Bonnie Gillis shows some of the 60-plus tuques she collected – including more than a dozen she knit herself – for donation to the 25

Bonnie Gillis shows some of the 60-plus tuques she collected – including more than a dozen she knit herself – for donation to the 25

Crafting a warm welcome

Dozens of tuques mades by Peninsula knitters and collected by South Surrey's Bonnie Gillis, will help offer Syrian refugees a warm welcome.

The variety of tuques spread across Bonnie Gillis’ couch and coffee table Tuesday afternoon was a veritable rainbow of warmth – pink, blue, white, black, cabled, nubbled, tasseled… and the list goes on.

“Look at this one,” the South Surrey resident says, holding up one of the hand-knitted caps.

“People have put some thought into what they’re doing. There’s hundreds of hours of work in there.”

Gillis began knitting her contribution to the colourful collection – 14 tuques, plus mittens – about five weeks ago, after learning of an initiative (25,000 tuques) launched by Quebec resident Danielle Letourneau.

Letourneau last fall appealed to those who could knit to help offer a warm welcome to Syrian refugees by way of 25,000 tuques. The number matches the federal government’s pledge to settle 25,000 Syrian refugees in Canada.

Donated tuquesAfter discovering there was nowhere locally for anyone interested in contributing to drop tuques off, Gillis co-ordinated three sites – including the White Rock Community Centre – and got to work spreading the word.

As of Tuesday, she had amassed 60 tuques for the cause, with more to collect en route to drop them off in Vancouver Thursday (after Peace Arch News press deadline).

Gillis described the anonymous donations as “a true gift,” and the toque effort as a whole as “a very Canadian kind of movement.”

The psychologist is no stranger to helping. Since 2006, Gillis has travelled to Kenya six times to work with women and children in remote areas, at the Samburu Handicapped Education and Rehabilitation Programme (SHERP) in Maralal, and at the Good Samaritan Children’s Home in the Methare Slum.

She fundraises ahead of each trip, estimating donations she has taken over each time at $4,000 to $5,000. The funds are used to purchase food, clothing and school supplies; as well, to pay tuition for a number of high school students.