From left: sixth-grade students at McNair Elementary School in Herndon, Venkata Srikakolapu, 12, Anika Badatala, 12, Ria Goel, 12, Zoe Rodriquez, 12, Adarsh Iruvanti, 11, and Aditya Nair, 11, point out their favorite squares in a completed Love Quilt.
Photo by Mercia Hobson.
Approximately 180 sixth grade students at McNair Elementary School in Herndon did not know South African children are in crisis. HIV/AIDS has orphaned 2.3 million children, reported The Love Quilt Project on its website. The students did not know they could create cloth art squares with messages and images of love to be the center square within each block in a log cabin quilt design. Volunteers would sew the quilts to be distributed to South African children in foster homes for those orphaned, abandoned and HIV/AIDS impacted. They did not know the quilts could do more than keep the children warm, but wrap them in love by providing tangible emotional support and moments of joy. And the students did not know there was a non-profit organization based in Arlington, called
The Love Quilt Project that uses the power of love to change the lives of these South African children as well American children, many of them affected by HIV/AIDS.
TWO REPRESENTATIVES from the non-profit organization visited the sixth-grade students at McNair E.S. on Valentine's Day, 2020. At 9:30 that morning, the children entered the school cafeteria and met Gretchen Ginnerty, President of the organization and Sue Bentley, Secretary. The students discovered as Ginnerty said, "South Africa is beautiful." Together Bentley and Ginnerty presented a brief history of the country, the impact of apartheid and separate development, and the burden the HIV pandemic and AIDS epidemic put upon the citizens, especially the children. The students learned about the country's influential leaders, including Nelson Mandela, who said, "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." According to Ginnerty: "For every child in South Africa who receives a quilt, The Love Quilt Project makes a donation to purchase educational supplies such as books, shoes, uniforms and tuition to attend a fee-paying government school...Education is the key to successful adulthood.
"The loss cannot be changed," Ginnerty said, referencing the loss of the children's parents and their family homes. However, the students at McNair E.S. could make a difference to some of the South African children by creating the center of quilt blocks; their fabric art squares emblazed with personalized messages and images of hope. "The overall quilt pattern is the same, a log cabin pattern," said Bentley. It was meant to symbolize home. "You can see there is some dark fabric on one side of each square, and then you see there is lighter fabric on the other side. The darker side symbolizes the dark days of life. We all have those. And there's the lighter side, the fun days of life. And what holds it together is love, (the center square)," said Ginnerty. "We are trying to teach the children they are loved. No matter what you look like or where you come from, you deserve love," Ginnerty said.
GINNERTY said that before the children receive their quilts, The Love Quilt Project asks "in a spirit of reciprocity," that they create a supportive message to a child in America who is affected by HIV/AIDS. According to a school representative, tentatively, the McNair E.S. students will draw their center squares the week of Feb. 24.
Visit http://www.lovequiltproject.org/donatepage to donate to The Love Quilt Project
McNair Students Reflect on Their Proposed Designs
Srikakolapu, 12: I will write, "A great path will come to you." The path will look like a rainbow or something colorful and a person walking on it.
Anika Badatala, 12: I will use half the square to draw a moon... the other half the sun. That will symbolize not all days are going to be sunshine and rainbows. Some days can be bad, and you have to push through the days and keep going.
Ria Goel, 12: I will draw a heart and write the words love and hope because I want the child who receives the quilt to feel hope and never forget…(he or she) is loved in this world.
Zoe Rodriquez, 12: Drawings-Heart for love, Wings for faith, and Peace Sign for hope. Don't let the darkness keep you down; let the love bring you up.
Adarsh Iruvanti, 11: My design will include two sides-one light, one dark to show the good and bad things in life. The center will have puzzle pieces shaping a heart...very colorful. Inside will state, 'We are all connected'... Underneath is a message, 'Even though we are all different, we all smile in the same language." This shows that no matter what happens, love brings everyone together.
Aditya Nair, 11: I will draw a heart with the word 'LOVE' in bubble letters, with pink in it; then the heart in red...I will also write in bubble letters, 'HAVE HOPE' and color it in multiple light colors, and write near it, 'YOU HAVE OUR LOVE.' I'm doing this because the light colors will hopefully let them know a feeling of calm from all the pain and to just hold onto the love they are getting.