The health benefits of knitting are many – stress, anxiety, pain and memory loss reduction, and creative fulfilment. Another benefit: community building.
Every Monday, Lower Lonsdale’s Knitting Kittens, a group of 12-15 women gather at North Vancouver’s John Braithwaite Community Centre for conversation, friendship and charitable works.
“When I came here I was very depressed. I didn’t have anything to do,” Farkhondeh says. Like 39% of this vibrant, diverse city’s population, she is a newcomer to North Vancouver moving from Iran in 2016 with her husband and son. Like many new residents, she felt lonely and isolated. She’s not alone. Thirty-two percent of City residents say they don’t feel a strong sense of community belonging.
Creating new patterns
United Way’s Hi Neighbour Initiative is working with area residents to help them develop deep and meaningful connections with one another through support of groups like the Knitting Kittens.
When a friend introduced Farkhondeh to the Knitting Kittens, a program offered through the North Shore Neighbourhood House, she felt right at home.
“I’m so happy because I come here [and] communicate with different people from different cultures,” she says.
“I’ve learned tolerance,” says Tangee. The retired long-time North Vancouver resident has been part of the group since it was started by Master Knitter, Maureen about three years ago. Tangee says the initial idea for the group was to include seniors, but there wasn’t much interest.
When Farkhondeh and fellow knitter Mahin showed up to practice conversational English, a whole new world opened up. Today, the group has members from Vietnam, South Africa, among others.
“We can talk about our children, our problems…different shops, different foods. It’s very nice,” Farkhondeh says.
The group knits for family, friends and also to donate to those in need. Twice a year, they gather their blankets, toques and slippers and deliver them to the Sage Transition House, which provides safety and support to women and their children fleeing abusive situations and the North Shore Neighbourhood House.
“We don’t sell anything,” Tangee says. “It makes us feel good.”
Hi Neighbour helps out
The Kittens are such prolific knitters, they recently found themselves running low on yarn.
That’s when they received a $200 Local Love grant for United Way’s Hi Neighbour initiative. The funds helped purchase more yarn from Dundrave’s Knit & Stitch Shoppe, who provided supplies free of charge in past to the group.
Tangee says the group is very grateful for the support from United Way.
“The Knitting Kittens are all about building community,” says Ivy Staker, United Way, Senior Community Engagement Strategist. “Sharing stories, exchanging numbers and getting inspired to take action to make neighbourhood connections stronger and more supportive. We’re just so pleased to be a part of this amazing group.”
A growing community
November 12, the group was part of Lower Lonsdale’s first community building dinner, which brought together members of the knitting group and residents who attended the BUILD YOUR COMMUNITY WITH JIM DIERS event in October. At the event, Jim, a world-renowned community builder shared tips, examples and stories to show how neighbours banding together can change their community for the better.
This intergenerational, multicultural group will host a potluck Tuesday, December 10 from 6 – 8 pm at the Harbourview Room at John Braitwaithe Community Centre. So join us for a fun gathering of neighbours. Bring a dish and invite anyone you like. A strong community starts with you! Got questions? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
United Way’s Hi Neighbour Initiative is in eight communities across the Lower Mainland and works with residents to create opportunities to make a difference in their communities.
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