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12 June 2017

Secret Scarf Mission Aims to Bring Warmth to South Africa’s Less Fortunate

It can be easy to forget when wrapped up in all the comforts of modern life that there are countless individuals out there struggling for the mere necessities of life. For such people, the cold can be a significant danger, particularly for those with nowhere to take shelter.

As part of an ongoing effort to provide the less fortunate with some measure of warmth and the knowledge that people do still care about their plight, July 13th will see many public places throughout the cities of Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth, Pretoria, and Pietermaritzburg being draped with scarves each bearing the message, “I am not lost. If you are cold and need me, please take me.”

Img: The Secret Scarf Mission
The scarves will be left hanging from trees or wrapped around lampposts and fences until such a time as they are claimed.

The Secret Scarf Mission is the brainchild of philanthropist Carolyn Steyn, the same individual responsible for the 67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day campaign of 2013. The 67 Blankets Campaign has continued ever since, evolving into something of a worldwide phenomenon, but Steyn doesn’t want to waste valuable time whilst the blankets are being distributed. So in 2015 the Secret Scarf Mission was launched.

Steyn said of her motivations for creating the campaign, “We love our blanket coverage, but while the blankets are being distributed we don't want to put down our knitting needles, so in 2015 I said, ‘Let’s see how many scarves we can churn out by July 13, ahead of Mandela Day’.”

The Secret Scarf Mission has since tripled in size and continues to expand further.

“We have far more ambassadors than we did in the past,” said Steyn. “Each coordinating a particular area. For example, for the first time we have an ambassador in Bloemfontein.”

The aforementioned ambassador is Lindiwe Mnguni, an office manager in Bloemfontein’s Department of Local Development. She joined the campaign less than a year ago with no knitting experience, and describes her first attempt at a scarf as something of a “crooked mess”. She pressed on however, and has since become an ambassador and begun to recruit work colleagues, friends, neighbours and local pupils to help in the campaign.

“We are hoping to have 300 scarves,” said Mnguni, “We have 100 already but I know there are people who are hiding their scarves.”

Initiatives such as this may seem like a small gesture, but for the recipients of such charitable efforts they are invaluable in not just the physical items they provide, but also in maintaining the human connection. Hopefully the example set by Steyn will serve as inspiration to others to pitch in and help where they are able.


Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. He is currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor in an attempt to expand his horizons.