Yarn and a Hook: Crocheting for Community

Krochet Kids International (KK) is proof that you do not need to be a surgeon or a millionaire to help those in need. Co-founder Kohl Crecelius reminded me that helping out is about realizing what skills you already have and using them to make change. For Crecelius, Travis Hartanov and Stewart Ramsey, this skill happened to be crocheting.

After learning how to crochet from an older brother, Crecelius, Hartanov and Ramsey started a small crocheting business in high school. “We’re all from the Northwest, all skiers and snowboarders, so we appreciate a good beanie. … We were on this little regimen where we were crocheting beanies everyday of the week and taking orders from people,” says Crecelius. Soon the three of them were dubbed the “crochet kids.”

During their first years of college the three friends traveled for different volunteer opportunities. Crecelius spent a summer in the Dominican Republic, and Hartanov and Ramsey went to Bali to volunteer in orphanages. Crecelius says, “We all came back from those experiences and, separately from each other, had a desire to help.”The crochet kids thought over the next year about what they could do to help. “We came back to this skill that we had that was crocheting. As silly as it was, it just takes yarn and a hook and you can create awesome things. … We were like, ‘Okay, crocheting is something we know how to do and can sell here. … We’re going to teach people to crochet,’” explains Crecelius.

By the summer of 2007 the three crocheters had evolved into the nonprofit Krochet Kids International. Crecelius, Hartanov, Ramsey and a few close friends headed to Uganda with huge bags of yarn in tow. That summer they trained a test group of people in Uganda to see how crocheting would work. Crecelius remembers that the night before the training was nerve-racking. After doing a full year of researching and applying for a nonprofit status, all they could think was ‘What if they can’t crochet?’ They soon found out they had nothing to worry about.

After more research and speaking with chieftains from Ugandan IDP camps and local organizations, KK found 10 women to officially start Krochet Kids. This group of women consisted of mothers and heads of households. The Krochet Kids hoped that through these women their families and communities would be transformed.

Crecelius explains, “We have a central location where all the women come. … The opportunity to bring these women together and have them in community sitting day-in and day-out crocheting together, laughing together, working through conflict together—all of that has been awesome. … There’s no way we could come in and act like we know what they’ve dealt with.”

Since their first summer in Uganda, KK has had at least one person on the ground facilitating and developing the program. KK employs other Ugandan nationals to manage projects and support the women of KK.

Beyond selling hats in the United States, KK encourages women to be businesswomen in their own communities. KK brings in local leaders from organizations to train them in life skills, business skills, budgeting, saving and microfinance. The women save a portion of their crocheting salaries to make loans to others in their communities through their own microloans fund.

Kohl hopes that eventually KK can help people in other countries: “The big vision of KK is really that we can take this idea of leveraging business skills training to really work with people all over the world.”

Krochet Kids International

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