It’s started with one beanie, barely big enough to warm the ears of a puppy, says reluctant super-lifter Maria Ross, who was nominated by her boss Christine van der Merwe, owner and MD at Terra Nova Tours.
The team leader in Terra Nova’s FIT Department, Maria took the lockdown to the next level and faced with reduced working hours, immediately jumped to thinking about what she could do to do some good for her community.
“She started knitting for others and wanted to use the funds for something that could uplift others. A year later, she’s knitted enough beanies to raise R40,000 for three charities in Cape Town,” explains Christine with deep admiration.
Raising this incredible amount for charity one stitch at a time, Maria pretty much knits all the time, says Christine with a chuckle. “She knits on the beach, if she’s sharing a glass of wine with you and even in the bathtub.”
Who is Maria Ross?
Maria works for a travel agency in Cape Town called Terra Nova Tours and having been hit “quite hard” by the pandemic, she decided to ramp up her knitting hobby to raise funds for soup kitchens and the Brave Rock Girls project in Manenburg, which uplifts girls.
“In 2019, I had the goal to knit one beanie. Eventually it became the thing I did after work to relax after a high-energy, stressful demanding day, which is what we experience in the tourism industry. So, I would sit down every evening and just knit, which was a good distraction for me,” says Maria.
After the start of the pandemic in 2020, people eventually started asking Maria to knit them beanies and asked if they could pay her for these. She decided to donate the proceeds of her beanie sales with soup kitchen projects to support homeless people.
“I’ve knitted over 150 beanies in one year and raised thousands for the three soup kitchens I’ve supported over that time – first, a soup kitchen run by a friend, then a soup kitchen run by the breweries which were unable to brew beer, and then to Ladels of Love, which I’m still supporting through funding and sandwich drives,” says Maria.
The Brave Rock Girls project in Manenburg is run by Uthando Tours, which hosts township tours in Cape Town that showcase projects that uplift the community. These types of experiences are important, says Maria, because they open the tourist’s mind to what they could be doing to travel more consciously and sustainably.
From teaching herself how to knit on YouTube and creating “ridiculous” looking beanies at the beginning to reaching the point where even international contacts are ordering her beanies and supporting the projects that she has created awareness about through her initiative, Maria says the whole process has been humbling.
“I’m grateful to be recognised. Supporting the community has always been a big part of my life and this beanie project has been the biggest initiative I’ve undertaken. It shows that we as a tourism industry can give back even if it’s just by supporting the township tours that highlight the projects that are happening there. I’ve very keen to do more in the future,” says Maria.
Watch our conversation with Maria Ross here.