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Transcript

Podcast: Trauma Teddy

Every year around Australia thousands of people knit Trauma Teddies, cuddly bears that are given to children and adults going through tough times. We sat down at the Trauma Teddy Finishing School in Sydney to meet the team of volunteers who ensure the teddies are quality checked before they are sent off to their new owners. We also met with Mareylene a knitter from Adelaide, who represents just one of the many crafty people who put smiles on so many faces with the cute bears they make.  

Yaska

Oh, my name is Yaska.

Maria

My name is Maria.

Lana

I’m Lana.

Edwina

I’m Edwina.

I coordinate the coordinators for the greater Sydney area, and I also organise this finishing school, it’s called the finishing school because we finish them off with their faces and their labels; so people are knitting all over Sydney, and some of them send their teddies here to us to sew up and to finish.

The teddies started, oh, about 30 years ago now, in fact, 1990 they started in Campbelltown in the south-west of Sydney, and they’ve grown, to the best of my knowledge they’re now Australia-wide, but they did start in Sydney and they’re still very strong in Sydney and, in fact, last year we did over 20,000 teddies in the greater Sydney area, and I don’t think anybody knows how many were done Australia-wide.
A lot of them go to hospitals and other medical situations. We sent 120 to Tathra when they had bushfires a month or two ago, we sent another lot to the Philippines where doctors operate on children with cleft palates and harelips, doctors from the eastern suburbs go over every year or two and do this mass operating session. 30 of them went to the Anzac Day gathering in Martin Place

A few years ago we were in a shopping centre just sitting there sewing our teddies and people came up and they all had stories, oh, yes, my grandson, blah blah blah, my old mother, and they were putting money in a money collecting bin, there was just so much happiness when they saw us there.

Maria

I first started soon after I retired and I had more time, and I had to decide what sort of volunteering I could do, then I found out the Red Cross had a branch at the Trauma Teddies section, and I like craft, I do it with the hands,  I’m quite good at it and I like it, so I started, and then it’s more, you know, it makes you feel better, you’re doing something to give back to society and that type of feeling, it’s quite fulfilling, rewarding.

Yaska

I was referred to this group by Lana: and ever since I came here I’ve loved it, I love working with these beautiful creatures. Yeah, it’s a lot of fun and good company and also it’s nice to know that they give comfort to a lot of people in distress, and I love it.

Maria

Every one of them is different so, you know, when one’s finished and if you like it, it makes you happy. So I do n’t have any favourites.

Yaska

You can say that again.

Maria

They all have their own personalities, none of them are the same.

Maria

Their smile is different.

Yaska

Everybody makes a different face, maybe you can check the faces, they’re all different, and the knitting is different and the colour is different. It’s fun, isn’t it

Edwina

Yeah.

Yaska

And also it’s creative, maybe what sort of colour, what sort of pattern you do next, and after finishing maybe I can do this and I can do that, it’s very creative, too

Edwina

Yeah.

Yaska

And you feel they are talking to you while you are making them, they’re smiling at you, and it’s really great, yeah.

Lana

My name is Lana, I’ve been here nearly two years, and every time when I’ve tried to make the face I could not make a real decent face, so I gave it away, and then suddenly last week I said I have to do something about the face, so I put my whole mind into it and I was successful, so I think that was the happiest time I’ve ever had, yeah.

And about this voluntary work, I believe that voluntary work was in my blood, because I came here as a volunteer more than 40 years ago, and you know what, I was assigned to work, I volunteered with the YWCA, I was assigned to go to Darwin, you know what happened? Cyclone Tracy! You were up on that, I think, Edwina, you knew about Cyclone Tracy?

Edwina

Oh, yeah.

Lana

So I was there only a week and it was hit by Cyclone Tracy, so that was not a very good start, but I think that was a very, to me it was a very, very happy start because I know how people behaved, how when Cyclone Tracy hit everybody was trying to help everybody, they didn’t care whether they had lost their house or not, they didn’t care, they just went out to help, so this is the first impression I had from the Australians that, my God, at this, they are really a wonderful people, they really try to help each other. So I think that also added to my voluntary work habit, yeah.

Edwina

It works on so many levels, the knitters get pleasure, and therapy, in a way. The people who hand out teddies get more pleasure and, of course, the recipients have the long-lasting pleasure.

Mareylene

Hi I’m Mareylene, I’ll tell you a little about myself. We came to Australia in 1973 to Adelaide. We chose Adelaide because we were from a very small village in Wales and I knew I wouldn’t be happy in a big city. And it’s really been the greatest things for us as a family. And for me in particular it offered career opportunities I would never have got in Wales. Before I retired I was manager of the American Chamber of Commerce and I retired in 1998 because we thought we were going to have all the grandchildren we were going to have and I wanted to spend time with Liam, the youngest one. I’d spend everyday almost with him and doing the things that grandparents are supposed to do. 

How I started knitting, when I retired I was desperate for something to do. I didn’t want to commit to certain days of the week because Ken, my husband and I, wanted to just go off and be free to do the things we wanted to do and I didn’t want to let people down if I was part of a team. So I took up my needles and decided I would start knitting as a voluntary thing. I started with Wrapped with Love and then I thought charity begins at home and I wanted to knit for people in South Australia. I promised myself I was going to do it for the Modbury Hospice where my mother died, so I made a dozen blankets and took them up there. That’s how it started. Anglicare have had a load of blankets off me, and the homeless centre on Hutt St, and then I rang Judith up and said would Red Cross be interested in blankets, and she was absolutely delighted. So the blankets I had made and stored here I took in for her, and she had a load of squares, from knitters, and it seemed no one was very keen on putting them together for a blanket. So I took those and turned them into blankets and crocheted around them to give it a bit of strength and took them in and she had over 200 trauma teddies without labels, another fiddly job, so bag bag bag, I think there were 50 in each bag so I brought them home and stitched on the labels. She then offered me the pattern and said would I be interested in making them and we went from there. I started to do that. 

There was a lady she was actually the mother of my father’s best friends, and I always knew her as nanna Clark. And mum took her in when she was dying of cancer. I was ten years old. And Nanna Clark had all the patience in the world. And she taught me to knit, and I’ve never really stopped. Before I got married, in those days twin sets were the vouge, a jumper and cardigan matched, and I knitted a load of things to take away on honey moon. When I had my own little ones I started knitting their jumpers. I’ve always worked, but I’ve always had time for knitting as well, I find it relaxing. So that’s how I started that.

Just recently, Ken my husband and I took 30 to Mt Pleasant hospital and the other ladies took some to Murray Bridge and there was another lot put on a stateliner to go to other hospitals. But they go to little ones that are really having it tough and it brings a smile to their faces. And it’s such a simple thing to do. It takes me three hours from whoa to go to make a teddy, you know you knit the pieces, you sew it together, you fill them. Then you have to make sure they’ got ears, a neck a face and that’s the way we go about it. 

I have tried desperately to teach my ah. Well, one daughter’s not interested at all, the other daughter thought she’d like to have a go but it didn’t matter how much she tried, she’s start of with 20 stitches and then she’s have 50. She realised that even a scarf wasn’t that simple. No, so unfortunately no, not even my grandchildren knit.  I’ve tried though.

I hope that youngsters as they come on learn to volunteer their time. I get an enormous pleasure out of giving. I make so many things that I like to give them away. Volunteering is the same thing. Unfortunately our son in law has follicular lymphoma, and it’s terminal, but he’s doing much better than we hoped, so my daughter got involved with the Biggest Morning Tea for cancer research. I’m from Wales and I make Welsh cakes, so every year I’d make 150 Welsh cakes, and it got to the point where there were orders, so that you end up making them and people are taking them home. But I enjoy the sense of giving and in ten years she’s raised over $20,000 with her morning tea. And John, who was given 8-10 years to live is now the longest surviving cancer patient with follicular lymphoma in SA, he’s now in his 14th year. If people don’t give, they miss out on a lot, it’s not just the receivers that get something, it’s the people giving as well. So I’m going to carry on for as long as my hands will let me. 

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