Meet Karleen, and Help Her Help Others!

Posted by on Apr 25, 2012 in Cake Decorating, Crocheting, Gardening, Jewelry Making, Knitting, Paper Crafts, Quilting, Sewing | Comments

Please meet Karleen! She’s one of our new Craftsy co-workers, and as you’re about to learn: she’s pretty awesome. So awesome in fact, that she’s going all the way to Africa (specifically Rwanda) to help build homes. As if that wasn’t enough, she wants to go the extra mile and bring hats and blankets to help the children make it through the rainy season.

I had a chance to sit down with Karleen to learn more about her trip, ask about giraffe-riding (first thing I would think to do), and find out how she likes it here at Craftsy. She also told me how you—yes: you, dear reader—can help her help others! Our interview is below.

So tell us about your trip to Africa. And where in Africa are you headed?
This May, I’ll be heading with a team of 10 to a village outside Kigali, Rwanda. We’ll be visiting a remote village where resources are very scarce, and beginning the process of building homes for the 88 families living in the village. We’ll also be bringing food and other supplies along with us to provide the families with some basic necessities.

We understand you’re looking for donations. But not the monetary kind. So what is it exactly that you’re looking for people to give?
The children of the village are in dire need of basic necessities like clothing to help bring them through a rough rainy season. Our team would love the help of the Craftsy community in bringing knit hats and quilted blankets overseas with us to distribute to the children and families we meet there.

Traveling that far; that’s certainly above and beyond when it comes to helping others. Have you been on trips like this before, or is this your first one?
This is my first trip of this kind, though I’ve been hoping to take a relief trip to Africa for some time. I am incredibly excited about this opportunity! We will also be experiencing a whole new way of life for two weeks, as we’ll be living the way the villagers live. Sleeping in huts with no running water or electricity will definitely be a challenge!

What inspires you to help people?
I think what is so great about modern technology with computers, internet, and smart phones is that it allows us to be connected with a global community. Which means that even people as far away as Africa are our neighbors and members of our community, and we are much more informed about their needs. I am just excited to be able to help out a neighbor or two!

Aside from seeing smiles, what else are you looking forward to seeing while you’re out there? Plan on riding any giraffes?
Giraffe-riding sounds a little sketchy to me, but I’d give it a shot! I’m mostly excited to see the picturesque countryside in person. In all the photos I have seen, Rwanda is a gorgeous country!

Finally, you’re new to the Craftsy team. How do you like it here? And be honest, am I your favorite co-worker? I am, aren’t I?
Well I love Craftsy, but as for you David….Just kidding, you are great and so are the rest of the talented people of the Craftsy team! There is plenty of knowledge and inspiration floating around here, and I’m looking forward to soaking it all up!

Thanks, Karleen and godspeed!

Help Karleen help others! Send blankets and hats to her here at Craftsy, so she can take them with her on her journey. Please send us your donations so they arrive by May 15th, and address them to:

Karleen Is Caring
2150 West 29th Ave.
4th Floor
Denver, CO 80211



  1. Kim says:

    Is there any particular fiber that is preferred for the hats? I guess I am wondering if wool best or if washable is a better choice. I would love to help!

  2. Deb says:

    Quick question: quilted blanket…would this be something lighter weight than a lap quilt or is it one and the same? Also, do you think you’d be able to take pictures of the children receiving the quilts so whomever sends something would have a memory of who received the quilt they made. I know you’ll have a wonderful trip and come away with some great memories.

  3. Floozie Dietz de Broise says:

    Hi Craftsy,

    I would love to help out but obviously am not going to have enouggh time to make something and get it overseas to you by this date. Do you think you will be going again or if I do stuff is there another group I can send it to.
    My local Church supports a charity Light for Bulgaria, which obviously entails members of the church here on the Isle of Wight and others going to Bulgaria once a year but it would be really good to know that I had helped people in Africa as well in my own humble way.

  4. Ashley Duncan says:

    Please post some info on getting these items to her. I would love to be involved!! :)

    1. Megan says:

      Hi Ashley, you can send these items directly to our Craftsy HQ:

      Karleen Is Caring
      c/o CRAFTSY
      2150 West 29th Ave.
      4th Floor
      Denver, CO 80211

  5. Tara Barbe says:

    I know how to crochet hats and I would like to help with the cause but I was wondering what are you in more need of hats for babies or hats for older children?

    1. Megan says:

      Crocheted hats would be wonderful! Anything and everything helps.

  6. Shirley says:

    What organization is this gal going through? She mentions going for the purpose of “relief” work. Why relief, was there a very recent disaster in the last few months? This will be an amazing experience for her, but I would caution going there armed with supplies and helping with “basic needs”, and instead do some research in building sustainable communities. It sounds like this community is no longer in the “relief” stage, but should be in “development” stage, which is when we as North Americans need to teach and walk along side the community to use the resources they have in order to become self-sustaining. Arming them with our “stuff” does not help them in the long run, it actually ends up creating dependency. Just some food for thought.

  7. Joanne Koronczyk says:

    Wish I had learned about this earlier than April 26th! Two years ago I made 70 hats for our local Salvation Army and our homeless shelter. I would have loved to have made hats for the children. Can you please post us way before another visit?

    1. Megan says:

      Hi Joanne, so sorry about the short time frame on this project. We posted this as soon as we found out. Hopefully there will be more opportunities to donate soon and we will be able to let you know in advance!

  8. Alyce Weidner says:

    I will be sending some hats to you, God Bless you on your trip and God Bless all the people that you will be helping, you are an angel!!! Please post some photos so we can see how it all goes! Thanks

    1. Megan says:

      Thank you for your donation, Alyce! Karleen will be taking photos while she is there so hopefully we can find a way to get them to all the great people who are donating!

  9. LINDA says:


    1. Megan says:

      Yes, Linda, definitely!

  10. kim says:

    wish I would of known of this sooner, so I would have more time to make some hats for things to send over.

    1. Megan says:

      So sorry, Kim, for the short time frame on this project. We posted it as soon as we could! Hopefully there will be more opportunities to donate soon.

  11. Lizette says:

    Hi there,
    Yes, I seem to have a slight time problem too. Single parent, two children and neverending chores mean that I won’t finish anything on time. I think setting up a place that can receive gifts in Ruanda, and pass them on to those who need them most might be the way forward for us crafters who want to contribute. And once you’re there you can be more specific about what is needed. Perhaps some yarn, crochet hooks and knitting needles will do the trick – I’m sure there are many folk that won’t mind reducing their stash load a little. A new skill can be more empowering than a hat/blanket, and a community that looks after it’s own is a healthy one.
    I am sure you are going to have a very enriching time, Kathleen, and I look forward to hearing all about your journey. Safe travels.

  12. Lizette says:

    Hmmm, Karleen – got your name wrong there. Sorry.

  13. Laura McGaffick says:

    Hi there!

    I think I can knit up some hats before you leave. I am assuming you need them in various sizes? And, can I drop them off to you? I am a fellow Denver-ite.

    Would you want some small blankets that are knitted?


  14. Gwen Sedman says:

    There has been much debate lately about these kinds of donations hurting the local textile industries. Women in Africa desperately need the income that sewing brings in and need to support their local textiles. It is lovely to think of a child being kept warm by one of our home made quilts but it is lovelier still to think of families being self sufficient and standing on their own two feet economically.

  15. Patsy says:

    I have several knit and crocheted baby/toddler caps. Could you use them or are you looking for bigger sizes?

    1. Megan says:

      That sounds perfect, Patsy! We could definitely use some. Thank you so much for your willingness to donate!

  16. Judith says:

    I’m in Western Australia. I would love to have a reason to produce the beautiful garments I have been downloading recently, but sending them to America to then to be taken to Africa seems to lose a lot along the line?????? Is there any way I can reduce to the journey from me to the end recipient?

    1. Megan says:

      Unfortunately Karleen does need to have them in her hands before embarking on her trip to Africa. We know that the time frame on this project is really short, so hopefully there will be more opportunities to give and donate in the future!

    2. MT-MOONCHASER says:

      You should be able to find a local charity that could use your donation. I don”t know if you have a local Salvation Army unit, but there should be other venues if there isn’t one. Do you have the Red Cross or the equivalent? Most local churches have a relief society or some such. Your local pastor could probably give you some groups or names to contact. I’m sure that your area is no different than here, in that there are many groups that help the unfortunate that are always among us.

  17. Sue K says:

    Please let me know the kind of hats and blankets, and I will try to get some to you by the 15th of May. I know this is a hot country, but not sure what you are looking for. What a wonderful mission and I am so glad you are doing this
    Blessings to you and your crew Karleen!!
    Sue K

    1. Megan says:

      Hi Sue, thank you so much for your willingness to give! Anything and everything would be much appreciated!

  18. Ann Bowman says:

    I have lived in Africa for several years and I remember making a lovely quilt ffor a dear African mother….a few weeks later I saw it on the clothes line already wearing out. Remember that at least i n rural areas these quilts will go on the floor and with lots of soot from the nearby fire and even animals like goats and chickens running freely so if you are making a quilt use something like old jeans or new denim or perhaps use stong cotton and not too heavy….its a warm climate and shipping is expensive and hats are always welcome and will have a longer life, I think.

  19. Ann Bowman says:

    To add to my comments…what is really useful are receiving blankets for babies!

  20. Wendy holmes says:

    Hi Karleen,
    Congratulations on deciding to go on this relief trip to Rwanda, I’m sorry I won’t have time to make something and post it from Australia, however I’m happy to purchase some knitting needles, crochet hooks and yarn & post it over for you. Do you think this will be of use? will there be anyone from your group that will be able to teach the villages the skills needed to make use of such a gift?


    1. Megan says:

      The time period on this one was definitely short, but hopefully there will be more opportunities to give!

  21. Evelyn says:

    Every little bit that I can do as a knitter, I’m happy to do! I’m sure that I can send at least two hats your way before the 15th.

    1. Megan says:

      Thank you, Evelyn! Every little bit helps!

  22. Fusun says:

    Could you please tell me which organization does Karleen belong. It is probably posted but I cannot seem to find it.

  23. Jikke says:

    Dear people:

    Rwanda is a country close to the equator but because of its altitude and mountains.. it does get very cold there.
    Rwanda had a civil war in 1994 and is doing everything to overcome that and grow economically as well… which they are doing rather well at. Having said all that.. there are loads of small and very poor villages because it is a very small country that is overpopulated for the amount of land available.
    There are NO giraffes. Rwanda is home to the mountain gorillas..

  24. Karlene Will says:

    Hi Karleen,
    I was interested as your name is Karleen, same as me but different spelling. Also weird is that I am also going to Africa, but to Sierra Leone with COTN (Children of the Nations) in July. They are a christian organization that started orphanages there to help the many children who lost families from the rebel wars . We will be helping with medical needs and other things not known yet. I was thinking of doing the same as you but its hot there at this time of year.

  25. Karen says:

    How about fleece blankets? Don’t have enough time for a quilt, but I have many fleece blankets already made up. I can send several large boxes, does Karleen have an upper limit for weight or size of her luggage?

    1. Megan says:

      Hi Karen, fleece blankets would be great! Karleen has expressed that anything and everything is appreciated, so give as much or as little as you feel comfortable.

  26. Trinity H. says:

    Just a note to let you know I am sending a box of hats that has been sitting in my sewing room for a few years just waiting for something like this. They will go out tomorrow. Thanks for giving them good homes.

  27. Knitting Linda says:

    Hi Karleen: You are going to LOVE the people of Rwanda. When my mother passed away 22 years ago, I took my father to Africa for a special trip and time together with him. One of my favorite countries was Rwanda…it was so beautiful and so prosperous compared to the other countries at that time…of course that was before all the internal genocide & conflicts between the tribes. I am going to try to get some hats made for you before your trip, but as with the others, time is short….wish I had known sooner. I can tell you though, that even though the NEED is for hats & blankets….little hair clips & barrettes are so easy to carry since they take such little space and the locals…especially the girls are so hapy to receive these gifts…they make them feel “pretty” and we all know how we like to feel pretty. Other easy gifts to take are ball point pens & disposable lighters…these are little things that we take for granted that the people in Africa just don’t have and have no place and no money to shop for them. The simple act of lighting a fire becomes a difficulty when there are no matches or lighters….obviously lighters are better since they don’t get “wet”! Just a thought for those of you who wish to help and can’t craft fast enough for your trip. Have a wonderful time, I know you will love the country because the people are so beautiful, so kind and so appreciative. Wish I could join you!

  28. Teresa Burns says:

    I was so hoping to get some progress reports from Karleen. I hope when she gets back, we hear about her trip. . Hope things are going well for you. I hope the quilts I sent will be loved!

    1. Megan says:

      Hi Teresa, and all others looking for a progress report,

      Karleen is officially off on her adventure and will return in a couple of weeks with lots of pictures and stories! All of your donations are greatly appreciated.