• Stephanie O’Hanley

Join a Quebec-wide movement: Knit a tuque to welcome Syrian refugees

PHOTOS BY STEPHANIE O'HANLEY

Amitié et Passion manager Christelle Dusseau places a hat in the shop's 25,000 tuques donation box. The shop is giving away wool and patterns in case people need them to make a tuque.

It’s been only a few weeks since Montreal resident Danielle Létourneau launched 25 000 tuques, an initiative inviting people to knit tuques for Syrian refugees and include inside each tuque “a small, personalized welcome message” from the knitter.

The news spread quickly through Facebook, drawing thousands. People from all over Quebec are participating and groups have sprouted up in other provinces. “I’m kind of overwhelmed and amazed,” said Létourneau. “... It was supposed to be a very small thing, like 30 people knitting together in my own living room.

“I was crying in my kitchen reading comments about people getting all paranoid about the refugees and I thought that signing a petition wasn’t enough,” said Létourneau, who said she purposely chose to raise her kids in multicultural Côte-des-Neiges. “High tolerance isn’t enough. Love is barely enough. Especially for people who come from a country that’s in war. So I thought that making a gesture like a real one was better than nothing.”

As others collect furniture, clothing and housing for Syrian refugees, 25 000 tuques is symbolic, Létourneau said. “We’re focusing on the message that’s inside the hat. The message is important because it’s one person welcoming one person.”

For Vaudreuil-Soulanges residents, the nearest 25 000 tuques drop-off point is Amitié et Passion, 18, rue Nicholson in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield. When Your Local Journal visited last Saturday, staff couldn’t say how many Vaudreuil-Soulanges residents had donated tuques but said many of their customers live in Vaudreuil-Soulanges. The shop, popular with knitters and embroiderers, attracts both individual crafters and groups, some from as far away as Ottawa.

Near the cash, a donation box set up only days before is almost full. Some of the tuques are from projects created on site by knitters who work for the shop or by teachers who give courses but most were donated by interested individuals, said Amitié et Passion Manager Christelle Dusseau.

One woman dropped off three or four tuques. “She sort of launched everything,” Dusseau said. Pointing towards the donation box, Dusseau said, “We have all sizes, for children, women and men. “It’s truly a wonderful initiative.”

Next to the shop’s 25 000 tuques donation box is a basket filled with balls of yarn and knitwear patterns. “It’s leftover wool,” Dusseau explained. “If someone doesn’t have any wool, they can take some, knit a tuque and bring it back here.”

During Your Local Journal’s visit, a series of people who came into the shop asked about the donation box. Several customers said they would knit a tuque.

While it’s unlikely the knitters will ever meet the recipients of the tuques they donate, it gets them thinking about another person, Létourneau said. “We’re welcoming people, families, kids, real human beings. And we’re real human beings; we’re supposed to do things like that.”

For more information, look for the “25 000 tuques” Community on Facebook. A link on Facebook leads to the initiative’s website, which includes an important “FAQ” in English for participants to read, a list of drop-off points and a post office box where people can mail tuques if they can’t get to a drop-off point.

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