Issue 24: September 2014

It’s not too early to order your Mother Bear ornaments for the Holidays

Featured Mother Bear: Merideth DePrisco Gaffney

Merideth DePrisco Gaffney

If you ask Merideth DePrisco Gaffney about her involvement with Mother Bear Project, she'll tell you that the "only" thing she's done is to distribute over 600 bears to children in a South African village, taking a picture of each one.

Apparently the former Peace Corps volunteer has a gift for understatement.

Merideth and her husband volunteered in the Peace Corps' education program in South Africa from July 2011 to November 2013 following their retirement—Merideth after 33 years as a special education teacher and her husband following a career as an engineer for the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality. While in Africa, Merideth learned about the Mother Bear Project from fellow volunteers and looked into finding out if she could distribute bears to the children she taught in her village, Mmakau, in northeastern South Africa.

Before Merideth left the country, she and her husband found out first-hand what the gift of a bear can mean to a child.

"I was able to witness the sheer joy that the bears brought to each child," Merideth says. "That is about as good as it gets for a volunteer. I only wish everyone involved with our bears could have been there when my husband and I gave the bears to the children."

Merideth says that for most of the children, the bears were their first gift—or the first gift that hadn't previously belonged to someone else.

"For the first time they had something new and soft to cuddle, especially when going to sleep at night," she says.

The children weren't the only ones who were affected by the bears. "The teachers in our schools were overwhelmed by the dedication of all the people who make this project happen for so many children around the world," Merideth says. "One teacher said, 'You have no idea what these bears actually mean to the children. This is the first time so many of them have received a gift.' "

Now that the Gaffneys are back home in Coeur d'Alene, Merideth is working on spreading the word about Mother Bear Project by finding knitting and crocheting groups in her area so she can tell them about Mother Bear and encourage them to participate. A longtime quilter, she's also considering learning how to knit or crochet so she can join all the people who work to make more children happy.

Says Merideth, "The bears are a wonderful gift of love and comfort. I commend all the people who knit and crochet these bears of love and hope, along with all the other volunteers who make this project so successful."

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Notes from the Den

Dear Friends,

In February 2003 I read an article that stopped me in my tracks. This article was about the problem of baby and child rape in South Africa because of men believing it would cure them of AIDS. At that moment, I felt compelled to find a way to send comfort and love to the many children whose lives are impacted by HIV/AIDS in Africa and other emerging nations. I remember my first shipment had only 15 bears in it. I wondered if there would be a day when I could send 100 bears in total—a lofty goal for someone who just learned to knit who was already teaching so many others how to knit! But with the help of many, I hoped it could happen.

It is hard to believe that 11 years later, 99,700 bears have been distributed and the 100,000 bear mark is within near reach! In October, I plan to personally distribute the 100,000th bear on a trip to Africa where I will be distributing over 2,500 bears. I will take loads of pictures that will be shared in the next newsletter.

Mother Bear Project knits people together of all ages, faiths and abilities from all over the world to work together for the very important purpose of sending comfort to children and sending the important message that they are loved. If you knit or crochet, please join us. If you don’t knit or crochet, you can help by sponsoring a bear as a gift for any occasion and a card will be sent to let someone know a bear has been named and sent in their honor.

Amy

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