WI village for sick children destined for Africa after UK health and safety snub
Members of a Women's Institute who knitted a miniature village for sick children were told it could not be given to them – because the wool was a health and safety risk.
The ladies spent a year creating the 6ft by 4ft soft intricate landscape – which boasts miniature people, houses, animals, a farm and a church. It was then offered to children's hospitals, hospices and nurseries to bring comfort to poorly youngsters.
But each time the ladies tried to donate it, their gift was rejected over fears the wool could not be sterilised and was therefore a hazard. They were also told it would need a safety certificate.
Around 30 members of Sidford WI in East Devon had teamed up to knit the intricate creation. They took extra care to ensure there were no loose pieces that children could choke on and stuck to stuffing and materials deemed safe for children's toys.
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The group initially offered the village to Children's Hospice South West, which told them it was unable to accept it because it could not be sterilised. They then approached various nurseries and hospitals in the local area, who snubbed their gift because it didn't come with the correct safety certification.
Jean Bridgeman, a 69-year-old grandmother-of-eight who organised the mammoth project in her weekly craft sessions, said it took a whole year to knit.
"We were all a bit fed up with knitting scarves so decided to do something a bit different," she explained.
"Everyone got involved in the knitting and we all really enjoyed doing it. We really felt it would bring a smile to some young children's faces.
"But when we tried several nurseries and organisations we were told that the village couldn't be used because the wool couldn't be sterilised.
"Apparently, it didn't have the correct health and safety certificate. It was such a shame as we had always planned to give it to a local children's hospice or hospital."
Beryl Kingman, 72, another of the creators, added: "We didn't think of this 'health and safety' when we started it.
"We started with the intention of giving it away to four or five-year-olds to play with. But because of health and safety issues it cannot be sterilised or disinfected, so you would have a problem with a children's hospice or waiting rooms."
Despite a string of knockbacks, the ladies decided to display the village at a local horticultural show, where it caught the eye of a charity volunteer. He told them of a South African orphanage he said would be absolutely delighted to have it.
The giant toy has now been boxed up in sections ready to be dispatched in the coming weeks to the Bana ba Hlokang orphanage, which currently cares for more than 180 orphans and vulnerable children.
Marion Baker, president of the Sidford WI, said: "It has everything you would expect to see in your typical village. It's very intricate – there are roses around the cottages and even the cows have udders.
"It will be lovely if the village can indeed be sent over to the orphanage in South Africa as the children there will get so much enjoyment out of it."
A spokesman for Children's Hospice South West said: "These knitted items look fabulous and we are very grateful that someone wanted to donate them. However, as we care for vulnerable children we have to be careful of infection control and that we are particularly diligent around our children."