The Great Baby Blanket Project was launched in 2018 when I overheard a fellow missioner commenting about the babies born in the Borongan local hospital in need of basics such as a t-shirt and swaddling blanket. I immediately thought of the work in Honduras of my dear friend, Patricia Huezo Weiner. For many years Patricia has been knitting and collecting baby blankets to distribute to the very poor expectant mothers who come to the hospital in Tegucigalpa without a blanket to wrap their child. I recalled her telling with great empathy of newborn babies sent home wrapped in newspaper. As the mother of five it is easy for me to recall the sweetness of anticipating a new child and the new things gathered and purchased to welcome a new life. It broke my heart to think of a mother without needed layette to welcome her child. I decided to follow Patricia's example and began an apostolate to collect new or gently used receiving blankets, newborn Onesies, newborn caps, and baby booties to bring to the Municipal Hospital in Borongan.
I had collected 67 blankets from friends and family by the time I was ready to pack for the 2019 Philippines Mission Trip. I had purchased booties and caps from discount stores and clearance racks over several months. I also collected white ribbon, small gold colored Miraculous Medals, and tiny gold safety pins to attach the medals to the blankets. Once I had arrived in Borongan, the Sisters Servants of the Visitation helped sort and package 63 bundles of blankets and booties to gift to new moms. Sr. Rubi brought the medals to be blessed at morning Mass before we pinned one on each blanket with a welcome card and prayer for each child. Ciao baby! Welcome to the human family! We are so glad you are here! During that first visit to the maternity ward I witnessed some of the same needs Patricia had described of her beloved Honduras: moms covering their newborns with a basketball jersey, a towel, a t-shirt. We gifted 30 blanket bundles that day. The SSV Sisters gifted the rest in the following week. It is a small gift of hope: something soft and warm to welcome and bless a child, a simple gift from one mother to another mother and from the Sisters Servants of the Visitation who reach out as Mary to her cousin Elizabeth.
The project has grown! In 2019 I collected 50 lbs. of blankets, caps, and socks for delivery to Borongan this February. Included were a dozen blankets Claire Tansley sewed out of soft flannel and the Grace of Motherhood Group of St. Petronille Church large donation of gently used blankets. Paula Radel, my fellow Guardian of the Visitation, also collected many through her daughters and friends. Sr. Rubi, Brigid, Tom and Paula distributed the blankets and baby outfits to welcomed the newborns of the Borongan Provincial Hospital while on their mission in this past January 2020.
When I arrived home from my mission trip to the Philippines the Assistant Manager at our local bank had a bag of beautiful new blankets and newborn items waiting for me to pick up. Her ten year old daughter chose to ask for baby donations instead of receiving gifts from her friends at her birthday party! What a beautiful soul in a child to think so unselfishly of the needs of other children. All these women, very young and old, are emulating Our Mother Mary running to help her cousin Elizabeth. They are sending joy and kind wishes to a woman they will never meet, saying 'I know you...you are my sister. Ciao baby! Welcome to the world.'