By Alix Norman
Search for ‘knitting’ and ‘charity’ on Google, and you get literally hundreds of hits, proving that happy hookers all over the world are earnestly clicking away for a worthy cause. There are all sorts of charitable projects out there for benevolent knitwits (and crocheters, of course). But, sadly, most of what’s happening has profited those abroad. Until now, that is.
When it comes to a homegrown project that’s directly benefiting some of the most underappreciated and mistreated of the island’s denizens, look no further than Knit A Dog A Home. A charitable campaign designed to support the vastly underfunded Sirius Dog Shelter near Moni, the project is spearheaded by professional knitwear designer – and long-time animal-lover – Korina Kyriakou.
“The aim of Knit A Dog A Home is to raise money for a new premises for Sirius Dog Sanctuary,” says this bright and earnest 25-year-old. “I’ve always been passionate about animals, and using what I know is the best way I can help: asking people to knit accessories and coats for dogs.” With a wide variety of pieces available through the highly professional website, knitters all over England and Cyprus are turning their talents to man’s best friend, and the orders – and the finished items – are flooding in.
“The response has been amazing,” says Korina, who has set up a website, placed advertisements in knitting magazines and admits to “telling everyone I meet about the sanctuary!”. Sirius is one of many dog charities on the island seeking to improve life for our four-legged friends, but times are tough and the animals are often the first to suffer: “As there’s a no-kill policy, we never have enough space,” explains Korina, who has been involved in animal welfare since childhood.
“My family loves animals, my mum and dad and grandparents are all farmers and I grew up around animals. I started off feeding stray cats and they kind of became ours. And whenever I’d walk down the street, there’d be another one – I couldn’t just leave them – and it became a pattern: every few months we’d have another stray in the house. I think, at first, my parents thought it was a cute little thing that I did, but it was much more than that!”
Taught from a young age that she would be entirely responsible for any animals she rescued, Korina recalls the labour of love with a smile: “I’d have to care for them myself,” she recalls, “often getting up in the middle of the night to make sure they were fed. And because we didn’t really have the space – we live in a flat without a garden – one of my priorities was always rehoming. Along with spaying and neutering, it’s incredibly important that an animal should go somewhere it will be cared for – we’ve still got one of the dogs we found!”
Unfortunately, it’s a story that’s all too rare, and it’s exactly this that Korina is working to remedy with Knit A Dog A Home. “Sirius is funded entirely through donations,” she explains, “and with over 200 dogs to care for, we’re running at full capacity. Unlike the pounds – which will euthanise an animal within seven to 14 days – the sanctuaries in Cyprus receive little or no money from the government, so fund-raising activities are crucial.”
As well as actively working to rehome their dogs – both here and abroad – there’s a fostering programme, sponsorship scheme and a system of monthly donations. Volunteers also run a thrift shop, a ‘Bookworm Sunday’ at (In) Theory in Limassol Old Town, a monthly dog walk and any number of other events, such as barbeques and coffee mornings.
“But it’s never enough,” Korina laments. “The current sanctuary is housed in an old warehouse with no electricity; the cages are all DIY and there are often five or six dogs to each pen. It’s not good for the animals – despite our programme of spaying, neutering and vaccinating, disease can spread like wildfire, especially in the summer months. And it’s this that initially made me want to help in some small way: obviously there are many wonderful volunteers already raiding funds, but we really do need to find the money to build new premises.”
With Knit A Dog A Home Korina is tackling the issue head on and, at the same time, raising awareness of the issue. “When things like the Billy situation [the dog thought dead by hotel staff and put in a paper crusher] happen it shows Cyprus in a really negative way, and that makes me sad because I know how hard people work here. The solution, I think, is to educate people, and as well as helping with funding; Knit A Dog A Home is, I think, part of that initiative.”
Everything on the website is handmade with love by a rapidly growing army of volunteers who work – in the main – from the free patterns Korina has posted online. “It’s the perfect project for leftover yarn, and the patterns are adaptable in terms of size and design according to skill level,” she says. “I even have a stash of wool myself that I can send off to volunteers. And I’ll soon be posting a design for dog blankets too.”
With the items flooding in (“There’s a lady who’s 80 years old sending packs of four pieces each time – how fast can she knit?” Korina exclaims) the response has been extremely positive. There’s even the chance of expanding into retail outlets: a handmade line of designer knitwear for dogs might be the very thing to stave off the winter chills. “Hopefully, the idea will really take off,” Korina concludes; “it certainly gets a conversation going. And that’s what we really want – to get people to realise there’s a problem here, and start thinking about how each one of us could help.” Korina is certainly doing knitty bit for charity, it seems. Now, what about yours?
Knit A Dog A Home
In aid of the Sirius Dog Sanctuary near Moni. Visit the website at www.knitadogahome.com, the Facebook page’ Get Sirius Knit A Dog A Home’ or email [email protected] For more details of the Sirius Dog Sanctuary, visit www.siriusdogsanctuary.com, email [email protected] or call 97 780779