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Community Connections

Stitching for good: The job of a trauma teddy

All it took was a pair of knitting needles, colourful yarn and loads of creative energy for these passionate students to stitch 76 trauma teddies for the Australian Red Cross.

Trauma teddies have many roles. They can be something to squeeze while a child is crying, a distraction when they need an injection, they have even proven helpful for dementia patients. But above all, they become a little friend in a time of need.

Ruth Oldfield is a volunteer with the Australian Red Cross and her job is to collect and check all the knitted trauma teddies that are donated.

“The value of trauma teddies is immeasurable. Children who are traumatised can have a little friend that they can talk to about anything. About their nightmares. We’re not just talking about injury, we’re talking about bushfire, homelessness, bereavement, all sorts of things,” Ruth says.

“With the teddies, children have a little friend to talk to and it has been proven in psychological studies that bringing fears and concerns to the front of the mind helps with nightmares and calming. The teddies certainly help children sleep because they feel like they have someone on guard for them.”

The Trauma Teddies project distributes the knitted teddies across the Canberra region, to hospitals, Barnardos, the courts, and child and family health centres. But the teddies are not just popular with children.

“They also have great value with dementia patients – lots of dementia patients like having something to cuddle, something to squeeze, to stop them scratching themselves. Geriatrics like having a little friend to play with,” says Ruth.

An initiative at the University of Canberra brings students together for a knitting group each week. Its purpose is to provide a social space for students to connect but it also provides knitted bears for the Trauma Teddies project.  

Students during their knitting group

This year, Professor Geoff Crisp, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic, was on hand with the knitting group to donate 76 bears to the Australian Red Cross.

“I’m delighted to be involved with UC because the value is not just in what they produce but the making. That it’s a social enterprise, inclusive, calming and creative and it’s a project for students who want somewhere to go and something to do.”

The students also appreciate the value of the knitting group.

“I was learning how to knit earlier this year and figured it would be really cool to try to find a group where I could meet other people so I did a bit of digging and just found this on the UC website. It’s a really nice place to meet people and we have fun doing it,” says first-year student Elizabeth Watts.

Alexander Forward-Yang took a while to complete his first teddy, but it hasn’t deterred him.

“I found this group three or four years ago and basically I started one teddy and it took me two years to complete because I guess I had to keep memorising how to knit it all together,” says Alexander.

“I’m going to try and knit other things too and see how that goes.”

UC students hand over the teddies to the Australian Red Cross

Participants in the 2019 knitting group: Alex, Bronagh, Cherry, Deb, Elizabeth, Emma, Farah, Fiona, Joanne, Justin, Justine, Kyle, Loretta, Marjan, Mark, Megan, Paula, Rachel, Raisa, Sarah, Shironi, Taryn, Tina and Winnie.

The Trauma Teddies project can always use more donations. Specific requirements and the Trauma Teddy pattern are available on the Red Cross website.

Photos by Madeleine Wood.

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