Why send bears to children in Africa when we could perform a similar act of charity here at home? One of the major reasons is the high prevalency of HIV/AIDS in Africa which devastates many thousands of babies and children there.
Not only have children lost their parents to the disease, but they are sometimes victims of rape by an HIV infected adult. Some say this horrendous act of rape on girls is a myth; nonetheless, according to this site sponsored by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
"A lot of it has to do with the myth that a man will be cured of AIDS by having sex with a virgin, and how much more virginal can you get than a baby?" Hatfield asked. Rather than decreasing with AIDS education, the myth has taken hold in South Africa, which already has the world's highest incidence of rape. Police statistics reveal that 21,000 cases of child rape or assault were reported last year. Most of the crimes were committed by male relatives of the victims.Here is where the Mother Bear Project comes in. Children in Africa who have been orphaned due to the HIV/AIDS epidemic or who are ill with the disease often have nothing of their own. A hand made crocheted or knitted bear, including a red heart sewn to its chest, is a small thing that each of us can make and give to one of these ill and/or orphaned children.
Three days before the 9-month-old was attacked last week, a 3-year-old was raped, allegedly by her grandfather. In the same week, a 14-month-old was assaulted by two uncles. With one South African in nine living with HIV/AIDS, such attacks are often a death sentence for the victims, said Glenys van Halter of South Africa Stop Child Abuse. She said that while the AIDS myth is driving the rapes, unemployment, poverty and alcoholism are also factors.
Hatfield said that in South Africa, whose constitution is billed as one of the world's most liberal, progressive laws are often at odds with reality. "South Africa has a history of violence, we communicate through violence, and it will be a long time before we move away from that," she said.
The Mother Bear Project is dedicated to providing comfort and hope to children affected by HIV/AIDS in emerging nations, by giving them a gift of love in the form of a hand-knit or crocheted bear. The simple gift of a hand-knit bear with a tag signed by the knitter has touched children with the message that they are unconditionally loved. (from Mother Bear)Directions for making a.Mother Bear can be accessed here free of charge. Use up leftover yarns and contribute a bear!
From Ravelry, Dr. Gemma of CogKNITive, one of my favorite podcasters who combines knitting with psychology, says:
:**Send completed bears with $3.00** to cover cost of postage for shipping to Africa to:
Mother Bear Project
P.O. Box 62188
Minneapolis, MN 55426
Volunteers will sew a red felt heart onto your bear's chest. If you did not buy a tag from them, volunteers will also fill out one for you, with your name or anyone's name you suggest on it, to be attached to your bear.
**These bears are meant to be personal, so each child will know the name of a person who loves them and is thinking of them!**