How you can help

We would like your help...

Patients at State hospitals and clinics in South Africa are typically destitute, malnourished, as well as being very sick or injured. Many are jobless, many are homeless, and many have no loved-ones to provide the basic needs for them in hospital.

The Ruth Mailbag Group strives to provide for the needs of destitute moms and babies in the maternity and NICU of our local state hospital and several other hospitals in our country who have asked for our help by providing them with a basic baby pack for their new and or sick babies.

If you can assist please get in touch with us through or visit our blog at for more information.

Yours sincerely,
Joy Coetzee
Founder – The Ruth Mailbag Group

Or a hospital near you... please, browse through the following list, I’m sure you will find a government hospital near you to support:
Contact Details of Public Hospitals in South Africa -
Eastern Cape -
Gauteng Province -
Johannesburg -
KZN -;
Port Elizabeth -
Western Cape -

Wednesday, 24 April 2013



THANK YOU -Allyson Johnson, NSW, Australia; Anonymous; Anonymous via Royal Mail; Anonymous, Manchester, UK; Barbara de Wet; Barbara UK and family; Capture the Magic Ltd, Cambs, UK; Carol Bower, Harworth Knit & Natter, St John’s & St Mark’s Church, UK; Carrie Rowsell via Royal Mail; Doreen Brits; Eileen Cunningham; Ffion Wilkes, East Sussex, UK; Frances Labuschagne; Gail Rozendaal; Germiston City News; Gerty; Hazle Webb, Isle of Cumbrae, Scotland; Jackie Hammond, Tangmere, UK; Joan de Pindray; Kathy Platts, Loughborough, England; L Barrett, N. Land, England; Looklocal Boksburg; Looklocal Springs; Lyn Geekie; Mariette van Staden; Marion Short, Bedlington Worth, England; Mary Ann Oosthuis; Mrs Hills; Mrs Nieman; Mum’s Mail; Pamela Chadderton; Phyllis Botha, Sinoville; Renate; Rosemary Earp Jones; Rosemary Powell; Sharon Rose via Royal Mail; Sue Richardson Morley, Chichester, UK and Yvonne Kidd.

 I just had to tell you how much I appreciate the clothes (baby and other). It's all great stuff and I know the babies and children will look adorable in them and get lots of use out of them.  Thank you for being so generous and thoughtful!


On Mon, Mar 25, 2013 at 1:57 PM, Coral Porter <> wrote:
Our small group will be knitting and most likely the articles will be taken to the Phoenix Hospital by a friend who does a lot of work for newborn babies there.

On Mon, Mar 25, 2013 at 4:37 PM, Ronda lowrie <> wrote:
I am busy sourcing a regular supply of large (reject) boxes in order to send supplies to Ladysmith, and also to Cape Town and Sabie where we have burgeoning Knit-a-Square projects, thanks to local ladies who (like yourself) are dedicating time and effort to helping orphaned and vulnerable children in their respective areas.
I will keep in touch with regard to our next contribution to Ruth Mailbag … probably after Easter as time is running short this week!!  God bless you, Ronda

On Mon, Apr 15, 2013 at 10:22 AM, Doreen Brits <> wrote:
Hi, knitting the Freedom Day Bootees....changed the 1 set of, “2 rows white” to 2 rows blue! The bootees I knitted without blue in it, I crochet the cord blue. Sorry about that mistake.
I have knitted 2 blankets; still have to do the finishing touches on both.  Sure there will still be time to knit/crochet some jackets...  Regards to all, have a nice week, Doreen

On Tue, Apr 16, 2013 at 8:40 AM, Eileen Cunningham <> wrote:
Thanks for the photos of booties - really cute.  I thought you might like to see some of the jackets & beanies I crocheted: I'll be dropping them off at the local hospital in the next couple of weeks. So far, I've managed 14 jackets / beanies & 12 blankets.  I’ve enjoyed doing them – I made up my own pattern, for crochet, based on the knitted ones you sent out: the jackets are made up in one piece with only the side seams to sew up.  Kind regards, Eileen Cunningham.  (Eileen’s photo is on our facebook page.) 

On Mon, Apr 22, 2013 at 10:31 AM, <> wrote: Hi Joy, For your info 31 beanies & 31 prs of booties collected by Nontobeko from King Edward hospital on Friday 19 April.  Kind Regards, Lenie.
On Tue, Apr 23, 2013 at 2:37 PM, Ndlela Nontobeko, <> wrote: Good Afternoon, We would like to express our appreciation to Merlynncourt for 31 beautiful caps and bootees.  God Bless you.
NEW GROUP:  Please welcome a new group “Amor for prem, Aids and Cancer baby's” (affiliated to The Ruth Mailbag Group) under the ownership and guidance of Sarah Kuipers at PO Box 13746, Sinoville.  Her email is  She will be working for the babies at Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria.!/groups/236101209863890/ 


STEVE BIKO ACADEMIC HOSPITAL: Please join me in helping to send every baby born at Steve Biko Academic Hospital home in something warm and cosy.  Steve Biko Academic Hospital is located in Pretoria.   Most of the families who have babies there have nothing to bring their babies home in. That’s where we come in. My group, “Amor for prem, Aids and Cancer baby's” (affiliated to The Ruth Mailbag Group), provides warm, handmade, bought or good quality gently used items for these families.
Please send donations to me at “Amor for prem, Aids and Cancer baby's” (affiliated to The Ruth Mailbag Group), Sarah Kuipers, PO Box 13746, Sinoville.  Email 
CAN YOU KNIT, CROCHET OR SEW?  Then why not join us, Sarah and Marthie, at facebook group!/groups/236101209863890/ or send in your finished items.  Please remember to add your email so we can let you know they have arrived... THANK YOU IN ADVANCE FOR YOUR KINDNESS! 


On Mon, Apr 1, 2013 at 11:52 AM, Doreen Brits <> wrote:
Barbara de Wet and I went to Ouma's Crèche on Thursday and gave the children their scarves and beanies plus the Easter eggs. So I have been knitting the scarves and I still have to knit another 6, then I have a set of 24, that is for the crèche Janet is supporting.  I knitted mostly booties in 3 sizes for the Lenten challenge we had.  4 blankets are I am knitting for the Koekie Jacobsz Senior Centre; their fete is on the 4th May!  Blessings to all, Doreen 

Sunday, 07 April 2013: Gifted today to 11 premature and 13 newborn babies (smallest group in a long time!!!) and “Joy” magazines to 20 boarder moms.  All delighted with their gifts.  Staff helpful and appreciative of the help we are giving their moms.  Bless you all and thank you for assisting our cause and making these gifts to the needy possible, without you this would not be possible.  Once again thank you very much for your support!!!
Friday, 12 April 2013: Gifted to Siyathemba via Gail Rozendaal, baby bottles and larger fleece blankets.  Thank you for making this gift possible, without your generosity and caring this donation would not be possible.
Sunday, 14 April 2013: Gifted 15 premature babies, 15 newborn babies and 20 boarder moms (4 of them are in the kangaroo mother care ward). Staff very busy so conducted most of my visit with the minimum of assistance. Thank you to all who contributed to make these packs possible, your support is much appreciated.

Sunday, 21 April 2013: Gifted today to 15 newborn, 11 premature babies and 20 boarder moms.  Thank you, Barbara de Wet, for helping me carry my packages, they were really heavy and full of goodies today... Grand social time was had by all and happy group of boarder moms invited us back, again!  Our cars took this sudden left at P ‘n P and we found ourselves drinking coffee at the Wimpy... wonder how that happened???  Once again, thank you, for all your support, WE are making a difference!!!  Think on these quotes and add some of your own...  “One person can make a difference and every person should try.” ~ John F Kennedy.  “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” ~ Winston Churchill.  “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.  It’s not.” ~ Dr Seuss.  Once again, bless you and thank you for your support, BIG and small!!!

SATURDAY, 06 APRIL 2013, MONTHLY MEETING: Thank you, Ladies, for a wonderfully productive meeting!!!  Sad to see so many away, I do hope that you are all safe, healthy and happy.  Those who are sick, Get well soon!  We missed you all very much and hope that you will be able to join us again next month.  The group was very excited and encouraged to hear about the growth of our group across the country, the development of our hospitals list and the support we enjoy of so many people abroad for the work we are doing in our community.  The report back by the members of projects they were personally involved in, in our name was very interesting, Doreen at Ouma’s crèche and Barbara at the CPU.  Rosemary Powell and Joan de Pindray, there will be no photos of your Duduza dolls or teddy bears as Barbara de Wet immediately asked if she may take them to the CPU on Monday for the children who arrive traumatised for counselling, but I know that you will be just too happy to know that your donations are going to children who desperately need something to hug.  The show and tell was a huge success and we continue to learn from each other in so many ways.  After a nice cup of tea / coffee, with thanks to the Juana Maria Home, we had a lovely social time chatting about the needs of our community and the many others across the country, we continue to dream BIG and hope that one day there will a charity crafting group like ours in every community to assist the needy…  NO harm in dreaming big!!!  Once again, a very BIG thank you for all the support our cause enjoys.  God bless you one and all.

Gifted to this little baby, clothes, blankets, towels, towelling nappies, snappi, soap, face clpoth, Vaseline, babygros, vests, hats, bootees, jerseys, jackets... enough for him to go on with and so that he will sleep well without getting cold anymore. Put a beautiful beanie and a packet of sweets in for the young lady who has offered to care for the baby. Bless you and thank you, to all who contributed in some way to this baby pack. You are ALL stars!!! 

Reminder!  THE RUTH MAILBAG GROUP MEETINGS, 1st Saturday of the month, February through December, 14h00 – 16h00, Juana Maria Home, Francis Road, Ladysmith, KZN.  Thank you, Juana Maria, for your hospitality!  Bring your charity knitting, crocheting, & sewing; any yarn and or patterns to swap, etc.  January - in recess!  See you there!!! 

Some of the following you may have heard before, if not, I trust it will be helpful: 


What size do I knit?  Don't put too much emphasis on trying to perfect the size of a preemie garment. There is a great variation between premature baby sizes that an item of any size should be suitable for at least one baby. As a general guide premature babies head circumference is approximately the same as their chest circumference. The average prem baby's chest measurements are 8"-14". However clothes of all sizes are required for preemies, so no matter how big or small your item is it will most likely fit at least one baby.

Which colours do I choose?  Pastel colours are the most popular but in Africa they appreciate colour and the brighter the colours are the better they like them. Apart from the obviously baby pinks and blues other colours which may be used are: Lemon, Cream, White, Mint green, Peach, Lilac and Aqua. It is recognised that bright and dark colours should be avoided as they often make prem babies look frailer. When knitting burial garments the advice suggests its best to use colours such as white or cream and to avoid pinks, blues and lilacs, as they aren't suited to the colouring of a stillborn baby.

How do I know which yarn to use?  Premature babies have very delicate skin and can often be allergic to wool; therefore it is best to avoid garments made with a wool mix. Acrylic yarn is more suitable when knitting for preemies. Ideal yarn to use for preemie knits is baby double knit or 4ply yarn. Most preemie patterns will use these.

Do I need special fastenings?  Plain flat half-inch buttons are best to use for fastening. Avoid nylon and metal fastenings, as they get very hot under the incubator heaters. Do not use Velcro as a fastening, it is very scratchy on the hook side and also damages knitted garments when they are laundered. Ease of dressing is vital for preemies and as a general rule it is best not to use ribbon as a fastening as ribbon can often be fussy to tie on a garment so small. 

What do I choose to knit? 

1. Cardigans - These are the most frequently used preemie clothing. V-Necks or round necks are the best to knit for 'give' and ease of dressing. Cuffs and shoulders should have plenty o of 'give' to help make dressing easy. Stretchy knits such as garter stitch work best as they provide the necessary 'give'.

2. Blankets - Prem baby knitting charities usually appreciate blankets. Avoid lacy patterns or blankets with large holes in can be dangerous for little fingers.

3. Hats - The best type is the ventilator hat as they allow the babies to have head scans without removing the hat. Keep the designs simple and preferably without any ties and fastenings. Check the specific sites for the knitting patterns they recommend.

4. Booties - Garter stitch is the best to use for booties as it is stretchy which makes it easier to put the booties on. It is better to knit shaping at the ankle to provide grip rather than use tie or cords. 

PLEASE DO NOT BLOCK YOUR KNITTED / crocheted items, especially if they are made of synthetics, carefully follow instructions on ball band – usually wet block by spraying; do not “press / steam” it makes your garments “soft”, we need items that are rugged and able to stand up to all washing and wearing methods.
PREEMIE BLANKETS should be 24 x 24 inches.  NO smaller.  3 or 4 ply yarn can be used.  Round ripple blankets are beautiful for newborns but they are not good for preemie isolettes. So please only make them for newborns.  MOST HOSPITALS PREFER THE LARGER 30 X 30 INCHES BLANKET, THAT WAY THEY CAN BE USED IN THE UNITS AND TAKEN HOME. 

Please use all the PASTEL COLOURS of course AND THE BRIGHTS are also very pretty :-)  Keep in mind if you would NOT put it on your child then no one else probably would either.  

PLEASE FINISH YOUR ITEMS BEFORE SENDING. I have been receiving items with NO buttons, NO ties etc. I may not have the same yarn you used to make the item so therefore I can't finish it. It just takes a minute to go through your items to make sure they are done. After all, you work so hard to make the beautiful items why not finish them. :-) 

Please when making items, unless a hospital asks for the smaller preemie hats we try and keep them around the 4-5 lb range.  PREEMIE hats should be at least 10 inches in circumference. Smaller babies are not dressed.  Also please use the softest yarn possible for the preemie hats as their skin is very sensitive.  NEWBORN hats: Need to be at least 14 inches in circumference.  

SWEATERS SHOULD FIT 4 LBS AND UP as most hospitals like them for going home. The tiny sweaters are NOT used in the unit; they want the sweaters to put on the babies when leaving.  Make sure the booties you make are easy for the nurses to get on the babies feet. We don't want booties that make it difficult to get on. If your “ribs” are tight “cast on or off” with a larger needle to give more stretch.  A sweater that fits in the palm of your hand does no good. It will NOT be used. Please think about a little baby. Make your items to fit 4 lbs and up, please. Sweaters any smaller will not be used!!! 

WINTER IN SOUTH AFRICA (MAY TO JULY) is characterized in the higher-lying areas of the interior plateau by dry, sunny, crisp days and cold nights. So it’s a good idea to make and donate warm clothes with long sleeves and long pants.
The hot, humid KwaZulu-Natal coast, as well as the Lowveld (lower-lying areas) of Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces, offer fantastic winter weather with sunny, warmish days and virtually no wind or rain.
The Western Cape gets most of its rain in winter, with quite a few days of cloudy, rainy weather. However, these are always interspersed with wonderful days to rival the best of a British summer.
The high mountains of the Cape and the Drakensberg in KwaZulu-Natal usually get snow in winter. 

APPEAL – BABY BLANKETS AND BOOTEES - “Baby it is cold outside” and getting colder and colder...  we urgently need baby blankets and bootees for the babies born at the local State hospital...  these moms and their babies come mostly from informal settlements where the accommodation is probably a shack, cold, draughty and leaks.  Please help us warm these babies NOW!  Our stock of blankets and bootees is depleted and there is still a while to go before the seasons change.  Last year we had heavy snow in August!!!  Please send your blankets and bootees, bought, knitted, crocheted, sewn, loomed, and good quality second hand as soon as possible. 


Appeal for Basic Toiletry Items and bed socks for Boarder Moms, baby blankets and bootees
May – Winter Warmers for Babies
June – Nelson Mandela Day for the Babies & World Wide Knit in Public Day
July – Christmas in July for the Babies
August – Spring Day for the Babies
September – September Babies
October – Prematurity Awareness Month
November – Christmas presents for babies and moms
December – New Year Babies 


DOMESTIC PARCEL SERVICE & DOMESTIC PARCEL RATES (non regulated tariffs subject to change).  Please check with your local post office for the new tariffs that came into effect on 1 April.
Ordinary parcel - An ordinary parcel is any postal item that is bigger than 353 x 250 x 30mm and/or weighs more than 1kg. The maximum length is 1m and the length plus girth may not be more than 2m. The domestic counter-to-counter parcel service (ordinary parcel) is the most economical way to send a parcel. Customers can send parcels from any Post Office counter to any other Post Office
counter in the country.   Ordinary parcel (counter to counter) R33.35 for the first kg R 4.50 for each additional kg or part of a kg.
Econoparcel - An Econoparcel is a parcel that is not bigger than 458 x 324 x 100mm and does not weigh more than 1kg.  Econoparcel R20.40. 

CUSTOMS DUTY - VERY IMPORTANT: We would ask you to take special notice of these instructions to avoid unnecessary duty being paid on your parcels as they arrive in South Africa.
Please mark clearly: No Commercial Value - For Charity Only.
Please do not register your letters, parcels, packages or boxes.
Please do not give a monetary value on your parcels (or only the minimum amount as instructed by your post office)
Please do use your good old post office unless you do not have one; it has come to our attention that the customs paid to couriers is higher than that paid at the post office
We have to pay minimal duty on most large parcels arriving. However even just a small monetary value on a parcel attracts far higher duties. Letters, parcels, packages and boxes continue to arrive safely in volumes without any registration or monetary values appended to them.
MOISTURE FREE - Wrap your crocheted, knitted and sewn items in a plastic bag, bubble wrap or by postal bags with an inner plastic coating to keep them moisture proof. Tape your parcels well.
POSTAL ADDRESS - Address all your post to: The Ruth Mailbag Group, “No Commercial Value - For Charity Only”, C/o Foto First, 180 Murchison Street, Ladysmith 3370, South Africa.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT - Please add a note with your name, address or email address so that I may acknowledge your parcel.  Thank you for your co-operation! 

WANT TO FORM A KNITTING GROUP that knits, crochets, sews and quilts (for a government hospital near you) in a community of friends? The same as a book club, a knitting group can be the basis for lifelong friendships. Being united in a common purpose, by knitting for charity, makes the effort even more meaningful.  We now have 2 groups affiliated to The Ruth Mailbag Group and we are delighted with the awesome work they are doing in their own communities.  Good luck and enjoy one stitch at a time!!!
Here are some suggestions for how to get a knitting/crocheting/sewing/quilting group together:

1.      Start by inviting immediate family and friends and ask them if they know anyone else who would be interested.

2.      Settle on one regular date e.g. second Wednesday of every month. Try not to change it once started just to accommodate one member. Once the regularity is affected, the group tends to break apart. Just make it on a ‘come if you can’ basis.

3.      Agree to host it on a rotational basis, or go to a local wool or craft shop and ask if they would host it after hours.

4.      If at home, decide whether the host is going to supply food and beverages. Efforts will be greatly rewarded by the conviviality of sharing food together, but also the enjoyment of meals shared at other member’s homes. Food is definitely a topic of enthusiasm for most people and recipe sharing an added benefit!

5.      Make sure for the first meeting that everyone brings wool, a pair of needles and a darning needle and any donations for gifting. If they are already involved in a knitting project ask them to bring it to show the group. Arrange a collection point e.g. a local wool or craft shop. Decide on which hospital or clinic will be receiving the gifts.

6.      Then you can always start a group on Yahoo!, Google, facebook or a blog with an email option.

7.      Please contribute knitting group stories, patterns, and successes, and send photos to the Ruth Mailbag Group, Fax 086 516 4618 / 

Thank you in advance for your support! 

Yours in charity crafting,
Joy Coetzee - Founder
The Ruth Mailbag Group 

CONTACT DETAILS: Fax 086 516 4618; Email 


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