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Quilting for a cause

Crafters from the Sea to Sky region donate 18 quilts to African community

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A Pemberton resident is using her craft to help children half a world away.

Lizz Kelly has been quilting for almost 10 years, and she recently developed a simple idea for a charity project, teaming up with another Pemberton resident to bring handmade quilts to children in Lesotho, Africa.

"I do a lot of volunteer work here in Pemberton," Kelly explained. "And Paul Selina, who is the past president of the Chamber of Commerce up here, he does a lot of volunteer work as well and one of his projects takes him to Lesotho, Africa each spring."

One day back in November, Selina told Kelly stories from his travels in the developing nation, and she decided she wanted to help, too.

"I was trying to think of something that I could do to help and I mentioned to him that I do like to quilt in my spare time, and could it possibly be helpful if I made a quilt and he took it with him when he went."

Apparently in Lesotho culture, blankets are more than a practical donation.

"The people have so very little that a blanket is actually a status symbol," Kelly said. "They use it not just to sleep with, but its kind of like a jacket - they wear it around their shoulders or they wear it on their head to keep the sun off - its kind of a multiuse item."

Kelly not only decided to make her own quilts to send along, she also recruited other quilters from the community to help with the project, which she has dubbed Quilts For Africa.

"I went to my good friend, Barb Turrin, who taught me how to quilt many, many years ago, and she offered to make one right away."

The two also managed to design a special quilt pattern that can be adapted and easily converted into a wearable item. And in January, Kelly presented her Quilts for Africa program to the Whistler Valley Quilting Guild.

"I just let them know about the work that Paul was doing there and how my part came about, seeing if they wanted to support it in any way," she said.

While members of the group seemed supportive of the project, she wasn't sure how much time or energy they were prepared to dedicate to the cause.

"I thought it was a very big thing to ask of people," she said, adding that each piece takes a lot of time to complete.

But when she returned to the group just last week, to her surprise, she found that that group had managed to create 14 beautiful quilts for the cause, bringing the grand total to 18 handmade quilts, which are due to be delivered to the impoverished African community at the end of this month.

"I was completely, completely overwhelmed and overjoyed," she said, "...Every one of them is just more beautiful than the rest."

One of the quilters also had some fabric from Africa, which they pieced and included in many of the quilts they're sending to Lesotho in Selina's luggage.

"So the quilts that are now going back to Africa, several of them actually have material that came from Africa."

The 18 quilts won't pack easily into a suitcase, so Kelly has already fundraised to help pay for any overages, though they are hoping the fees will be waived once the airline realizes why Selina is traveling with 18 quilts.

"I'm actually doing a letter up with the support of the Whistler Valley Quilting Guild, as well, that they can present to the airlines, and hopefully they will (waive the fees.)"

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