Kidknits builds awareness of world poverty and cultures while empowering youth to change the world by knitting with fair trade yarn from Rwanda.
About Your Organization
United States, IL, Peoria
Country where this project is creating social impact
United States, IL, Multple
Is your organization a
Non‐profit / NGO / Citizen sector organization
Your role in Education
The type of school(s) your solution is affiliated with
How long has your organization been operating?
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Select the stage that best applies to your solution
Growth (your pilot is up and running, and starting to expand)
How long has your solution been in operation?
Operating for 1‐5 years
The Need: What problem are you trying to solve?
KidKnits believes that American youth often do not understand or appreciate the extent and severity of world poverty. Additionally, staggering world poverty statistics often hide the names, stories, and faces which can provide an opportunity for children to identify and empathize with those in need. Even those with an awareness seldom see an opportunity for how to help those in need or a belief that they can be an active part of a real solution to world poverty. Existing curricula about world poverty lack hands-on evidence to show children how they can truly make a difference.
The Solution: What is your solution? Be specific!
Upon learning of a group of Rwandan widows’ ability to spin yarn, nine-year old Ellie wanted to help support these women. She created the idea to purchase the widows’ yarn and share her love of knitting with others. Ellie created KidKnits, a craft containing the hand-spun yarn plus all the tools necessary to knit a simple hat. Through an accompanying KidKnits’ curriculum, school-age students can engage in activities which demonstrate the severity of world poverty, engross themselves in different world cultures, and become inspired to change the world while also knitting their own KidKnits hat. Students go beyond the curriculum and become active participants in a solution helping to solve Rwandan poverty. Students can further their impact by then choosing to donate their finished hats.
The Model: Walk us through a specific example of how your solution makes a difference; include your primary activities
The KidKnits program transforms an everyday item – a simple, knit hat – into a learning tool that
demonstrates to students that they can make a difference in the world, and inspires them to learn about the people and families behind the staggering, but faceless, world poverty statistics. The program consists of five different modules:
- “What is poverty?” – Students explore what it is like to live in extreme poverty.
- “Where in the world?” – Students actively discover that while life in Rwanda is different, there are also many similarities.
- “Dignity in Work” – Students learn about yarn production and appreciate the benefits of providing the Rwandan women an opportunity for sustainable employment.
- “Names, Faces, Stories” – Students dramatize, using a reader’s theater play, the stories of families involved in KidKnits.
- “The Other Side of the World” – Students are challenged to find their own way to help change the world, while exploring the truth that the “the other side of the world” may be just down the street.
Students work on knitting their own hats as part of each module, thus allowing them to see tangible evidence of how they are an active participant in KidKnits’ change on the world.
The Marketplace: Who are your peers and competitors? Identify others also working to address the needs you are and what differentiates you from them. What challenges could these players pose to your success or growth?
Numerous peers exist, all of whom are empowering youth to make a difference in the world including Free the Children, World Vision, Tom’s Shoes, and others. However, none of these programs are offered in conjunction with a craft which can be done inside the classroom, and provides the students with tangible proof that they can make a difference in the world, and in fact, already have. In addition, the fact that KidKnits was founded by a nine year old provides further inspiration and evidence that children can truly make a difference in the world.
Now that you have thought out your entry, help us pitch it.
Define your company, program, service, or product in 1-2 short sentences [136 characters]
KidKnits builds awareness of world poverty & culture while empowering youth to change the world by knitting with yarn handmade in Rwanda
Identify what is innovative about your solution in 1-2 short sentences [136 characters]
KidKnits goes beyond awareness of poverty and provides a connection with Rwandan families, as they knit a hat and change the world.
This Entry is about (Issues)
What has been the impact of your solution to date?
The impact of KidKnits is measurable both in Rwanda and in the United States. In Rwanda, 28 widows receive their full-time employment through our partner producing the yarn which is used in the KidKnits project, and through these women approximately 175 people are supported. In the United States, over 500 people have had the hands-on opportunity to “change a life on the other side of the world” and over 200 of these have participated in the KidKnits curriculum in their school. Students who have completed the KidKnits program have demonstrated a deeper understanding of world poverty, have felt a connection with families in Rwanda, and believe they can make a difference in the world.
What is your projected impact over the next 1-3 years?
KidKnits expects to expand our impact, both in the United States and overseas. In Rwanda, we anticipate expanding the team of women producing yarn to over 40 women. In addition, we are actively seeking to add partners in other countries. In the United States, within the next one year we expect to empower over 2000 people to change a life through a KidKnits craft kit, with over 600 of those participating in the KidKnits curriculum through their school. We expect to expand our curriculum offerings to include programs teaching multiple world cultures, and touching age groups from K through 12th grade.
What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?
Two barriers are anticipated to slow KidKnits’ growth: supply of yarn, and cost to schools of implementing the KidKnits program. Up until now, our yarn supply has been our limiting factor as we work with our Rwandan partner to increase supply. However, as we look to partner with additional organizations in other regions of the world, we expect to be able to scale supply to keep up with demand. To address the cost to schools, we are working with partner schools to pursue creative funding models including: student-run fundraisers, PTO support, private foundation support, parent contributions, and school curriculum budgets.
Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and track growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact
While our long-term growth depends on supply and demand constraints, we must qualify and purchase yarn from a second supplier.
Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your six-month milestone
Understand quality of yarn from potential suppliers, and develop new craft offerings that can best utilize the new yarn supply.
Perform a site visit with new supplier, to assess working conditions and learn stories of the team for use in new curricula
Finalize logistics including pricing, shipping and importation from a new country, and developing a supply forecast process.
Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone
With supply significantly improved within six months, the 12 month milestone will be to bring 20 new school partners on board.
Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your 12-month milestone
Leverage pilot schools direct connections to add schools within existing school districts.
Develop final report on pilot schools’ experience and market the impact of KidKnits to new schools.
Secure grants or other support to fund the KidKnits project with schools who want to implement KidKnits but cannot afford it.
Founding Story: We want to hear about your "Aha!" moment. Share the story of where and when the founder(s) saw this solution's potential to change the world [125 words]
KidKnits started as the idea of nine-year old Ellie, who wanted to knit hats using yarn from the widows in Rwanda, and teach her friends to do the same. The consumer version of a kit was created to spread the idea. It was not until meeting with a group of children at an early home show that the education potential of the kit was discovered. We quickly recognized that in a world of screens and buttons, through the texture of the yarn and the calming repetition of the craft what we originally thought was a craft project to support widows in Rwanda, was a very unique vehicle through which we could educate on the same principles that led to the creation of the KidKnits kit.
Tell us about your partnerships
Partnerships are critical for KidKnits, both on our supply and demand side. No partner is more critical to KidKnits than TVM, our partner operating in Rwanda. We have invested deeply in this partnership and will view any other supply partners similarly. Our other most critical partners are our schools. In our pilot programs, we have developed deep relationships with school principals and teachers, and have learned immensely from their experience and vision for KidKnits.
What type of team (staff, volunteers, etc.) will ensure that you achieve the growth milestones identified in the Social Impact section? [75 words]
The KidKnits team is two full time people, Steve and Kristin Zika, the parents of the founder Ellie. We are fortunate to have an actively engaged board, and an extensive network of volunteers who are passionate about the success of KidKnits and are excited to spread the word. We are working closely with students from Bradley University who are volunteering their expertise in the classroom and on further curriculum development.
Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren't specified within the list
|Classroom shot from public school pilot program||1.36 MB|
|Rwandan team posing with KidKnits founder, Ellie||76.5 KB|