South Africa

No More Naked Babies

When the members of the Lions Club of Tokai, in Cape Town, South Africa, learned that new mothers in poor areas were often discharged from the hospital with their newborns wrapped in just a paper towel, they knew they had to act.

Ten years ago they launched the “Naked Baby Project,” which provides baby packs filled with clothes, toys, diapers, and other essentials so that moms can focus on bonding with their new baby. Before quarantine restrictions went into effect, they held regular baby pack events where they invited those who donated funds or items to help pack up the bags. During the last event, held in February 2020, they made a record 409 baby packs, ready to be distributed to needy mothers at local hospitals.

Items ready to be delivered to a baby in need.
Items packed to be delivered to a newborn in need.

The club has been savvy with social media, and the project has garnered quite an international following. “Suitcases of clothes pour in from overseas supporters including from Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Norway,” says Tokai Lion Jules Flanagan. Each pack is valued at R500 (US$30), and each year they distribute approximately 400 packs for a total of about R200,000 (US$11,765) in goods donated per year. Many local supporters knit blankets, booties, beanies, and toys for the project, and they’ve also involved their local senior home. Tokai Lions provide knitting wool for them, and those who can knit make baby items to contribute to the project. During the COVID-19 lockdown, Tokai Lions created a knitting drive. They asked anyone who was interested to knit squares that would be eventually stitched together into baby blankets. News of the drive spread over social media and the response was overwhelming. “Men and women, not only around Cape Town, but all over South Africa, are busy knitting squares for us,” says Flanagan. “It’s really kept people positive and productive while in lockdown,” she says.