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OMS plans to change lives one hat at a time

October 19, 2011 - Who says you can't be fashionable and stylish, yet still be compassionate and globally-minded?

Not the students at Oxford Middle School.

As part of their on-going efforts to become an International Baccalaureate (IB) school, the students are launching a community service project that aids impoverished African families by purchasing hats knitted by Ugandan women.

"A big part of IB is making students aware of other cultures and how other people live, even if they're halfway around the world," said OMS teacher Stacy Blaskowski, who's coordinating the project with fellow teacher Christie Watson.

The hats will be purchased through Krochet Kids International (KKI), a nonprofit organization launched by three men from Spokane, Washington.

Basically, these men went to northern Uganda and taught the women there how to crochet hats as a source of income and a way to better their lives by having the means to acquire food, water, clothing and education. The hope is to break the cycle of poverty and dependence on outside humanitarian aid.

These handmade hats are then sold all over the world and the money goes back to the 128 women and two men who currently make them.

"With every stitch, with every hat that they're making, they're helping themselves and their families get out of poverty," Blaskowski explained. "They're getting money to educate and feed their children and families. They're being empowered to rise above poverty."

"Their motto is 'buy a hat, change a life,'" she noted.

KKI sells four types of hats for prices that range from $21.95 to $31.95.

OMS has purchased 10 of these hats and a group of students plans to model them as part of a special fashion show on Monday, Oct. 31 during the school's lunch periods.

The students will also be modeling T-shirts from KKI. Although they're not made by the Ugandan people, the sale of these shirts – and sweatshirts – does benefit them.

Each hat carries the signature of the woman – or man – who crocheted it. People can view a photo and profile of each hat-maker by visiting www.krochetkids.org.

The plan is to hang these tags around the school in order to show students how many lives they've helped change.

"Hopefully, this will make them more aware and more compassionate," Blaskowski said. "It will show them that they are making a direct impact on somebody whether they witness it or not."

Blaskowski is quite excited about the project and the positive affect it could have on students.

"It allows the kids to touch somebody's life and become more aware that everybody isn't like they are in Oxford – that people need help," she said.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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