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 -

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Newsletter 3 of 2013



The Ruth Mailbag Group is a nationwide group of volunteers who knit, crochet, and/or sew, providing handmade /bought /or good quality gently used baby items to Government hospitals in South Africa. All Ruth Mailbag Group items are given free to infants, children and their parents.


Volunteers who knit, crochet, and sew are invited to join the effort.
The Ruth Mailbag Group began 11 years ago as a personal effort to provide much needed apparel for premature and low birth weight infants undergoing treatment in the neonatal intensive care unit of my local Government hospital.  Because of the high demand for preemie-sized items, efforts began to recruit others to join the effort.
As The Ruth Mailbag Group grew, it became impossible for me to manage the distribution effort. Therefore, volunteers were urged to deliver completed items directly to Government hospitals in their community. Thus, there is no way to accurately estimate the actual number of garments delivered to Government hospitals across the country.
The Ruth Mailbag Group project has been covered by several Community and overseas newspapers and magazines over the years e.g. Benoni City Times; Berea Mail; Brits Pos; George Herald; Go Express; Greytown Gazette; Heidelberg; Joy Magazine; Knit Magazines UK; Kormorant; Ladysmith Gazette; Ladysmith Herald; Looklocal Germiston; Looklocal Springs; Northern KwaZulu Natal Courier; Northglen News; The Archer UK; The Villager UK; The Witness; Volksblad and YOU.
At the present time, The Ruth Mailbag Group is an information source for prospective volunteers. There are no membership rules, no dues, no quotas, or obligations. It is hoped that volunteers will contact local Government hospitals to learn what is needed, or send completed items to one of the hospitals on the Hospital List.
Ruth Mailbag items are given FREE to infants, children, and their parents. The families usually keep the items as a memento, especially those for tiny preemies. Although the focus of The Ruth Mailbag Group’s efforts has been premature and newborn infants, it has been impossible to ignore the pleas for assistance for larger infants, children, geriatric patients and even animal shelters. There is the most demand for the larger preemie and full-term sizes of hats and booties. Most hospitals welcome small (30" x30") blankets and quilts. Volunteers provide all of the supplies and may use leftover yarn and fabric. Seasonal and holiday colours are popular-as well as pastels and multicolour stripes.


Join simply means to help. Once you create an item and give it to an individual or organization, you have joined. Please help.
Please refer to the Hospital List. The Ruth Mailbag Group is already assisting the hospitals that are listed. For your convenience, the hospital name and address, when possible the name of a staff liaison person and the list of items that hospital wishes to receive are all compiled on the hospital list. You may send items directly to one of the participating hospitals or you may contact a Government hospital in your own community. To learn the needs of your local Government hospital, contact the PRO, Chief Matron or the Social Worker.
Yarn that may be washed in hot water with harsh detergents and disinfectants should be used for Ruth Mailbag Group projects. Feel free to vary colours with the season. Holiday colours, sports team colours, multi-colour stripes, and pastels may be used.
It is recommended that you package completed items in plastic bags in order to ensure freshness and cleanliness of items. Do not add potpourri, sachet, or any fragrances. Do not use fabric softeners, if you wash completed items.
As more and more people learn of the needs of neonatal intensive care units at Government hospitals, some hospitals may be "flooded" with very tiny hats. Please consider making blankets or other items and if you make hats, make an assortment of sizes. There are full-term infants in NICUs/ICUs, too.
Or, you might want to make items for your local shelter for abused women and children. Often women and children have no clothing except what they are wearing. A hat or scarf might be a welcome gift for a child. Or, you might want to contact social service organizations that work with poor families, unwed mothers, or families in need. Or, you might want to make lap blankets or shawls for geriatric patients at nursing homes.
Keep in touch by reading The Ruth Mailbag Group newsletter found on the blog or request to be added to the mailing list for your own copy to be emailed to you.
Include your name and email on a label in each package that you send or deliver to a Government hospital e.g. “Jill Jones, email”.  Gift tags attached at the end of this document for your convenience.

THANK YOU - Alison Tyers, UK; Allyson Johnson, NSW, Australia; Ann Smith, UK; Anonymous; Carol Bower, Knit & Natter, Harworth, S Yorkshire; Carol Edmett, North Somerset, UK; Chris Blake, Ireby, Cumbria; Doreen Brits, family & friends; Dorothy Wright, Derbyshire, UK; Edna Smith; Ellie Weeber; Emma & Julie, Blackpool, England; Ffion Wilkes, East Sussex, UK; Frances Labuschagne; G Draffan, Sheffield, England; Germiston City News; Gerty; Helen and Derlon Textiles; Karin Strauss; Ladysmith Methodist WA; Looklocal Springs; Margaret Wood, Hampshire, England; Marion Short, UK; Meisie; Mr/s Barton, UK; Pam Chadderton; Retha Fountain; Rosemary Earp Jones; Rosemary Powell and Springs Advertiser.


From: Ndlela Nontobeko []
Sent: 27 February 2013 10:33 AM
Thank you so much for this information and please accept my sincere apologies for a misunderstanding.
Indeed we do get patients who do not even have something to clothe their kids when discharged.  Sometimes paediatrics ward contact me to find out if there are any left over from people who normally come to donate kids clothes.
Please do consider us.  Once again, I sincerely apologize.
May the Lord our God richly bless for being such a blessing to the needy.

Please see the King Edward VIII Hospital listing below and I encourage you to help Nontobeko to help the needy patients at their hospital.

Thanks so much Joy, I do LOVE these updates!! (Siyathemba monthly updates).
When it starts to get really cool (April/May) I will definitely send blankets, clothes and soft toys for Siyathemba babies … and, of course, for Ruth Mailbag beneficiaries, too.
I have sent a copy of this newsletter to my dear friend Oliver Quambusch who runs Hotel Hope Ministries in Melville, Johannesburg … it is an orphanage/adoption home and he has 18-20 babies under 2 years old at any given time. Most of these little ones come from Alexandra township and the mothers who give them birth are invariably teenagers/schoolgirls – some as young as 12 – so a major part of his ministry is to “Mothers in Crisis” who he counsels in the same way as Siyathemba does.
I met Oliver 8 or 9 years ago at an Alpha course being run at our church, and for three years I was HH’s pro-bono bookkeeper and a board member, until Knit-a-Square overtook me in terms of workload!! Now, Oliver’s driver, John, collects my Knit-a-Square post and delivers it each week for me – how amazing is that?!!.
I know Oliver will be interested to read about Siyathemba – he is a precious man, committed in every way to serving the Lord.
Have a wonderful day, Joy … and thanks for making mine!!!!  God bless you, Ronda – Knit-a-Square

Rensche de Fortier, “KNIT & KNIT FOR PREM/CANCER & AIDS BABIES PROJECT” GROUP (AFFILIATED TO THE RUTH MAILBAG GROUP): I'm still busy with the blankets for the winter (poly Fleece), as well as the baby jackets... (For the Far East Rand Hospital, Springs).

On Mon, Mar 18, 2013 at 3:18 PM, Ndlela Nontobeko <> wrote: Hi, I hope this email finds all of you well.  This is Nontobeko Ndlela from King Edward VIII Hospital. We are celebrating World Down Syndrome Day on the 20th March 2013. Genetic Team and Occupational Therapy Teams are behind this awareness. The Theme for this year is “Be Different, To Make a Difference”.  We hope all will go well.  Thank you.  (We wish you every success with this project!!!)

On Wed, Mar 20, 2013 at 12:32 PM, Tina <> wrote:  Thank you very much for your kind gesture to donate the clothes for the children. Some of it has been put to good use already!  We appreciate your kindness.  Kind regards, Tina / PRO Môrester Children’s Home


Friday, 01 March 2013: Gifted via Barbara de Wet to the Child Protection Unit today, a large bag of toys. CPU carries out assessments of children when there is a concern that they have, or may have, suffered from abuse. CPU has an important role in ensuring that those children are listened to and helped. The Child Protection Unit believes children have the right to protection from abuse and that those children and their families have the right to quality services. The Child Protection Unit is devoted to ensuring that all children are adequately protected. CPU is also available for consultation on child protection matters in the community. Child abuse and neglect means the harm, or likely harm, experienced by a child as a result of the actions, or inactions, of an adult who has a care responsibility for the child. Physical abuse is when a child is significantly physically harmed or injured as a result of severe and/or persistent actions or inactions by another person. Emotional abuse / Psychological abuse is the sustained, repetitive, inappropriate, ill treatment of a child or young person through behaviours including threatening, isolating, discrediting, belittling, teasing, humiliating, bullying, confusing, ignoring and other inappropriate behaviour. This abusive style of parenting damages a child’s intellectual faculties and processes, including intelligence, memory, recognition, perception, attention, imagination and moral development. Sexual abuse is when a child has been exposed or subjected to sexual behaviours that are exploitative and/or inappropriate to his / her age and developmental level. Neglect is the intentional or unintentional failure of the caregiver to provide a child with adequate food or shelter, effective medical, therapeutic or remedial treatment and / or care, nurturance or supervision to a severe and / or persistent extent. Fabricated / Induced Illness is the deliberate production or fabrication of physical or psychological symptoms in a child by a parent or carer. Child Protection Unit offers a free service to children, and their families, where there is a concern of abuse or neglect. This includes the following: Children who have injuries or have had previous injuries that may be inflicted injury e.g. fractures, bruises, lacerations, burns.
Children with non-organic failure to thrive. Children where there is a concern of sexual abuse, neglect and induced / fabricated illness. Children where there has been a previous unexplained infant death in the family. Children who are believed to be at risk due to the mental or physical ill health of the parents. Children who are believed to be at risk due to domestic violence, alcohol abuse or drug use.

Sunday, 03 March 2013: The first gifting of the month went very well, 17 newborns and 12 premature babies, pleasant group of moms, all very grateful, loved the cheerful colours.  Staff was very helpful and always pleasant.  One little one in NICU, was there last week, is now collecting packs from us, got his second pack today, he is waiting for his family to fetch him, at least he will be going to his new home with some nice new clothes from you wonderful people.  Bless you and thank you for making these packs possible.

Thursday, 07 March 2013: Gifted to Peet Barnard, various items including some cash.  Thanks to Estelle Boucher for being our courier and taking our little items down to Peet and his Mom (she is a boarder mother at the hospital and living under very difficult circumstances to be with her little boy).  Thank you to everybody who contributed in cash or with an item.  Please know how much you've helped Peet and his parents and how much we all appreciate it.  Once again, thank you for your support!!!

Sunday, 17 March 2013: St Patrick's Day!!!  The gifting today went very well with everybody delighted with their baby packs; 11 premature babies and 21 newborn babies.  I visited the 16 boarder moms and gave them each a little bag of samples, they were thrilled, kids on Christmas morning!  Thank you to all who contributed in any way at all and made this gifting possible, your support is much appreciated.

Sunday, 24 March 2013: Gifted today 24 newborn babies, 11 premature babies each received size appropriate packs and 20 boarder moms received copies of the “Joy” magazine to read.  The staff always happy and helpful.  The moms very grateful and made sure I heard their “thank you”.  The story today is that the abandoned baby we read about in our community newspaper is in this hospital and today received his second baby pack from me, attaching the link to the article for you to read.  Thank you for your contributions, without you these packs would not be possible and believe me when I tell you that they are appreciated by the moms and do make a difference, when you see otherwise dull eyes light up when they are passed these little parcels for their babies, then you know they have gone all the way to the heart of the mommy.

MEETING – Every first Saturday of the month (February through December) at 14h00 to about 16h00 at the Juana Maria Home, Francis Road, Ladysmith.  Bring knitting, crocheting, looming, sewing, donations, patterns and/or wool to swap...  We will discuss past projects, current projects and future projects, a show and tell of our donations and works in progress...  When the business of the day has been completed we will sit back to relax and socialise!!! Look forward to seeing you there!!!


April – Freedom Day babies
International Kangaroo Care Awareness Day – May 15, 2013
May – Winter Warmers
June – Nelson Mandela Day
World Wide Knit in Public Day – June 8, 2013
July – Christmas in July


Name of hospital: King Edward VIII Hospital
Address for donations:
     Postal: Private Bag X02
     Street: Corner Rick Turner and Sydney Road, CONGELLA 4013
Name of staff liaison person: Nontobeko Ndlela
Telephone number of staff liaison person: 031 360 3021
Fax: 031 206 1457
Needs: New-borns and toddlers

Helen Joseph Hospital - Auckland Park, Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa
Suburb: Auckland Park, Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa
Province: Gauteng
Physical Address: Perth Road, Auckland Park, Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa
Postal Address: Private Bag X47, Auckland Park, 2006, South Africa
Phone: +27 (0)11 489 0570 / 1011
Fax: +27 (0)11 726 5425
Contact Person: Tumi Mudau (Secretary to CEO)
GPS Co-Ordinates: 26° 11´ 06.76" S; 27° 59´ 09.54" E

Imelda Convent, Divine Mercy Sisters, 67 Queens Street, Brakpan
Contact: Sister Virginia – 072 320 1719
We went there on Friday to deliver the baby clothes etc and were given a tour of the home, very nice. They have 18 bedrooms, small, but adequate for the girls’ needs. There were three girls in various stages of pregnancy who wait there for delivery which is done at Far East Rand. After delivery they come back to the home and depending on the age of the girls, either go back to school or try to find a job, the girls are usually under the age of 18. The most girls the home has had at any one time is ten and they stay there for free.
Sister Virginia told us that they see some of the same girls back again within the year, pregnant and toting the previous baby. The Nuns look after the babies when mum has to go back to Far East Rand for another delivery. It appears like the never ending story. We donated various items to them, TV, sofa, chairs etc when they became available. It appears what the home seems to need, apart from the baby stuff, is food. At a meeting we had on Saturday, we agreed that SVDP would donate a food parcel to them on a monthly basis and I will phone Sister Virginia this week to determine what they need.
There have been times when the home has had no money and have had to appeal to the Bishop for funds. They also manage to have a jumble sale now and again to raise what monies they can.
The Catholic Church in Brakpan helps them out whenever they can, but I do believe it’s an ongoing struggle for them trying to cope from day to day.
Many thanks Joy for your interest in this keep well and stay safe.  God Bless, Pat

I would like to list the hospital you are working for.  Please send me their information and contact details.  This is a free service.

PATTERNS – With winter fast approaching I would like to suggest we put the short sleeved vest / singlet / pullover pattern away and concentrate on long sleeved garments for premature and newborn babies in our various communities.  You may like to try the following patterns, but nothing stops you using your own favourite patterns:


Each week our group gifts up to 40 newborn and premature babies at the local Government hospital.  In these baby packs we place basic items for the baby’s well being and a little something for the mom, too, as the vast majority of the mothers who give birth to their babies at the Government hospital are destitute, receiving something personal, just for them is awesome!  Christmas come early!  The moms are most appreciative of the assistance we give them.  All gifts are given free of any charge and that is why we have to solicit donations to support our cause.  Please help us if at all possible.

INTERESTING ARTICLE: Dramatic increase in adult life expectancy -

PLEASE WASH SECOND HAND ITEMS - Please wash your second hand items before sending. I have been receiving items that have come directly off the baby into the mail. After all, we owe these mothers our love and respect; why not wash the items you are gifting. :-)

Happy crafting, shopping or sorting your cupboards for good quality gently used goodies!

Joy Coetzee - Founder
The Ruth Mailbag Group

Proverbs 31 - 13. She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.  20. She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.  31. Honour her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

Contact details: Fax 086 516 4618; Email

Related links:!forum/the-ruth-mailbag- (General information e.g. projects, newsletters, etc); (General information and we share photos of our knitting/crocheting and patterns); (General information and photos of the donations);

If the hospital you are working for or crafting for is not listed, please, send me the particulars and I will add their listing free of any charge... 

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

How you can help - April 2013

How you can help
there are many items you could donate to
Freedom Day Babies
Closing date for this project – 20 April 2013
Wool/buttons/lace/ribbon/fabric & sewing cotton
Blankets/clothes/toys/toiletries for preemie & newborn babies
New and good quality 2nd hand goods
All items donated are much appreciated

Items in the Colours on the South African Flag will be much appreciated:  Chilli red, National flag white, Spectrum green, National flag blue, Blue black, Gold yellow
THE RUTH MAILBAG GROUP, “For charity – NO retail value”
Then why not join us or send in your finished items
Please remember to add your name and email address so I can let you know they have arrived...
Fax 086 516 4618;

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Siyathemba March Update

Sharing Siyathemba March update from Bianca Birdsey... Adding their listing for all the new members who may not know who they are...
God bless,
The Ruth Mailbag Group

Name of hospital: Siyathemba
Address for donations:
Postal: Graeme and Bianca Birdsey PO BOX 416 Ingwavuma 3968.
Street: House 132, Mosvold Hospital, Main Road, Ingwavuma
Name of staff liaison person: Graeme and Bianca Birdsey MBChB (UCT)
Telephone number of staff liaison person: 0833686080 or 0355910122
Needs: Blankets, clothes and soft toys for newborn babies
General: In a nut shell, we are helping to support young women with basic needs who would have otherwise aborted their pregnancy as a result of being overwhelmed by the seemingly impossible task to care for their unborn child. These needs are diverse, and we try here and there to help as we feel led. One thing we do for all is try to give each new baby a generous hamper of baby clothes to start him/her off. I've been collecting as much as I can, but generally run short as each little baby makes quite a dent in a bunch of things that has taken months to collect. If you are able to help in any way or would like any more information, please don't hesitate to contact me! :)
Email: or

Siyathemba Update March 2013

It’s always difficult to know what to include in these updates.  It’s great when there is an obvious “miracle” or major news, but I think, what keeps things real is the day to day stories of our patient’s lives, their struggles, our struggles, our failures, His victories and all of our experiences!

In two days I have seen two patients that have taught me that, in all things, we need to have continual reliance on the Holy Spirit, and that God’s kingdom comes through the spirit of truth and not through human routine.

The first patient came in with tears in her eyes, the sister that was with me told her a moving story about how she was almost abandoned and yet God saved her and had a plan for her life. In my heart I thought, “This is going to be easy.” Perhaps that was the point that faith left my heart as I quickly jumped in and gave this patient the standard ‘working over’ that has worked with so many patients. At every mention of Jesus tears welled in her eyes, she admitted to believing in Him, and her problems did not seem as complicated as others have been. She was finishing her last year of university in November and baby was due in October and she was scared of what her parents would say. Again, it seemed simple and I was sure that she would change her mind. I realised however that whatever I was saying was not working, and I tried various other routes. Suddenly it felt to me, that the words that were coming out of my mouth were not filled with the fullness I normally sense, but rather seemed somehow to be empty. The same words used many times before, the same intention and the same desire on my heart, but a strange emptiness. Against all logic this lady decided that she was going to go ahead with the TOP.  The nurse was distressed and said to me, “it is not fair that they come here because they implicate us.” This was a good time to chat to her about people’s right to choose or reject Jesus, but rather our responsibility to communicate the truth to them.

She came to me with another patient the next day that she had spent some time with, she said, “We have the same problem as yesterday!” This lady had been seen by another doctor; she had been sent to have the TOP but missed the appointment and was back for someone to rebook the appointment. When she walked in I told her that it is God who has arranged the circumstances and that it was no accident that she missed the appointment and that Jesus had brought her here, to me. She just burst out laughing as though I was suggesting the most ridiculous thing. This immediately made me feel so inadequate, and I guess that is where the Spirit entered. I stumbled through some things which just didn’t seem right and in the end she decided that she would keep her baby. As an aside, I had received a picture from Bianca who was in Durban of a box that had been made by Gail, on the side of the box it says, “Mothers who choose life.” I took this opportunity to show this lady the picture and told her that this is what she had done.

The sister involved in these two cases is a someone who has never been involved before, she sits at the information desk before people arrive in the outpatients and is the first ‘port of call’ for all patients. She has taken the initiative to speak to these patients first and then if that doesn’t work come and ask us for help. It is really amazing to see others in the hospital take ownership of this and trust God to be greater in their work.

The packet of chips and the ring:

An analogy I sometimes use to illustrate how valuable each lady is to Jesus, is one of the packet of chips and the ring. Most people have something of material value that is precious to them.  If not I ask them what would they do if they found a ring with a massive diamond on worth R50 000. The answer is fairly standard, they would look after it, they would clean it and keep it in a safe place, and they may wear it to special occasions so other may see its beauty. What they don’t do is leave it lying around and they don’t give it to people they barely know to borrow or keep for a while.

A five rand packet of chip however that has been bought at the local spar is different. People are willing to share this with children or strangers sitting next to them that they do not know. One chip to you, one chip to the person next to them, a few chips to the 6 year old boy that keeps looking desirably at the packet, a few to the person sitting on the other side of them, and so on.

The sad reality for most of these ladies is that God sees them like they may see that ring, even more so, they are beautiful, precious and God has every intention of showing them off to others. God desires that they look after themselves and keep themselves. However the vast majority of them see themselves like a five rand packet of chips and are happy to share themselves with any boy that comes along and asks for some of them.

That problem is not isolated to these women however; most of us (probably women more than men) see ourselves in this way and although we may not give ourselves to fornication we may under value ourselves in some way that we may give ourselves to other worthless things. I have thought about how sad a parent would be, to see the child they love so much and is so precious to them, devalue themselves in whatever manor. It must break God’s heart all the more that we do not push deeper in the His love, and gain our sufficiency from it.     

Throughout our interactions with patients, and particularly the mothers choosing life, we are faced with very real questions that draw us back to the fundamentals of who God is and who we are in Him....issues that I think will take a lifetime of unpacking; questions we ask ourselves that sometimes leave us uncomfortable; sometimes filled with hope, and often, just humbled at how far we are from having it all figured out.  What really matters is that He is God, and by grace and mercy, He is GOOD!

The mom who sent the sms to Bee by ‘mistake’ delivered a healthy baby boy whose name means “gift from God”.

We continue to try “formalise” Siyathemba – an endless amount of paperwork! And will keep you all posted.

Much love

Burd (and Bee)