struggling with the HIV/Aids epidemic. A simple something which passes on the message of love and hope to these children. If you would like to support this amazing project or find out more about it, you can visit their website at (There are other charities which also need teddies - the Teddies for Tragedies website has quite a comprehensive list of these charities if you are looking for something closer to home, or if you type "Knit for Charity" into google, a hundred and one options will pop up - there will surely be one to suit you if Bear Necessities does not!).

Project Location

Chintsa is a small village in the Eastern Cape of South Africa; the gateway to the Wild Coast and former Transkei homeland. The Eastern Cape is the poorest province in South Africa with the slowest rate of development. The general standard of living and education services available in this under-developed region mean that the majority of children live below the poverty line. Typically Xhosa families are large; each family supports several children, grand parents, grand children and extended family, in a house with very little space, often with no running water or consistent supply of electricity. "Hand to mouth" kind of living. Luxuries like toys are not high on the list of priorities and the majority of children will grow up with very little in the way of these things.

Friends of Chintsa

Friends of Chintsa is a highly active non-profit organisation based in Chintsa. The "FoC'ers", as they are affectionately known, instigate and support initiatives in the greater Chintsa area which address long and short term, social and environmental issues faced by the communities of this area. This project will work in partnership with Friends; using their support, aims, communication channels and relationships to ensure that the bears are going to the right homes and to the children most in need. You can find out more about Friends of Chintsa on their website at

The Project Begins

To kick off Bear Necessities I would like to supply one of the rural Chintsa Preschools with bears for each child. There are currently two preschools in the village and I am in communication with Friends of Chintsa as to which preschool would be best to work with at this stage. I believe that no less than 50 bears will be needed - possibly up to 60.

Project Support

Bear Necessities had already received a lot of support and several donations including:
  • £50 for bear stuffing and 4 bears from Susan Spedding
  • 6 bears, ribbon and cotton from Mari Hjul
  • A donation of old pillows from Sal Price at Buccaneers Backpackers, to stuff the bears (loving the recycling) :)
    Knitted bears and a stock of ribbon from Mari

    A whole host of English bears from Sue
I'm so pleased to have had such enthusiastic response and support and can't wait to see the bears pile up as our knitting begins!

The Next Move

Start knitting! At this stage, because we don't have a budget for the wool, equipment and bears, knitters will have to donate their own wool and cotton as well as using their own knitting needles. I hope that once the project is a little more established we can start to build up a base stock of such things in Chintsa (either donated or bought with monetary donations), so that knitters only need give their time and creativity! I am planning to start a bi-weekly/ monthly bear knitting gathering in Chintsa and will keep you posted as to date, time and venue.

I would also like to print a small Friends of Chintsa logo on t-shirt fabric to be sewn to the chest of each bear. I have worked out that if we buy and print "in bulk" i.e., buy 1m x 1m of fabric and print logos to fill that area, it will cost less than R 0.50 per bear. The extra logos will be used for additional phases of the project.

How You Can Support the Project

  1. Knit a Bear (or 10!) - look out for my next blog for a simple bear pattern. If you're not in S.A you can post your creations (stuffed or un-stuffed) to Friends of Chintsa, PO Box 19, Chintsa East. 5275. South Africa.
  2. Donate your old and unused knitting equipment, wool and threads (see the wish list below for an idea of what we need).
  3. Give a monetary donation to help us buy equipment and knitting materials (see Friends of Chintsa bank details below).

Wish List

A basic wish list to help Bear Necessities get off the ground:

Materials for bears
1.       Wool – R25 (for high quality lux. Wool – 100g)
2.       Stuffing - R10.50 per bag (2-3 bears)
3.       Embroidery thread - R15.50 – enough to complete approx. 4 bears
4.       Tracksuit/ t-shirt material to print logos onto - R 50 for 1m

Equipment for knitting
2.       Knitting needles - R16 per pair
3.       Darning needles for sewing edges together - R8 (2 needles)
4.       Standard needles for embroidery - (R 5 for 5)

1.       Luggage labels (to write child’s name on)
2.       Black pens for writing labels – R 16.99 each

4.       2 big boxes to keep everything in (one for materials one for bears!) - R450

Donate directly in the Friends of Chintsa account (please reference "Bear Necessities"):
Account name: Friends of Chintsa Account number: 1206076925
Branch code: 12062100
Account type: Current Account (Cheque account)
Sort code (Routing number) 12-06-21
Swift code (IBAN number) NEDSZAJJ
Bank address: Nedbank, Vincent Park, East London

Please leave a comment if you would like any more information or if you have any questions, I can't wait to get this project up an running!

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