It's another busy year for many knitters around the Rotorua district as they get their knitting needles whirring for families in need - and this year they are celebrating 20 years of knitting for a cause.

The Operation Cover Up initiative is run by international Christian organisation Mission Without Borders.

Rotorua co-ordinator Chris Whitman says Operation Cover Up started at the beginning of 2000, and it has gotten bigger and bigger over the last 20 years.

The initiative supports orphans and poor families in need, with thousands of items sent to Eastern Europe. There are about 100 co-ordinators around the country and thousands of knitters.


It started after national co-ordinator Liz Clarke found that the children in orphanages in Eastern Europe do not have blankets, just thin cotton blankets in temperatures as low as -30C, as well as no toys.

Every year, keen Rotorua knitters take up their needles for Operation Cover Up and create blankets, jumpers, scarves, mittens, socks and other knitted items for families at risk.

Other items collected include fabric, linen, stationery, hygiene products and crafts, and blankets are also made for the homeless.

When asked what she loved about being part of Operation Cover Up, Chris says she cannot drive because she is very vision impaired now, and it is something she can do.

"The people over there don't have any safety nets and little social welfare support, and I've always loved knitting, and I get to meet a heck of a lot of people.

"It's gives me a focus in life. It gives a lot of them [knitters], particularly the elder ones, something to do. They love knitting and because they are so incredibly over there like to help people out."

This year's pack up date for Operation Cover Up is August 4 - the items will get sent to Taupō where they are packed up and sent to Auckland, ready to be shipped to families in need.

The items will be flown to Moldova, Western Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania and Croatia.


Chris says the Rotorua knitters are desperate for wool this year, and more knitters are always welcome.

She says Operation Cover Up Rotorua usually has an average of 75 knitters per year.

St Barnabas Op Shop manager Lara Kenney says the shop donates wool and material where it can.

"I love that we are helping out a global community. I think it's inspiring to see so many volunteers willing to help."

Knitter Joy Kleine says it gives her great pleasure to knit items and know it was going to help other people.

Those who would like to donate wool and items or become knitters can contact Chris on (07) 357 4204.