Thursday, 6 June 2013

Aussie Heroes - What we are on about.

Loads of new people have been checking out the blog of late and hopefully some are sticking around to see what we are all about.   Even better, hopefully some are new quilters or sewers.   

This post is for all the new-ish people who have liked us on Facebook to more or less fill you in on some of the ethos of Aussie Heroes.

Because we need a little bit of colour in the posts I am going to share some of the early quilts - we have come a long way as you will see.

First up - why Aussie Heroes?  
Why sew quilts and laundry bags for our serving members and why for those who are serving overseas?  I guess, why did I start Aussie Heroes in the first place too.  I know this is written about in much earlier days but who has time to scroll back and find the history?

I started Aussie Heroes for three reasons.  The first reason was that I always felt ashamed of the way our Vietnam Vets were treated when they returned to their home, their country after enduring their service overseas.  It cost them enough without returning home to feel shamed, unwelcome, abused.  I was only in my early high school years at the time but I can still remember feeling shamed by the way they were treated - we all know the story and I don't need to rehash it.  Aussie Heroes was to be part of letting our Afghanistan Veterans know that we cared about them even if some did not agree with their mission.

The second reason I started Aussie Heroes was because a good friend of mine told me about a soldier and his wife that she chanced upon at a rehab hospital when she was there with her husband.  the soldier had a beautiful red. white and blue quilt over his knees and she commented on it.  Later the wife explained it was a Hero Quilt, given to him when he was in the hospital in Germany after being injured in Afghanistan.  I was so touched that the Americans shared the loved and gave one of our men a quilt but at the same time I felt very strongly that there should have been and Aussie quilt there for him.  The best part of that story is that I eventually heard from that couple.  They didn't know the story and made contact themselves and earlier this year I met them.  Don't you love the way that things work out.

The final reason I started Aussie Heroes is a very personal one.  I wanted to give back, I needed to contribute and do something positive.  I had been looking for an organisation to get involved with for some time, LOL, I certainly had not planned to start one! 

And why sew for those overseas?

Personally I feel that we should thank those in our Defence Force no matter where they serve or how they serve.  Just being in the Defence Force asks more of you than a standard job in a myriad of ways.  Who do we call when there is a flood, fire, earthquake? Who do we send when there is a need in a neighbouring country?  Who can we rely on to stand in front of us if there is a threat?  Who has to cancel their leave, spend hours on standby, change their plans to be available when they are needed?  For that I think we should say thank you.  I am sure there are other groups in Australia who put themselves on the line for their jobs, police, ambulance drivers, firemen for example.  You can't look after everyone and I have elected to concentrate on Defence Members.  But back to why overseas deployments and not Aussie based members.

The problem was who to start with as we were only a small group, barely a handful, when we started.  

I knew we needed to take advantage of the AFPO free post for parcels under 2kg.  It also made sense to me to start with those most at risk - those in Afghanistan and that meant Operation Slipper.  

Obviously we have now expanded to care for those in South Sudan and Egypt on United Nations Peace Keeping Missions.  Little did I know when I was first approached by a switched on Warrant Officer from South Sudan just how much our parcels would mean to them.  Who knew that they did not get a share of the massive quantity of care packages that are sent to those in Afghanistan.  I assume it is the same for those in Egypt.   

When I started to think about taking Aussie Heroes Aussie-wide I knew I had to decide what sort of organisation we were going to be.  I researched some of the other organisations out there doing similar things.  There did not seem to be anyone in Australia doing what we do - I have since discovered there are a few groups who make quilts for wounded serving members in particular areas, but no one organisation that was Australia wide and none that gave to those that were serving simply as a way of saying thank you.  

I checked out some of the major organisations in the States and discovered that they had some strict rules regarding how the quilts could be made.  I didn't feel that was right for what I wanted to do.  The quilts and laundry bags are a GIFT and a gift should come from the HEART.  Just as a mother who receives a child's gift, with all its faults and imperfections, and accepts it as it is because it is made with love, so should we accept what is made for us in the same manner.  So far I have been proved right.  The serving members have just appreciated the fact that someone they don't know has gone out of their way to make a quilt or a laundry bag for them. 

Our quilts and laundry bags are not works of art, but works of the heart.

For me is it important that Aussie Heroes be INCLUSIVE.  That is why I accept whole quilts, quilt tops and blocks as that makes it possible for everyone to contribute to the level of their expertise, their availability etc.  Strippy quilts that are stitched in the ditch have been received just as warmly as beautifully pieced and fancy quilted quilts.  Laundry bags with patches have elicited some of the loveliest thank you emails. 

The Block of the Month is another way for people to get involved.  The block tutorials are aimed at beginners and I hope they are simple enough for everyone to follow.  It means that even if you can't make a whole quilt top you can send in a few blocks, or even just one, and know that you are contributing!  Often the BOM quilts are saved for special purposes.  Several have been given as Fallen Warrior Quilts.  I think they are particularly appropriate for that use as they enable many people to have a hand in giving a quilt in memory of a hero who has paid the ultimate price.

Requests come in many forms.  Wives, partners and family members request quilts and/or laundry bags for their loved ones. Bosses request quilts for their staff, troops request for their Bosses and mates request for mates.  Generally I get a request via email or Private message on Facebook.  Depending on how much information is included in the request this is the reply that will go back


Thanks for getting in touch.
All you need to do is send me your full postal address with PM keys.  Additionally I need to know approximately how long you are deployed for so that I can slot you in.  Finally, although I must stress we cannot guarantee a personalized quilt or laundry bag, we do like to try, so can you please pass on your favourite colours and hobbies or interests.  As I said, I cannot be sure that the quilt you receive will bear any resemblance to the one you request, but if the right quilter has the right fabric in their stash you could be lucky.
I shall look forward to hearing from you.
Cheers for now



Once I get a request they are added my list and the next time I send out a Request Email theirs will be on it.  Not all requests come in with personal preferences.  For example at the moment I have approximately 30 names on my list with no preferences at all.   That would make now a really good time to make that quilt you have always wanted to try out in the colours of your choice and it can be sent to one of the thirty - and 4 of them are girls.

The goal is to make a quilt and get it in the mail within four weeks from the quilter accepting the request.  It doesn't always happen but we try.  You have to remember that all those making the quilts and laundry bags are volunteers who give of their time and their fabric stash to make these items.  I know certain people SAY I crack the whip but if I did that in reality no one would sew for us for long.

Request emails are sent out to an email list of volunteers.  I am trying to send them out every Sunday or Monday if I have time.  I have to do it when I know I have time to answer all the emails so if I am out all Monday (or as in this weekend chained to the kitchen to prepare all the food for my son's birthday party on Monday night) I will send then email out on Tuesday morning perhaps.  If you are new to AHQ and would like to be on the mailing list for Requests please let me know.  You can PM me on Facebook or you can email me friendsofAHQ@gmail.com



Two quilts that we make that do not tend to get mentioned very often are the Fallen Warrior Quilts (FWQ) and the Wounded Warrior Quilts (WWQ).  The FWQs are offered to the family of those that have made the ultimate sacrifice.  We work through the chaplains and we pass the quilts on quietly either to the families via mail or through the chaplains.  One strict rule I have in regard to the FWQs is that they not come as a surprised.  The family must be expecting them as otherwise they could catch the family off guard and that is not pleasant.

The WWQs are special.  They are very Australian in design and are kept in Sydney and sent over as required.   WWQs are held in the hospitals in Kandahar and Tarin Kot and are taken when a member is injured seriously enough to need to be sent to Germany prior to being brought home to Australia.  Any one can make a WWQ - it just need to be very Australian, usually sporting the flag, the southern cross, kangaroos or similar and must be sent to me so that it can be held until needed.

Well I think that should give anyone who is new to the blog a good idea of what we do and why.  If you have any questions that I have not answered there are various links you can look at.  Look around the blog.  Check out the How to Help Page, or the Quilt Specifics or any of the galleries.  Feel free to email me if you have any questions at all.


Last thing tonight, here is the list of those that have posted things off this week according to my records as of 1:30pm today.


Beth
Fran T
Jacqui
Jo P 
Julie Ann
Kaylee
Kiwi Karen
Louise
Nancy
Lee
Pam Y
Stephanie T
Sue F
Sue N
Nancy

There are a couple I have left off as the recipients might be watching the blog - feel free to check with me if you like.  If you are not on this list and think you should be please let me know.  I will be out most of tomorrow so any photos or confirmation of posting received after tonight will be included in next week's post.

Till next time...................keep spreading the word and happy stitching!

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