‘E’, a fast learner, comes faithfully each week, but arrived at several sessions with empty needles. She said with a laugh, ‘Miss Hannah! I knit, and then I open it it, and then I knit, and then I open it!’ She is describing the process of unravelling, or ‘frogging’ a project when you are not happy with your results. After we had a giggle about this classic knitter’s plight, we finally landed on a project she is committed to completing, and this past weekend she finally showed up with an intact, in-progress project. ‘E’ is making her very own pink and white striped hat with a pom-pom.
To me, though, the group isn’t just about the jumpers, hats, or scarves we complete (although those are fun, too), it’s about more than that. I wrote above that knitting is a shared and safe ‘language’ that brings people together. Participating in a shared activity together, teaching each other new stitching skills, digging through big bags of donated wool, and celebrating milestones like new knitter’s first-ever row of stitches, has provided us all with a shared space to build community and friendship.
As a newcomer to the UK, my volunteer experience at Asylum Welcome has become one of the most significant things that has made Oxford feel like a home to me in the seven months since my arrival. And that is what Asylum Welcome does: help people regain a sense of dignity, space, place and home. Whether you are considering donating, volunteering, advocacy or offering your property for rent to a newly-arrived family, I encourage you not to give up on our new Afghan neighbours who are still looking for home.