Group gives comfort to war-struck areas

Clutha craftswomen including (back, from left) Errin Hamlyn, Annette Klaassen, Christine May,...
Clutha craftswomen including (back, from left) Errin Hamlyn, Annette Klaassen, Christine May, Maureen Thompson, Pam Henderson, Judith Dick and (seated from left) Dianne Schnarr, Rosalie Scott and Doreen Van der Molen, work close-knit to create warmth for war zones and beyond. PHOTO: NICK BROOK
Clutha’s undercover operatives got a lot busier when the war began in Ukraine.

Operation Cover Up (OCU) is a national volunteer network of about 3000 knitters in community groups throughout New Zealand, run by registered charity Mission Without Borders.

The Clutha branch has been active for six years, connecting real NZ wool bought with their own funds into high-quality protection for the needy, in hostile, Eastern European conditions.

"Knitting means you’re making something useful, directly for someone who needs it, and that feels more real to me than donating money," needle specialist Diane Schnarr said.

Garments and blankets, toiletries and other necessities from OCU bases around the country are sent to Auckland, shipped to the Netherlands, transferred to trucks and moved to Ukraine, Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Moldova and Romania, where winter temperatures can reach -25°C.

Over the last year Clutha OCU has assembled 27 blankets, 82 sock sets, 83 hat, glove and scarf sets, nine soft toys and 114 clothing items for all ages, from babies to adults.

"[Balclutha co-ordinator] Errin Hamlyn noticed I was wearing home knitting at the supermarket one day and asked me if I’d like to join the group," recent recruit Christine May said.

"I shifted to Balclutha from Auckland 40 years ago and found it much colder here, so I feel especially motivated because I know it’s far colder where our work ends up.

"I’ve been blown away by the efforts of the ladies in this group ... Some can’t come to the hall because of age and they live far away, but they regularly have their work sent in."

Operation Cover Up meets each Saturday afternoon at Balclutha Presbyterian Church hall.