Giuliana Hazelwood first learned how to knit in elementary school. It wasn’t taught at her school, so she asked her teacher to train her. Now, it serves as a form of meditation. Knitting helps her shut off her brain. She can knit every night before going to bed when she is dedicated to a specific project.
Hazelwood, who attended Emerson until 2012 and now lives in New York City, just launched her first humanitarian project: knitting winter clothes to help refugees coming into the United States, and encouraging others to do the same.
Her idea came out of frustration after Trump’s executive order to block immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries. She was inspired by the knit pink “pussy” hats from January’s Women’s Marches. She wanted to make refugees’ transitions to the United States easier, and she figured she could use knitting for a greater purpose.
"A pair of gloves or a hat could make their arrival here a little bit better,” Hazelwood said.
On Jan. 29, she used her college connections through the Emerson Mafia Facebook page to share her idea and gather as many volunteers as possible. She reached alumni all around the country who helped her. Hazelwood also promoted the project on her personal Facebook page, where some of her New York connections volunteered to participate.
When the demand for patterns to knit increased, she created a Tumblr for her project—called the Syrian Refugee Knitting Project—where the public could find information about the patterns, instructions about how to knit, and where to send the clothes.
Hazelwood thought carefully about every detail, especially what kind of yarn to use. She settled on a thick, wool based yarn that was warm and could be knitted quickly.
“If it’s going to be the only real thing that I can actually do to help, I want it to at least be mindful,” Hazelwood said.
Although Hazelwood could knit, she had no way of getting the donations to the refugees in need. That’s when Hazelwood used an alumni connection to get in contact with the non-profit organization SCM Medical Missions.
The organization mails containers of resources and warm winter wear to refugees on the border between Syria and Jordan before their departure to the United States. The next shipment will contain Hazelwood’s knitted clothes and will leave the first week of March according to Rita Zawaideh, the founder of SCM.
SCM operates an ongoing drive to collect clothing, toys, medical supplies, wheelchairs, walkers, blankets, and other supplies then sent by container to Jordan. SCM has, to date, shipped over 300,000 pounds of badly-needed supplies to the region, according to the SCM website.
Although Hazelwood is still looking for other organizations and shelters to partner with, she is now more of an intermediary between the volunteers and SCM.
SCM will continue to send containers of knitted winter wear and other supplies regularly throughout the spring and summer. Hazelwood, meanwhile, is working to spread the word, mainly through social media.
Hazelwood has already received around 30 direct responses for the project and 100 shares of her Tumblr page. So far she has made one hat and three scarves, and is planning on making about 20.
Maria Chavez graduated from Emerson in 2015 with a degree in visual and media arts and now lives in Los Angeles. When she saw Hazelwood’s post on the Emerson Mafia Facebook page, she decided to participate in the project by sending some knitted clothes of her own.
“It felt like a huge relief, that it was something that I actually had the means to do to help people,” she said. “I can finally be a part of something.”
Chavez was drawn to the project because it provided an efficient way to make an impact on the lives of others with little time and financial resources.
Patterns for scarves, hats, and mittens can be found on the Tumblr page, and anyone can send a box directly to SCM. There aren’t any deadlines to send clothes through SCM.
“I hope this helps,” Hazelwood said. “I hope this keeps someone warm.”