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The story of Yusuf’s Unity Beanie

This is a story of kindness, courage and how a little helping hand can go a long way. This is the story of Yusuf’s Unity Beanie.

Back in 2016 Debbie Bliss was introduced to Yusuf, a 17 year old Syrian refugee, who had an idea for a knitted hat. We caught up with Debbie about the journey to make the hat and the cause it supports.

The heart of the connection

My connection with refugees began back in 2015 when we raised money locally to buy old caravans, recondition them, and then take them to Calais to provide a safe haven for vulnerable minors and families living in the appalling conditions in The Jungle in Calais. A knitting group was formed Blankets for Calais and we made cosy, comforting blankets to put in the caravans. We also raised money for the Community Refugee Kitchen by holding curry and quiz nights and art auctions.

He started to draw an idea for a hat, inspired by the kindness he had been shown in the Jungle from volunteers from all faiths and backgrounds."

The kindness of strangers

Through my trips to Calais I met a filmmaker Natalie Sloan who introduced me to Yusuf a 17 year old Syrian Refugee living in Walthamstow. For two years, Yusuf had been on a long and dangerous journey, leaving behind his family, ending up in the camp known as The Jungle in Calais.

As soon as he knew I was a knitwear designer he started to draw an idea for a hat, inspired by the kindness he had been shown in the Jungle from volunteers from all faiths and backgrounds. He was very specific on the colours, the exact shade of red and how many stripes! The fit was very important too, we had made 3 versions before he was completely satisfied. He wanted the symbols of all faiths, the Cross, the Star of David, the Islamic Crescent but also the the symbol of peace.

Choose love

In the years since I met him Yusuf has become a very important part of our family and we are so proud of him. Despite having a chronic debilitating illness and missing his mother terribly he is studying hard, has attended menswear courses at Central St Martins and appeared on the stage and in film.

The pattern for the beanie is now available to buy and all proceeds will be donated to Help Refugees which is a Charity very close to my heart. There are refugees living in the most appalling conditions and who have made terrible journeys to find safety. Since the Calais Jungle was torn down men, women and children are living a feral miserable existence in the woods of Northern France and in countries like Greece the conditions in refugee camps are appalling. The money donated will go towards providing food, shelter and much more. Their slogan is Choose Love.