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Senior volunteer knits cuddly comfort for children
03 May 2006

Barbara Barr, has already knitted more than 200 "trauma teds", which are shipped to children across the world. (Courtesy Peterborough Today)Barbara Barr, has already knitted more than 200 "trauma teds", which are shipped to children across the world. (Courtesy Peterborough Today)
Peterborough, USA: Barbara Barr (89) has just completed her 200th "trauma ted" – a cuddly knitted toy about nine inches tall.

The toys she knits are shipped to war-torn countries in Africa and the Middle East, as well as areas hit by the tsunami, such as Sri Lanka, and places in Pakistan affected by last year's earthquake.

Many of the children who become their new owners have lost their homes, families and possessions in the past year.

Some of the teddies are also sent to Peterborough District Hospital and GP's surgeries, and travel with the fire service ready to give to youngsters in need of comfort.

Mrs Barr, of Kimbolton Court, Peterborough, started making the toys a year ago when she was approached by the Retired and Senior Volunteer Programme (RSVP), run by the Community Service Volunteers.

She said: "I've always been quite a charitable person so when I heard about the trauma teds project I put my name down immediately.

"I used to knit jumpers for my daughter when she was small, and it wasn't at all difficult to pick it up again.

"I'm 89 and I can't get around quite like I used to, but this is something I can do easily and it makes a big difference to these children. It makes me feel useful."

The Retired and Senior Volunteer Programme aims to give pensioners a meaningful role in their community.

Alan Bullock, who is the volunteer co-ordinator for the Peterborough area, said: "The trauma teds are an excellent way for older people to make a real difference to children who have lost everything and desperately need a bit of comfort and love.

"Not only do they give these kids a possession of their own to cuddle and care for, it also helps them realise that there are people in the world who care for them.

"Mrs Barr is an excellent example of the difference older people can make, even at the age of 89."

New volunteers are always needed by the programme and pensioners can choose from many activities that are designed to have a positive impact on communities both local and globally.

More than 8,000 older people are involved in RSVP projects, which include making trauma bears, helping out in primary and secondary schools, collecting prescriptions and transporting patients to hospital, gardening projects and organising social groups.