Project Updates – October 2017

We’ve been going gangbusters in the last month with two of our current projects moving along apace.  There’s still plenty of opportunity to get involved with our projects, so if you’re at a loose end, read on and join in!

Handmade Plush Toy Drive Project

backpack toy drive image

Our newest project, the Handmade Plush Toy Drive supporting Backpacks for Refugee Kids at Christmas, Brisbane has met with a wonderful response! Many of you have been sharing the project and sending in gorgeous plush pals to befriend children in Brisbane from refugee or asylum seeker backgrounds.

With approximately one month to go until our deadline for this project, we have so far received 100 handmade plush toys toward our initial goal of 150!  We really appreciate how much enthusiasm you have shown in sharing and supporting this project.

Below is a collage of the plushies we have received so far from Holy Cross Wooloowin Craft Group led by Sue Shaw, Rouse Hill Anglican Church Craft Group led by Alison Wheldon, the Griffith University Lions Club Krafters led by Larraine Bence and individual crafters Renee Bratby and yours truly.

We still need at least 50 handmade toys to reach our goal for this project, and we would love some handmade items for the older teens that will be receiving a backpack.  If you can help out, please check the details on our project page.

Safe Harbour Tree Project – Phase 2

milton safe harbour 2

In the first half of 2017, Teddy Bears Without Borders crafters created a yarnbombing piece in support of refugees and asylum seekers for the Knitfest 2017 tree cosy competition.  You can read all about that project here.

Since then, we have moved on to phase two of the project and have made our piece available to any school, group or community organisation who would like to host the piece for a few days to a few weeks at a time and spread the message of safe harbour and compassion for refugees and people seeking asylum.

The piece immediately went travelling to Killarney, Qld as part of the Jumpers and Jazz in July Festival thanks to Laura Diete and more recently has been hosted by Milton State School in inner Brisbane, thanks to the machinations of Tara Castle!  Below are some images of our piece adorning the massive fig tree that stands in the front of Milton State School.

Many thanks to Tara Castle for organising this installation and Claire Jenkinson for helping install the piece.  You can view a brief video of the finished piece here.

In a very exciting development, our piece will be moving from Milton to Wooloowin, Brisbane on November 5th, as Holy Cross Primary School have agreed to promote safe harbour for the final four weeks of term four in Queensland.  Holy Cross has been a great supporter of Teddy Bears Without Borders, providing teddies for all of our projects so far.  The school is very excited to be hosting the piece and doing their bit to support refugees and people seeking asylum in our community and around the world.

If your school, community group or workplace would like to host our safe harbour piece, please contact us and we’ll do our best to make it happen!

Standby Teddy Project

The Standby Teddy Project is still ongoing and crafters are welcome to send teddies along for this project at any time.  We have just renewed our commitment to providing teddies to Standby 24hr Response Service, which provides counselling and support to families bereaved by a loved one’s suicide.  If you, or someone you know, would like to make some teddies to support this cause, check out the project page here.

If you are interested in contributing to any of our current projects, just click here.

If you know of any group or organisation that could use our support, please let us know in the comments or contact us via our Facebook page.





New Project Details: Handmade Plush Drive in Support of Backpacks for Refugee Kids at Christmas Brisbane

backpack toy drive image

Calling all crafters!

This year Teddy Bears Without Borders is joining forces with Backpacks for Refugee Kids at Christmas Brisbane to supply 100 + handmade cuddly toys to Brisbane kids of refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds.

Last year, people from all over Brisbane joined together to provide over 200 backpacks filled with necessities and toys to kids from refugee backgrounds and families seeking asylum.  You can read all about the success of the Backpack project, which began in 2016 as the brainwave of Brisbane mum Alison Reynolds, here, and join the Facebook group here.

Below are the details of the project and how YOU can get involved!  Please share the project with your networks, friends and family and help us reach our goal!

Handmade Plush Toy Drive 2017

What’s the goal of the project?

To make and collect 150 (with a stretch goal of 200!) handmade plush toys that will be included in backpacks of necessities for children in Brisbane from refugee and asylum seeker families.

What do you need?

Handmade plush toys no bigger than 30cm long (so they can fit in a backpack).  These can be knitted, crocheted or sewn from fabric.

As the backpacks are given to boys and girls aged anywhere from babyhood all the way up to 16 and 17 year olds, we are looking for a wide range of toys – teddy bears, dolls, animals, dinosaurs, cars, trucks or planes, superheroes – you name it!  As some of the teenage children won’t necessarily need a cuddly toy, we are also looking for handmade toys such as hacky sacks, juggling balls, soft frisbees, tic-tac-toe sets or even simple pieces like coin purses or toiletry cases.  See below for a list of patterns and suggestions.

When do you need it by?

As the backpacks will need to be sorted and packed in the early weeks of December 2017, we are posting an initial cut-off date of FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 17th, 2017.

All toys will need to be received to our Brisbane postal address by this date for guaranteed inclusion in the Backpack project.

Are there any special requirements for the toys we make and send?


Any fabric or yarn type is acceptable.  Cuddly toys should be stuffed with fibrefill (hobby stuffing), rather than rice or rags.

Toys must have embroidered facial features (no safety eyes) and friendly faces are best.

Safety eyes are not safe (ironically!) for very small children, so embroidered faces are a must.  You can find excellent tutorials for how to sew faces onto yarn and fabric dolls herehere and here.

Cuddly toys should preferably be free of accessories (jackets, scarves, hats etc), but any adornments MUST be firmly stitched to the toy. Extra bits like scarves look super-cute, but can detach from the toy and cause a choking hazard so please re-think adding them in.

If you are making a doll, consider the skin and hair colours you will use – remember, humans come in all colours, shapes and sizes!


You are welcome to use any pattern you prefer for making your toy as long as it suits the size requirements listed above.  If you need help finding a pattern, look below!

I have collected a range of free patterns for knitted, crocheted and sewn toys from around the internet that you might like to check out.  Feel free to do your own searches, or share any patterns that you like to use on our Facebook page.

KNITTING Pattern Suggestions:

Big cuddly bear from Loop Knit Lounge

Fin Bear from Bonniebabes UK

Koala Baby from Knitted Toy Box (just be sure to substitute the safety eyes for embroidered ones!)

Knitted Twin Bears by CraftBits

Knitted Bear by Cut Out and Keep

Tiny Knitted Gnome/Fairy by Beverley Qualheim

Maggie Beans and Friends Doll by Petite Purls

Costa Brava Rag Dolls by Just Saying

Little Elephant (Elefante) by Susan Anderson

Friendly dinosaur by Baby Knits Made Easy

Aussie birds by Sweet Living Magazine

Ribbit Frog by Blue Sky Fibres

Plush bunny by Cashmere Miles

Hacky Sacks/Juggling Balls by Diagnosis Knitter

*Please note, I am a crocheter, not a knitter, so I have no idea how difficult or easy these patterns are.  If you are a knitter and know of an accessible and simple pattern please feel free to comment below!*

CROCHET Pattern Suggestions:

Classic Little Bear Pattern by Hook and Stitch Crafts

Bruno Bear by Baghi Handmade with Love (just be sure to substitute the safety eyes for embroidered ones!)

Small Long-Legged Cat by Kristi Tullus

Grizzly Gruzzly Bear by Akinna Stisu

Shy Unicorn by Amigurumi Today

Friendly Superhero by The Friendly Red Fox

Crocheted Football by Fairfield World

Crochet Shark by Crochet News

Crochet Juggling Balls by Crafting for My Sanity

Soft Frisbees by Celina @ Simply Collectible

Crochet Tic Tac Toe Game by Kelli @ Turtleweenies

Crochet pencil bag/toiletry pouch by 5 Little Monsters

SEWING Pattern Suggestions:

Please note you may have to adjust the printing size of these patterns to get the right size for your toy.

Warren the Charity Bear by Shiny Happy World (just remember to replace safety eyes with embroidered ones!)

SOFT BABY BEAR by Maya @ SewToy

Teddy Bears by MamaSmiles

Sock Sloth by CraftPassion

Sock Kangaroo by CraftPassion

Sophia the Bunny by While She Naps

Softie Animal Pattern by My Poppet Makes

Bunny Doll by RedTedArt

Flying Squirrel Lovey by While She Naps

Rag Doll Tutorial by More Like Home

Quick Earbud Case by My Fav Things

Box Pencil Case/Toiletry Case by Gathered Threads

Hacky Sack/ Juggling Ball pattern by Wallaroobaby



Teddies can be posted to:

Backpack Plush Project

13 Panorama St,

Bray Park  QLD  4500

OR contact us via our Facebook page for details about drop-offs in Brisbane.

Project Updates – August 2017

We’ve tapered off a little in the last month or two with regards to active projects, but here’s some updates on what we’ve got on the boil, as well as some info about an upcoming project for the end of the year.

Standby Teddy Project

The Standby Teddy Project is still ongoing and crafters are welcome to send teddies along for this project at any time.  Standby 24hr Response Service provides counselling and support to families bereaved by a loved one’s suicide.  For more information on the project and how to get involved, check out the project page here.

Many thanks to the crafters of the Holy Cross Primary School Craft Group at Wooloowin, who recently sent along a second batch of teddies for this project (pictured below).

holy cross teddies

Knitfest Safe Harbour Tree Project

Our Safe Harbour collaborative yarnbombing piece that was created for Knitfest 2017 has gone on tour!  Laura Diete, who was one of our contributing crafters, took our piece to Killarney in Queensland and set our decoration up as part of the famous annual Jumpers and Jazz Festival.

Here’s a note from Laura on the festival:

The M4R Maleny Knitfest Safe Harbour Tree is now on display in Canning Park, Killarney. Decorating the town for the Killarney Bonfire Night – part of the Warwick Jumpers and Jazz Festival – on this Saturday night. The park also hosts our local Killarney Markets on Sunday – so lots of great exposure for our tree!! Thanks to my lovely friend Dahlia Hall who helped me put it up 🙂

Many thanks to Laura for organising the transportation and setting up of our piece so that more people can share in the message of safe harbour for refugees and people seeking asylum.

Now that Jumpers and Jazz is over for the year, the Safe Harbour Tree project is ready to move on to its second phase: the piece is ready to travel!  Our piece is available for loan to any organisation or community that would like to host it for a few days to a week at a time.  We are currently in negotiations for a state school in inner-city Brisbane who have agreed to host our piece on a large tree in their grounds, which is pretty exciting.

If you are part of a group – school, kindy, workplace, community group – that would like to display our piece and its message of safe harbour, please get in contact and we’ll do our best to organise it.

End of Year Project Info Coming Soon!

backpack clue 1

Our most exciting update is that we will soon have details for a new project for the end of the year!  You may remember reading about the Backpacks for Refugee Kids at Christmas project spearheaded by Alison Reynolds.  One of the items included in the backpacks for the children is a plush toy and Alison has kindly agreed to allow us to provide some handmade plushies for the backpacks this year!

We are still waiting on the nuts and bolts of the project – how many toys will be needed and ages of the children receiving the backpacks – so that we can get make sure we put out the call for the kinds of toys that will suit the project, but as soon as we have the details, rest assured we will let you know.

If you are interested in contributing to any of our current projects, just click here.

If you know of any group or organisation that could use our support, please let us know in the comments or contact us via our Facebook page.


What Can One Person Do?: Backpacks for Refugee Kids at Christmas


Today’s story of one person getting the ball rolling in support of refugees and people seeking asylum is a real crowd-pleaser and one with which you could get involved this year!

Read on to see how Alison Reynolds’ simple idea made such an impact in the Brisbane community.

alison with car


My name is Alison and I am the founder of the “Backpack for Refugee Kids at Christmas” project. Basically, it is an annual drive (in its second year) to collect backpacks filled with a mixture of items for refugee children living in the Brisbane area. These backpacks are donated by the wonderfully generous members of our Facebook group and then distributed to refugee and asylum-seeking children of all ages.

backpack by rachel

Backpack donated by Rachel for a teen boy

completed back pack by JacBackpack donated by Jac for a young girl

My support and advocacy work for refugees and people seeking asylum started a few years ago now. For me, it was inconceivable to stand back and do nothing while so many people were having to flee their homes and countries simply to stay alive.

The idea for the backpack project actually came from another project I was involved in which supported children experiencing homelessness (Adopt a Backpack), and run by a wonderful lady named Heather Ranger supporting Micah Projects. Heather’s work inspired me to start something very similar but with a focus on refugee children. 

backpack button

Thanks to the support of the community we were not only able to provide backpacks to many children seeking asylum in Brisbane but also the children detained on Nauru.


I think a huge benefit of this project is that people are able to do something to support this cause in a hugely practical way but one that also says, “we care”. Another overarching benefit of these small projects is that they build awareness and help to educate people who previously may not have been exposed to anything other than fear-mongering and propaganda in relation to refugees.

backpacks in carbackpacks in house 2

There are so many benefits that come from a project like this. Personally, I was delighted to have made a small difference to the lives of these children but I was completely overwhelmed and immensely touched by the generosity of the community that we built around this initiative.

table quote

In the past I found myself in the situation of wanting to help with the issue of people seeking asylum, but wasn’t sure how, but a quick google or facebook search will provide you with a list of refugee support groups you can join. There are opportunities to contribute in many different ways depending on the time you have available. And of course, please join our backpack group!

In short, get involved and help us keep up the good fight!

Thank you so much Alison for sharing your story and the Backpack project.  If you are in Brisbane and would like to join in on this project this year, check out the Facebook group for the project (where you can also see some photos of last year’s project and the happy recipients of some of the backpacks!).

If you are not from Brisbane, perhaps YOU could kickstart a similar project in your local area.  Start by contacting service providers who work with people seeking asylum in your area and see if they would like to be involved.  Too easy!

If you know of an individual or group that would like to be featured in our What Can One Person Do? series, please ask them to get in touch via the Teddy Bears Without Borders Facebook page. 

If you would like to contribute to any of Teddy Bears Without Borders current projects, just click here for more information.

What Can One Person Do?: Silver Chef Work Welcome Program


One of the biggest stumbling blocks to beginning a new life for people who have come to a new country as a refugee or person seeking asylum is the ability to gain work or have their previous work history and qualifications acknowledged in their new home.  Wendy McCormick noticed this problem in her local area and decided to do something about it.

Here is Wendy’s story about implementing a work experience program for people from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds in her workplace, the Silver Chef Group.

SilverChef Group_RGB

“Silver Chef Group is a Bcorp and actively strives to help people live their dreams; these people include our customers, suppliers, staff and our community.  Our business Silver Chef Group approved a program where we would offer a 12 week paid work experience program to disadvantaged groups within our community.  The program was born out of our employee suggestion program, in which I made the suggestion that we should use our business and roles we have to better the local community.   

For our launch we focused on the refugee community in Brisbane.   This group of people struggle greatly to get a job – one of the main reasons is the lack of Australian work experience.  We took a role in the business, on this occasion a cleaning role in our warehousing facility in Wacol, and opened it up to be available for a 12 week work experience placement.

quote 1 button

This program is now a reoccurring initiative and part of our business’ wider annual objectives.

As a whole everyone was supportive.  Initially, there was some fear and uncertainty mainly based off not knowing or understanding what a refugee is and how they would integrate into our business.  We worked through MDA (Multicultural Development Australia) and they helped us to place a suitable candidate with some Australian experience and a fair command of English.  We also provided all the relevant parties with ‘Working with Refugees’ training to help them understand the challenges these people have faced in their journey to Australia and some of the culture clashes that can happen.

quote 2

Having successfully implemented a Refugee Work Experience Program at my work this is the feedback I have received from the Manager who is hosting our very first refugee:

“This experience has definitely changed my point of view on refugees. it has made me realise how important it is to educate others and help where we can.

I can now see why you are so passionate about this and you have my full support moving forward. if anyone gives you any grief on the subject of refugees just send them my way and I’ll set them straight.

I do have to also thank you for not only making a change in [the work experience candidate’s] life but also mine. You should be very proud of yourself and you have lead the way, now I will stand beside you.”

If you are thinking of doing something to support refugees and asylum seekers, you don’t need to make a massive impact or take on an enormous project.  Just take the time to impact one person at a time.  Although it can appear small and insignificant, it makes a difference to that person’s life and that of their family. 

Thank you so much to Wendy McCormick from the Silver Chef Group for sharing your story about the Work Welcome Program that is sharing skills, making connections and supporting refugees and asylum seekers in such a successful way!

If you know of an individual or group that would like to be featured in our What Can One Person Do? series, please ask them to get in touch via the Teddy Bears Without Borders Facebook page. 

If you would like to contribute to any of Teddy Bears Without Borders current projects, just click here for more information.


Tree, Glorious Tree! Knitfest Safe Harbour Project Assembled!

tree up 4 sign

For a 360 degree view of our finished piece, click here for a video!

tree up 10

After a solid fortnight of sorting, sewing and embellishing all the strips, stars and pompoms for our Knitfest Safe Harbour tree, the day finally came to make the magic happen! On the 7th of July – a delightfully rainy and cold Friday – the Teddy Bears Without Borders and Mums 4 Refugees tree for the Maleny Knitfest tree cosy competition was adorned with yarny goodness.tree up 3

We did manage to get an hour or so of rain-free weather and with the help of a zillion zip ties, the piece started to come together quickly. I did, in the end, need to actually climb the tree, something I haven’t done in about thirty years, in order to fit the lighthouse section and apart from a mildly embarrassing slip on exiting the tree, made it back down intree up 2 one piece.Tree up 1

While we were putting the tree up, many passers-by offered positive comments and asked about the meaning behind the piece and a few even assured me that they would look up our Facebook page to find out more.



tree up 6

While our tree was only up in Maleny for two days, as per the competition requirements, the exciting news is that our piece is now available to go ON TOUR!

We are now offering our piece to any organisation or school who would like to host our piece for a week at a time so that we can spread our desire for safe harbour for refugees and asylum seekers even further.

To this end, Laura Diete, who contributed a number of strips and stars to the project, has taken possession of the piece and will use it to dress a tree in Killarney as part of the annual Jumpers and Jazz in July festival that is based in Warwick, Qld.

If you know any organisation or school that would like to host our Safe Harbour piece for a few days to a week, we would love to hear from you! All the organisation or school would need for hosting the piece is a reasonably large tree or fence and a willingness to share the message of safe harbour for refugees and asylum seekers.

While we’re not sure what the next steps for our Knitfest piece will turn out to be – although we hope it will travel far and wide – Teddy Bears Without Borders would like to say a heartfelt THANK YOU to all who contributed knitted or crocheted pieces, pompoms or shared the project around to interested parties.




Project Updates: June 2017

We’re halfway through 2017 so it’s time to check in and see how our current projects are faring!

Operation Hope Teddy Project

Our participation in this hugely successful project came to an end in June as Erica Henley and her fellow AdventistHelp colleagues jetted off to Iraq to provide some much needed support for the people there.  We received an initial update from Erica on her arrival in Erbil:

“Hi from Erbil

Just to let you know that 2 bags of teddies have arrived at my home while I have been here in Iraq. Many thanks to the lovely knitters …my son will bring them to Erbil on 6 June.

Attached are a few photos of teddies we have handed out in two hospitals in Erbil where children from Mosul have been transferred for surgery.
I spent some time with a young ten year old girl with burns to 70% of her body and left a teddy with her. We are hoping to get her medicvac-ed to the US.

The remainder of the teddies will be kept for the new AdventistHelp field hospital still under construction.

Thank you so much for your support.”

We received a second update from Erica once some of the teddies were distributed:

“Remember we took a large bag of hand knitted teddy bears to the Hospital in Erbil to be distributed amongst the children? Badrxan Sherwani the managing director of Raparin hospital of pedeatrics has just sent me these photos of the children receiving the teddy bears.

With thanks to our knitters in Australia – Margaret Brown and friends, Cathy Kuipersand the Indooroopilly uniting church knitting group, Bronwyn DunnKerrie Broadbent,Bronwyn PetrieKathie StewartMarjorie Fairbairn, and the national group Teddy Bears without Borders. LeanneAinslie BosRobert Bos

Some of our contributors also provided teddies for a second shipment that would head off with Erica’s son Michael to a hospital in Greece that served refugees there.

second shipment

“Michael Henley dispatched to fassifern train station for part 1 of his overseas adventure. Thanks for the pink case you left in Erbil, Cathy Kuipers … is headed back there with 15 kg of medical supplies and teddy bears.”

We received this final update from Erica also:

erica update last

Overall, Teddy Bears Without Borders supporters provided over 100 handmade teddies to contribute to this project.

The Operation Hope Teddy Project has now been completed!  Thank you so much to all of you who supported this project by making teddies or sharing the project and many thanks to Erica for getting in touch and asking us to support her work.

Standby Teddy Project

Our Standby Trauma Teddy Project is ongoing and aims to provide handmade trauma teddies to UnitingCare’s Standby 24hr service that provides support to those bereaved by suicide.  So far Teddy Bears Without Borders supporters have provided more than 50 teddies for this project and Linda Fielding, our contact at Standby, is so appreciative of your work.  She even bought us all a bunch of roses to say thanks – you can rest assured that I enjoyed them on your behalf!!


On my last visit to Linda, she also provided me with a bag of yarn offcuts for the use of our crafters:

yarn donation

If you’d be interested in receiving some yarn for charity crafting, comment below and I’ll get to making up some packs to send out.

The Standby Project is ongoing, so if you would like to help out or know someone who would, check out the details for the project here.

Knitfest Yarnbombing Project in Support of Refugees and Asylum Seekers

The date for Knitfest is looming ever closer and we’ve been working away like hard-working things to get our massive tree decoration based around the theme of “Safe Harbour” ready in time!


We received lots of your contributions up until the first week of June and our Pom-A-Thon event held on the 10th of June 2017 at Southbank in Brisbane gave our harbour light tally a boost.

With the event only three weeks away I am now busily sewing and crocheting together all your contributions as well as finishing off the lighthouse centrepiece.

Once the main pieces are stitched together I will start adding some embellishments including waves, boats and a stitched panel explaining our piece, using some of the smaller strips that were contributed.  Many thanks to all of you who have contributed to our Knitfest project – this has been an enormous undertaking, but your contributions will result in a beautiful and thought-provoking piece that will hopefully raise some awareness about the struggles that refugees and asylum seekers face.

If you are interested in contributing to any of our current projects, just click here.

If you know of any group or organisation that could use our support, please let us know in the comments or contact us via our Facebook page.