South African prisoners have knitted thousands of blankets as their way of contributing to charity by keeping poor people warm this winter and possibly breaking a world record. The prisoners joined thousands of Mandela KnitWits to produce tons of blankets which will be donated to charity.
The spreading of the blankets took place on Thursday at the Drakenstein Correctional Centre in Western Cape where Nelson Mandela took his first steps to freedom on February 11 1990 across 12,000 square metres.
Officials from Guinness Book of Records were expected on ground to evaluate the layout. There is hope of reclaiming the record for the world’s largest blanket set with a 3 377 square metre attempt at the Union Buildings last year by the 67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day campaign. India was the last to take the record.
The founder of the campaign Carolyn Steyn said: “We have chosen 22 April to mark 22 years of our democracy. This year is going to be a memorable day when we cover the grounds of the very place our dear Madiba first stepped out and felt freedom underfoot.”
Carolyn Steyn who is the National Commissioner of Correctional Services Zach Modise agreed to introduce blanket-making to every prison last August.
“It presents an opportunity where inmates across the country are giving back to society‚” said Modise. “Key to rehabilitation is empowering offenders with skills to function effectively in society upon their release. It is therefore encouraging to see more male offenders taking part in crocheting‚ an activity that has always been labelled to be feminine‚ yet it fosters discipline‚ patience and boosts self-esteem.”
“KnitWits for Madiba” – the nickname given to blanket makers – has spread around the globe since 2014 when it was first launched‚ but Steyn said the prisoners’ participation was “momentous”. She said the efforts of the prisoners indicate that there is a bright light at the end of the tunnel and that every cloud has a silver lining.
“The fact that thousands of men and women serving sentences in South Africa will be largely responsible for keeping thousands upon thousands of people in impoverished communities warmer over all the winters to come‚ in the name of the greatest prisoner of them all‚ is … indicative of a healing nation‚” she said.
After the evaluation by Guinness officials, 20 tons of blankets made by the Mandela KnitWits will be distributed to the provinces where the wool came from.