Do Good Thursday: #KnitforJacinda and Little Sprouts

Here’s a lovely convergence of events. I’d been meaning to cover Little Sprouts for Do Good Thursday for a while, and then the whole idea of New Zealanders knitting for charity kind of became international news:

I was introduced to Little Sprouts a while ago by my grandmother, who can whip up a gorgeous cabled cardigan-and-booties matched set over the course of an ODI innings. In addition to goods like nappies, eating utensils, breast pumps and strollers, Little Sprouts baby boxes contain clothing and blankets often handmade and donated by a massive network of crafters. They work with groups like Barnados, Women’s Refuge and the Neonatal Trust to provide for:

  • Families with premature or unwell babies,
  • Women escaping from domestic violence,
  • Refugees starting a new life in New Zealand,
  • Young parents without support networks,
  • Families where one parent is terminally ill or struggling with other illness,
  • Families where the key earner has been made redundant,
  • Families with multiples (twins or triplets),
  • Single parents (mums, dads, grandparents and other caregivers) who are struggling,
  • Mums battling post-natal depression,
  • Families living in an ongoing cycle of poverty,

and more.

It’s amazing work, and one of many fantastic organisations who could use our help. I have a bag of goodies to send them myself – though I don’t think I can really use #knitforJacinda as they were done before the news broke!

~

I don’t normally make a lot of additional comment on DGT posts, but this one warrants it. There has been some unfortunate sneering, by men, at the notion of people wanting to knit for Jacinda Ardern’s baby, and knitting in general.

“Let’s not pretend those booties are anything more than a diversion to [sic] far bigger issues,” opined a certain leftwing man whose blog is entirely built on the unpaid labour of superior women writers.

But here’s the thing about the ~diversion~ that is knitting items for charity: it can literally save babies’ lives. The Neonatal Trust explains:

100% wool is a beautiful natural fibre that importantly is breathable – unlike synthetics and acrylics which can cause a baby to sweat and overheat. Babies born early cannot regulate their own body heat and the use of wool is key to ensuring their body can focus on growing and developing.

Now, we can keep premature or sick babies in hospital in an incubator. Or, with some booties and merino singlets, they can go home with their families that much sooner.

If that’s not enough for you – because you’re a Very Serious Person who wants to focus on Real Issues – consider how legendarily cold and unhealthy New Zealand housing stock is, especially for families on our equally-legendary low wages. Think what a difference it makes to those families being able to keep their babies and children wrapped up and warm when it’s simply too expensive to turn on the heater (or too pointless, because your windows don’t close properly.)

And we cannot underestimate the value of knitting or other crafts for the people doing them. The Neonatal Trust, again, points out:

• It can help with managing stress, anxiety, and depression
• It keeps your brain healthy
• It can help your motor skills
• It is a meditative act
• It instils pride upon completion

Knitting requires patience, dexterity, creativity, dedication and a whole lot of aroha. Making a few pairs of booties may not bring on The Revolution, but it’s doing concrete good in a world which feels out of control and terrifying right now.

If the Prime Minister’s pregnancy means more people get involved in a community effort to provide for those in greatest need, it’s socialist enough for me, comrades.

Do Good Thursday: AUNTIES

New year, new energy, new good, concrete things you can do to change the world.

The pitch:

AUNTIES is a one-off publication written by women in Aotearoa about their experiences of political organising.

A collection of essays, interviews, visual art and poetry, AUNTIES channels the political power of women, offering rare insights into what it means to struggle and create change in the workplace, environment, local community and beyond.

Activists Nadia Abu-Shanab, Kassie Hartendorp and Ella Grace McPherson-Newton will be editing the project, which will feature the work of up to twenty writers and artists in a full colour, high quality publication. It will be launched on International Working Womens’ Day, March 8th, 2018.

This is an incredibly powerful project and it’s being organised by amazing people. They’re super close to their $5,000 goal – can you give them a little push to make it in their final week of fundraising?

Chip in to make AUNTIES happen here.

Do Good Thursday: End solitary confinement

People Against Prisons Aotearoa (formerly No Pride in Prisons) are campaigning to end solitary confinement in New Zealand prisons – or as Corrections insists on referring to it in the most Orwellian way possible, “directed segration”.

PAPA says:

Every year, thousands of New Zealand’s prisoners are put in solitary confinement. This means they are forcibly isolated from meaningful human contact for 22 to 24 hours a day. In many cases, they are not even given access to natural light or fresh air for 23 hours a day. Some cells have nothing in them other than a thin mattress on a concrete slab, and a cardboard box to pee in.

Often, the Department of Corrections will use solitary confinement in the name of prisoner management, health, and safety. But in reality, people who are exposed to these horrible conditions, especially for long periods of time, come out of them with irreparable mental and physical damage. Rather than promoting wellness and good order in the prison, it increases the risk that prisoners will hurt themselves and others.

Removing people against their will from all human contact, and other basic human needs, is degrading and dehumanising. There is no excuse for the cramped, barren, monotonous, and miserable environment that Corrections forces on thousands of people a year. It’s time to demand the end of solitary confinement in New Zealand prisons once and for all.

Sign the petition here.

Find out more about PAPA’s work here. Prison abolition can sound very scary to comfortable middle-class types, but once you wrap your head around the genuine harm done by the prison system, and the possibilities of dealing with crime and violence in ways which, you know, don’t perpetuate crime and violence, it starts making an even scarier amount of sense.

Do Good Thursday: mental health

This week for Do Good Thursday I’m boosting this fantastic post by Jessica McAllen about the organisations who work bloody hard filling in the gaps in our under-funded, under-resourced mental health system. As we wait to see what kind of government we have for the next three years – and even if it’s a good result, repairing shattered public services is not a quick job – these organisations are still doing the mahi and literally saving lives.

Jess writes:

Organisations like the ones I’ve listed below fill the void while patients slowly climb to the top of the list for DHB care. They provide hope for people with serious mental illnesses who don’t connect with the everyday New Zealander and work to advocate for those who are being treated unfairly within the system. Often these organisations are actually more attractive than DHB psychiatric care because they treat people as an individual rather than a diagnosis.

The past decade has been death by a thousand cuts for such organisations. Many have had to cancel vital programs due to a combination of decreased funding and increased demand. Whether you want to go hard-out and do some suicide prevention training (Lifekeepers) or attend an exhibition of artwork by mental health consumers (Pablos’ annual auction is coming up next month), I hope there’s something in this list for anyone wanting to help.

As an additional good work, consider supporting Jess’ freelace work via Patreon.

If you have any other organisations/projects/awesome ideas to boost, drop them in the comments below.

What’s next? Let’s do good

A while ago I mentioned the idea of Untroll Thursdays, created by best-comedian-on-YouTube Megan MacKay. It was another of those things I wanted to do which fell by the wayside because real life got in the way, as it usually does.

But I was reminded of it as I wrote my Monday post, and thinking about some of the activism work being done in the US by movements like Indivisible, and especially the idea of Resist Trump Tuesdays. Activism is bloody tiring, even for people who don’t do it for their day job. And there’s so many good fights to fight, you could spend every hour of every day fighting them and not even scratch the surface of all the country’s problems. Besides, most of us don’t do this for a day job. We have to choose how much time and energy we can commit.

So this is my latest idea: Do Good Thursdays. A post a week on concrete actions you can do or groups you can support here in NZ who are doing good.

If we end up with a National-led government, those fights are going to get a lot harder. If we end up with a Labour-led government, as I said in on Monday, we’ll need to keep the pressure on them and build visible, vocal, public support for a strong progressive agenda. Supporting these groups, taking these actions, chipping in where we can: we have to remember that every little bit helps, and those of us who can help more – because we have platforms, or money, or other resources – must.

As luck would have it, while I was pondering all this I saw a Twitter conversation about what socially-conscious financially-secure folk could do with those tax cuts the National Party keep promising us; and that led to the One Percent Collective. They say:

We’re a small team based in Wellington out to make donating 1% of your income to charities easy and a really great experience.

How? Our board of trustees review and select some of the best smallish Kiwi-based charities out there so that you don’t have to, then we make it easy to share one regular donation between as many of them as you like. Your charities receive regular funding, which frees them up to be innovative and focus their efforts on the issues they exist to solve, and we focus on connecting you with the impact your 1% has on people in the community through regular stories and events with your charities.

The best part is that 1% is diddly squat, but it adds up quick. There’s hundreds of generous people currently donating their 1%, and we’d love to see this be the norm here in Aotearoa and all around the world.

For some of us, 1% is a pittance. For others, it’s a lifeline. Go forth, and do some good.

(And if you have any suggestions of causes to dedicate a Thursday to, drop it in the comments!)