On January 27th 2024, 67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day celebrated 10 incredible years of blanketing South Africa in one of the most impactful and collaborative support initiatives – woven from the thread of volunteerism and ubuntu inspired by Nelson Mandela Day.

67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day was founded nine years ago by Knight of the French National Order of Merit recipient, Madame Carolyn Steyn, who is internationally recognized for her contributions to philanthropy, the arts, and media. While the organization started with Steyn accepting a challenge to make 67 blankets for Nelson Mandela Day, the organization today sees thousands of dedicated KnitWit volunteers producing thousands of blankets and scarves every year, throughout the year, for those in need.

The organization celebrated its growth over 10 years with a dynamic event at Steyn City, with entertainment by inspiring icons like PJ Powers, Michael de Pinna, Timothy Moloi, Hlumelo Ledwaba, and Good Things Guy, Brent Lindeque, as the speaker at the event. Schools that form part of the 67 Blankets for Mandela Day initiative also participated in the event.

Since inception, 67 Blankets has transformed into what some may call a ‘movement’ that has captured the attention of many South African and international celebrities, as well as corporates, and KnitWits for Madiba groups are active in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Cyprus, London, the USA, Ireland, Italy, and India.

After just nine months of existence, 67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day won CAMPAIGN OF THE YEAR at the South African of the Year Awards in October 2014. On April 21, 2015, to mark 21 years of democracy in South Africa, 67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day smashed the Guinness World Record for the “Largest Crochet Blanket in the World,” measuring 3,377 square meters at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

Steyn explains that “67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day was founded after Madiba’s former personal assistant, Zelda La Grange, challenged me to make 67 Blankets for Mandela Day back in December 2013. I turned to social media to gather support in meeting the target, and 10 years later, this initiative has grown into a global movement mobilizing thousands of active members in South Africa and around the world to crochet and knit blankets and scarves, demonstrating the true meaning of ‘Ubuntu.’

Some of the initiative’s memorable successes include interventions at correctional facilities to help rehabilitate prison inmates by teaching them how to make blankets for people on the outside whose lives have been affected by crime and poverty. To date, 67 Blankets has distributed well over thousands of handmade blankets and hundreds of thousands of scarves to those in need, setting four Guinness World Records in the process.

Steyn says that “67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day has turned into my entire world, and as we head towards our tenth year since inception, I would like to congratulate every Ambassador and the KnitWits for Madiba on their amazing contributions over the years. I look forward to many more years celebrating our 10th, our 20th, and even our 30th anniversaries. Stitch by stitch, we are knitting lives and nations together. I could not be prouder of our amazing ‘close-knit’ 67 Blankets family. I only wish my parents were still alive to see how I am living a purpose-filled life. They would be so proud. And I wish that Madiba were still alive to witness this Knitting and Crochet Revolution in his name.

by Marion Kate