AU Sweater Project: Students Help Create Blankets for AIDs Orphans

By Purnell T. Cropper | August 30, 2011

The AU Sweater Project was organized by Alyssa Ramos-Reynosos ’12, a Political Science major, with assistance from Flo Webb ’10, who is now pursuing a master’s degree in Humanities. Both have been involved with Community Service during their time at Arcadia.

Ramos-Reynosos studied abroad in Tanzania during the spring semester of her sophomore year. While there, she met a pastor who runs a local orphanage. Ramos-Reynoso stayed on after her program ended. She spent the summer teaching and learned the plight of AIDs orphans.

Student volunteers created 8” squares from donated sweaters, blankets and used clothing or knitting/crocheting squares. Community Service contacted local thrift stores such as Impact and New Life, who provided materials for free. The donated items were washed (“felted”) to clean and shrink the fabric before being cut into squares.

Finished squares are packed into boxes and shipped to Knit-a-square, a South African organization that creates blankets for AIDS ophans in southern Africa. Donated squares are joined into blankets by women volunteers living in Soweto, South Africa, and then distributed to the orphans.

New students recognized the value of this project. Commented Jenna D’Angelo ’15 and Rebecca Cicalese 15, “It hits home with our Summer Reading assignment, Strength in What Remains, about genocide in Burundi. The efforts of Deo are what we are doing in our own way.”

Students were given the task of marking fabric using 8” cardboard templates and then cutting out squares. Others who already knit or crochet were supplied with yarn, needles and crochet hooks. Students were available to teach those who wanted to learn. “I know how to crochet. I’ve already completed 2 blankets. I’m here to teach others,” said Serena Celanro ’14.

The majority of the morning sweater project participants were FYSAE students, many who departed that afternoon. They were joined by their FYSAE Network mentors. “We’re spending time with FYSAE freshmen who are departing today,” said Joe Spearot ’14 and Shana Hartzel ’14. They both participated in the FYSAE program at Sterling University in fall 2010. Many of the mentors were busy cutting squares with their mentees or attempting to knit their own squares. Several students commented that knitting and crocheting is a very relaxing activity and they were planning to continue the project on their flight.

Funds to pay for shipping the squares to South Africa are being raised by collecting used ink and toner cartridges. Campus departments and offices may donate empty cartridges to the project by contacting the Mail Room, which will pick-up and deliver them  to the Community Service Office. Departments may request a bin for collection in their office area for collection. Individuals are encouraged to donate their personal/home-used cartridges. Community Services is also interested in partnering with outside firms in this effort. For more information, contact the Community Service Office at 215-572-4000 or e-mail