Switch a Hobby Into a Helping Hand

According to Nancy Monson, author of The Healing Power of Crafts, hobbies and crafts are a multibillion-dollar industry in America. Over three-quarters of American households have at least one family member who spends an average of 7.5 hours per week engaged in a beloved hobby or pastime. Creative outlets such as painting, knitting, gardening, and carpentry provide talented crafters with opportunities to express themselves artistically while producing something other people can enjoy or use. While some people may have an innate talent for writing or an aptitude for technology, others are gifted singers, golfers, or even great history buffs.

These kinds of hobbies produce objects that can, believe or not, be used in a way that makes a massive difference in the world.

Painters can teach art classes to special needs children. Singers can use the beauty of their voice and love of song to bring lessons and music to inner city children who’s schools can’t afford an arts & music program. History buffs can assist museums, present guided tours for the community, and present history lessons for teenagers through school outreach courses. Even golfers can share their love of hobby, in a positive way; offering free lessons on the weekend to engage troubled teens in a meditative sport that requires focus, commitment and patience. A golfer could also volunteer to serve as a golf historian in the community – where they would collect, preserve and share golf’s rich history with others and organize fun golf tournaments to benefit charity.

Anybody who has gift, talent, special skill, or love a pastime can make a change in the world by sharing it with others in some way! Look at local community centers and outreach programs to find out how your hobbies can be put to good use.

Knitting to Change the Life of a Child

Amy Berman, a mother of two from Minnetonka, Minnesota, was enraged by a 2003 story in a Marie Claire magazine article reporting on the rape of thousands of infant and young girls in South Africa. Amy desperately wanted to help, but thought, “What can I do?” In the article, a child protection unit had mentioned that items of comfort, such as teddy bears, dolls, and books, were being delivered to the rape victims through the Child Protection Unit in Durban, South Africa, but that there was a need for more. “I knew I had to do something”, Amy says now. “But what comfort could I give?”
As Amy wracked her brain for ideas, she recalled how her own children had so often been soothed by the personalized teddy bears her mother had knit from an old World War II-era pattern. The children had loved those bears until they were threadbare. And the bears were lightweight enough, Amy realized, to be sent in bulk to South Africa. After a bit of digging, Berman’s mother found the pattern, and Amy started knitting. She made her first bear from washable brown yarn. She added ascarf and red felt heart, then embroidered eyes and a smile on its face.
Not long after finishing her first bear, Amy’s channelled her creativity into the founding of a popular charitable organization: Mother Bear Project (aptly named by Amy’s son Zach, who told his mom how proud he was of his “Mother bear” for what she was doing). In short order, hundreds of other knitters around the world joined Amy’s ranks, dedicated to helping Amy’s organization by turning their own hobbies into acts of love. Amy, her Mother Bear Project (motherbearproject.org), and its volunteers have put more than 33,000 bears in the arms of destitute and abused children, bringing them comfort and support, and letting them know, in Amy’s words, “they are loved unconditionally.”
Some things in this world cannot be made better by money—the sorrow of an orphaned child, the fear of a young rape victim, the hopelessness of a child battling AIDS. Instead, something as simple as a handmade teddy bear can do what our dollars cannot—bring a child hope, comfort, and the knowledge that he or she is loved. Confronted with an almost too-horrible scenario in Africa, Amy Berman could have just written off the situation as beyond her ability to help, and could have judged herself not up to the task of making a difference to children half a world away. Instead, she looked around her to see how she could help simply by using some thread—and her own creative skills. Take a look at http://www.motherbearproject.org/ to find out how you can knit to improve the life of a child in need.