Most Mother Bear Project volunteers will never know the recipient of their carefully-knit bear. Some knitters have the opportunity to see a photograph of the child, squeezing the lovingly-made creation that has traveled so far to rest in their arms. Others, however, are gratified merely by the knowledge that their soft bear will bring comfort to a child in need, even if they may never see the child’s face.
Karen Kaye, however, has had the very special opportunity to see the love spread by the bears firsthand. As a Peace Corps Volunteer in a rural community in South Africa, she has delivered many MBP bears in her community, and has seen the faces of the children light up when they first see their knit friend.
"The bears bring happiness, joy, and delight to the people in my community unlike anything else," Kaye said.
Kaye first delivered bears to her community for Mother Bear Project for World AIDS Day in 2009. "Although I’m in Africa as an education volunteer, I’ve had a keen interest in raising HIV/AIDS awareness in my community," Kaye said.
"The children receiving the bears provides an opening for discussion about HIV/AIDS in my community, where the disease remains an epidemic."
Not only has Kaye distributed bears to individual children in the community, but she also worked with MBP to bring the bears to orphans and vulnerable children in two of the village’s day care centers. She believes the bears have had a positive impact on the entire community.
"The children are delighted, the educators are delighted, the parents are delighted, and the community members are delighted," she said.
Kaye will be leaving her village soon, as her service with the Peace Corps is coming to a close, but the hopes to remain involved with Mother Bear Project when she returns home to Louisville, Kentucky.
"Working with the Mother Bear Project has been the highlight of my Peace Corps experience and MBP is exceptional to work with!" Kaye said.
"Even with my return to the USA, I will continue to support the Mother Bear Project by spreading the word to all of my friends and family. In this way, I hope to recruit knitters and perhaps financial contributions."
She said that she could always rely on MBP, and its founder, Amy, to ensure the bears would arrive in her community exactly when they were expected ("Things rarely happen on time in South Africa!"). She also wanted to give a special thank you to all of the knitters who have put their time and love into the bears she has delivered.
"I could see in the face of each child the love reflected from each knot carefully tied by the maker. A very special thank you to the makers of the bears; you’re truly spreading love around the world!"