A Winnipeg teacher and her students are helping grieving families at Christmas with a unique gift.

Kari Watt is a sewing teacher at Grant Park High School in Winnipeg. Watt says it's a job that she especially loves because she gets to see her students discover their gifts of creativity. "Sewing class isn't like one of those classes where you're just pulling out a book and answering questions one to ten. So students are really hands-on, and they love doing and making. That's my favourite part - just watching them learn, sew, and use their creativity."

A few years ago Watt decided to use her own creativity for people that are struggling through Christmas time. "I posted an ad on the internet and I called it 'the random acts of kindness.'"

What she offered through the ad was to make a memory quilt for people. "It's a blanket that's made out of old clothing [from someone who has passed away]. The idea of the memory quilt is to honour a person and it's something you can keep for a long time. It becomes kind of a family heirloom. It's supposed to remind you of the good times of the person and possibly even help you with your grieving process."

Student jumped at chance to help

Watt says that she just happened to tell her students a couple years ago about what she does and they jumped at the chance to help. "They said, 'well Mrs. Watt we'll help you!'" She says that she explained to the kids that the goal was "just to help brighten someone else's Christmas. Someone who's going through a difficult time, especially in December. When you lose a loved one going through the holidays can be very hard."

The memory quilt project is something that the kids don't even get credit for in their sewing class. "It's a completely voluntary project because it is random acts of kindness . . . I told the students I'm not giving you a mark for this. You don't have to do this. This is just something to be kind and help somebody else out."

Big response from people

Every year Watt makes a post on the internet for people to get their own memory quilt. She gets people to meet her with eight to ten pieces of their loved one's clothing. 

Watt and her students hope the seeing blankets reminds grieving families of happier times (Kari Watt).
She takes the pieces back to her students who cut up the clothing into squares and then sew them together into a quilt. A couple weeks later she meets the people again with their memory quilt wrapped up and ready to go under their Christmas tree.

Watt says that when students return to class in January after the Christmas break they are almost always welcomed by emails of thanksgiving and pictures from the recipients. "One family got 1,000 likes Christmas morning [when they shared their blankets online].

"The students are really moved by listening to these families that are grieving. Listening to the stories [the students] are really happy that it brightens a family on Christmas morning."

Hopes to inspire others

"Anytime you have an opportunity to share a skill, especially when you're using it for good, I think it's really a worthy thing to do."

Not only does Watt plan to continue to make these special quilts with her students each year, but she hopes others might join in. "There's got to be lots of people who are retired who love to sew. Or maybe, even, other sewing teachers, other people across Winnipeg. It would be really amazing to see more people participate in this because I know my students that participate say, 'are we going to do that again this year?'"

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