Goodacity – Dare to be Good

THE WAY OF THE MESSENGER OF GOOD

Olena Khasheva

I always loved knitting, especially things for children. So, I started thinking about helping children in need. Then, the idea came: to organize something related to knitting. I started by looking for similar initiatives but did not find anything in Ukraine, so I launched “40 Loops of Goodness” step by step.
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Olena is an example of a person turning their hobby into something much more significant. She gives her kindness and compassion to children in need of care through the skein of yarn. Moreover, Olena found and organized like-minded people to multiply this flow of help!
— Taisiya Romanovska,
interviewer, Goodacity activist

How it all began

“I could easily transfer some money for a good cause. I thought that it would be better to help someone than to go and buy sweets for myself.”

“I could easily transfer some money for a good cause. But I thought it would be better to help someone in need than buy sweets for myself.”

Olena, I was looking at the photos of the things you knit, and I was amazed at how professional your work was! Have you been knitting for a long time?

“I started when I was probably eight or nine years old. We had crafts lessons at school, they began after the fourth grade, so I was nine or ten years old.”

Pretty early! My daughter is eight, but I can’t imagine her doing something like that! 

“Well, it was just the beginning at this age. Of course, I had no custom orders then. Orders came when I became an adult. You see, I am a very experienced knitter. As a child, for example, I earned money from knitting. It was an additional income stream for my sister and me so we would not become idle. 

I used to live in the Caucasian region, and all the women there were knitting constantly. And so, our mother had been teaching us since we were little. I was always a creative child: I was always drawing and sewing. My mother bought me a sewing machine that you had to work with your feet, back and forth. My legs were tired, of course! [she laughs] My mother did everything she could to encourage my interest and development in this direction: if I wanted to knit, I got knitting needles; if I wanted to sew, I got magazines and fabrics. As a child, I even dreamt of becoming a fashion designer.”

Did you have a desire to help someone as a child? Perhaps the urge to do good comes from childhood?

“It is possible. As I already said, we sewed and knitted a lot. We mainly were knitting items for sale. But I sewed for people who were close to me for free. For example, my sister always brought a dog or cat home and hid them. Though I did not have such a strong love for animals, I had it for people, especially children. I even wanted to be a psychologist for a while and often read psychology books. When my child was growing up, I wanted to study children and understand them more deeply. Apparently, it all is intertwined: kindness and psychology, communication with children. And it makes you want to help someone.

That is, you wanted to take care of someone all your life?

“I always helped if I had such an opportunity. Probably, like everyone else — if I saw a charity stand, I put 10 hryvnias there. Or, if I saw information about gathering money on TV, I donated a hundred hryvnias there. There were also situations when my acquaintances needed help, for example, due to sickness. I could easily transfer some money to help them. I thought it would be better to help someone than buy sweets for myself. And then, maybe everything would turn out well for the person I had helped.”

And how did the idea of knitting for charity come about?

“I always loved knitting! I had a stall before where my mother and I sold my knitted items and took orders. Knitting had been in my heart since childhood, and I could not let it go! [she laughs] When my son grew up, and I had more free time, I didn’t stop knitting. I was not knitting for him anymore because he was an adult, but I continued to knit things for children. Even then, I tried some new techniques, adding my own schtick. 

Despite giving many knitted items to close friends and family, they began to accumulate. So, I started thinking about helping needy children and donating some of my things. Then, the opportunity came to tour an orphan boarding school and learn how that type of organization works. I met volunteers who offered for me to accompany them on a visit. After seeing an orphan boarding school for the first time, the idea came: to organize something related to knitting. I started by looking for similar initiatives but did not find anything in Ukraine; so step by step, I launched 40 Loops of Goodness.”

How did you become an organizer of 40 Loops of Goodness in Ukraine?

“I started alone, and at that time, I was just handing some things over to orphan boarding schools. Then, I began visiting the schools. Of course, one or two knit items wouldn’t save 150 people who needed warm socks in winter; but it got me thinking about organizing some kind of a club. At that time, I didn’t know exactly how to do it. I simply made acquaintances of the volunteers working with orphan boarding schools and suggested: “Do you need people like me? I can go and help, or I can knit…” Something like that. 

Later, I started searching the Internet using search terms such as  “knitting, charity.” I was looking for people already doing something similar to what I had in mind. And so, I found a club of knitters in Russia, organized for this particular type of movement by a Russian. Later, I found “40 Loops of Goodness.” But of course, it did not suit me very well since the club was located in Russia. Eventually, things grew to the point that I needed to organize a “40 Loops of Goodness” in Ukraine. We still communicate with girls from Russia, and formally we are together; however, we have different sponsors. So this charitable movement now exists in Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus. I have already expanded to 13 cities in Ukraine!”.

40 loops of goodness

We help people who need care and attention: children from orphan boarding schools, elderly people from boarding houses. We help mother-and-child homes.

Now the question about your activity. How are you currently helping, and whom?

“We help people who need care and attention the most: children from orphan boarding schools and older adults from boarding houses. We also help mother-and-child homes. And, if we have enough things, we donate them to low-income families and the homeless. In addition, we have volunteers who work directly with these groups of people, and we donate hats, gloves, and warm clothing through those volunteers.”

So, you knit, right?

“Yes, we knit. But what is most important is that those items are not second-hand, as it often happens with donated items for orphan boarding schools. Instead, we knit new things for all seasons along with toys.”

Do you even have things for summer?

“We do have off-season and summer clothing as well. For example, sundresses, shawls, or shorts. Our summer items are knitted from cooler materials, including cotton yarn, viscose, and other materials.”

That’s exciting! Do you take photos of your items for reports? 

“Of course! Because our craftswomen live all over Ukraine, the main photo reports appear on the pages on Facebook and Instagram. We receive yarn from sponsors and display it there. We also take photos of all completed products and show exactly where they are sent. When people take the yarn, they knit things and provide photo reports. The main activity for that takes place on Instagram.”

“Knitters are like shopaholics but more like “knitting addicts.” Sometimes because of our knitting needles,  we joke that we are on the ‘needle!’”

I see. And how can people help your charity project? 

“Anyone can be a sponsor! For example, professional knitters with spare yarn. Or people who do not knit can help by purchasing various yarns, knitting needles, or other knitting-related materials. For example, I needed notebooks to encourage knitting girls. A printing house gave a discount and printed them for me at cost price instead of a marked up price.” 

Perfect! 

“Yes! One more good thing about the yarn from the sponsors is that if, for example, girls want to knit something but don’t have the right material. Or if they want to learn to knit but don’t know if they will succeed, they can take some yarn from me and knit something for the club. This way, they can learn how to knit and fulfill their dreams. And sometime later, they can buy yarn themselves because they already know what thread it is, what composition of the material they need, and how to knit a complete item. Or knitters may need some yarn to learn the basics. Here, the yarn from the sponsors helps a lot! Knitters are like shopaholics, but more like “knitting addicts.” Sometimes because of our knitting needles,  we joke that we are on the ‘needle’!” [she laughs]

Do you have a more or less permanent circle of craftswomen? Or do some people come, and some people go? 

“Everyone helps in different ways. Some people hear about us for the first time and want to help, for example, by knitting one cap. And some people constantly knit, donating ten to twenty items per month. Permanent knitters in one city often gather together. For example, we have many girls from Chernihiv who have a small club of knitters who want to do charity work and can be considered permanent members. Hand-knitting is a very tedious and time-consuming business. Not everyone is willing to part with their handmade items.

Now I have a channel on YouTube where I teach knitting. Here the fact that I like doing it for free is reinforced because the urge to be helpful is more important to me than earning money.”

Olena, I wonder who you are by education?

“I studied banking and finance, so I am an economist.”

And you worked in accounting? 

“Yes, I have worked as an accountant all my life.“

So, your primary job is accounting, and you knit for the soul? 

“Oh, I can’t do without knitting! So now I have my channel on YouTube, and I teach knitting. And I get sure again that I like doing it for free as the urge to be helpful means more to me than earning money. So even on YouTube, my main goal is not to make money but to share my knowledge. 

I run marathon sessions on the Instagram page, during which I encourage people to join our club. One might say I unite lovers of knitting. And the main rule is that we give free workshops. I find craftswomen who can show how to knit this or that thing. Instead, we ask people to donate knitted items to the club. This is a mutual collaboration: we provide a free workshop and teach you how to knit a blouse, and in exchange, you give us one of the blouses you made.”

 Do you create your own models not seen in knitting magazines? 

“Yes, sometimes, but it is very time-consuming. Of course, it is easier to knit by following magazines’ patterns. Therefore, if I need to produce, for example, two or three children’s sweaters or hats for an orphan boarding school, it is easier to do it by following ready-made  patterns. 

I can develop ideas and patterns on my own and knit them; I even had plans to invent some unique items, model them, and sell them at my workshops. However, I dropped this idea because it is still easier for me to knit something and give it to someone as a present. I love to give gifts!” 

Giving is sometimes more pleasant than receiving. That is true. 

“Exactly! In addition, knitted things are handmade with care, so each item includes a small part of the knitter by way of their efforts. All the people who received such presents from me were very grateful. I mostly knit for children because of the small amount of yarn needed for each project. Nowadays, yarn is expensive, and there are many different kinds – knitting has become fashionable! So many people have taken up knitting that I hardly have the opportunity to knit things as gifts. But sometimes I get lucky and am still able to do so.”

What stays in the memory

“When we communicate, the positive emotions shared between us are better than any gratitude!”

Another question: Can you remember the most vivid event from your knitting activity? Perhaps you have a special memory of giving some of your things? 

“You see, they are so different that I cannot single out just one. For example, when you visit children at an orphan boarding school, you feel so many emotions when they hug you! But, every time it happens somehow differently. For example, you visit a psychoneurological boarding school, where children and adults of different age groups are present. It was hard for me to visit such a boarding school for the first time. It is heartbreaking not to know how to communicate with this child or person. It leaves a very different kind of vivid memory. 

But it turns out that some girls in boarding schools can embroider or knit very well! Periodically, I bring them yarn or beads for embroidery. In addition, I often visited Kyiv to visit children from the cancer treatment center. We arranged charity concerts and exhibitions, where we sold their works – сhildren also drew pictures, which we then sold at our shows. The proceeds from these events went toward the treatment of these children. Honestly, such things impress me more than anything else! After all, those kids are genuinely happy to be involved, and despite their illnesses, they feel pride and joy!”

Thanks for sharing! And how often do people do something nice for you? 

“Good people surround me, so they often do nice things for me. When we communicate, the positive emotions shared between us are better than any gratitude! Smiles and a good mood are just enough for me. If a person is good, then they emit positive, pleasant energy. I don’t think I’m doing anything extraordinary. I just help if I can and don’t if I cannot.”

The power of thought

“I wish goodness prevailed; I wish all people were kind!”

Let’s give rein to imagination, Olena! If you had three wishes, what would you wish for?

“Oh, I don’t even know where to begin! [pause] Speaking for myself, I suppose I would like to have the usual things: money, a car, an apartment. As for society, I wish there were no boarding schools, and all the children were with their families. And for this, we must first have a healthy society.

The second wish is to invent a cure for cancer so that children do not get sick. It is just not fair! A person can live their whole life and get some disease over time. And here we have children who have just been born and already have cancer — I just can’t get my head around it!

The third wish is that there was no war. Unfortunately, it still happens in many countries, and I don’t understand why. I really just want all people to treat each other with kindness.”

Three wishes flow into one: “I wish goodness prevailed; I wish all people were kind, and I wish heaven were on earth!”

Helping helpers

“The more of us knitters, the better!”

And finally: could you share your pressing problems? Maybe some type of help would be most beneficial to you? 

“I would like to have some place for my knitting fairies to gather! Unfortunately, I am unable to pay rent for the premises. I started everything related to this club myself. Later, I wrote about the club’s meetings on Instagram, and thus, I had my team. But we mostly meet in cafes because there is no other place for us. If only we had a room, even a small one, five or ten square meters! It would be easier to store things that pass through my hands — sometimes, there are several bags. 

 

Coordinators gradually offloaded me in other cities, including Kyiv, Dnipro, Odesa, and Zaporizhzhia. But if the yarn is sent to me, I need a place to store it. Space permitting, we would consider offering free workshops for those willing to come and learn. And we would use the funds collected for trips. As of now, it all happens at my expense and the expense of coordinators in other cities.” 

Maybe there are such coworking premises in Chernihiv? 

[she sighs] “There are some premises in Chernihiv, I know, but to be honest, I cannot afford them. My goal is not so much on the financial side; Instead, I want to attract people who want to knit for charity in our club. The more knitters there are, the fewer parcels I will receive from other cities. I will have my little nest in Chernihiv, which will be enough for me! The more of us knitters, the better!”

May all this will come true, and may your place appear! May the club flourish with new cities and new knitters! Olena, thank you once again for your time and conversation. It was nice to chat! 

“It is mutual! I can say without a doubt that it is necessary to make such charity projects as Goodacity. Good people can be seen and heard immediately. So. It was a pleasure to meet you!” 

Love for people makes those wings on which a person rises above everything.
— Maxim Gorky