Carolyn Barkhuizen, now known as Carolyn Steyn, is an accomplished actress who moved from her hometown of Johannesburg to find distinction and fortune in Hollywood. As the ‘Chief Knitwit’ of ‘67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day’, Carolyn is a model of community spirit in action, she is a true philanthropist and motivator.
This write-up follows a Makamba Life TV Show episode where philanthropist and businessman, Dr James Makamba interviewed Carolyn Steyn, the lady behind the famous project, ‘67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day’. This write-up took excerpts from the interview. You can watch the video interview here.
Inspiration or challenge
On what inspired her to start the project, ’67 blankets for Mandela’, Steyn said: “It wasn’t an inspiration, it was a challenge. Mandela’s former assistant, Zelda la Grange, asked me why can’t l make 67 blankets for Mandela Day. It made sense and I agreed. When I got wool and knits as a gift from my sister Sharon in December 2013 I started crocheting.
I realised I couldn’t do it on my own and I called upon friends and well-wishers on social media. The tribulations of starting something new hit me but we managed to deliver. Yearly we delivered and everywhere I go I get a blanket for this pledge which is a life changing initiative for so many people.”
On their website ’67 Blankets for Mandela Day’ you can browse and see the beneficiaries of this project, you can also know drop-off points for blankets if you are willing to contribute towards this life changing initiative.
The future initiative
Dr Makamba asked Carolyn about projects she is working on in regard to the ’67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day’.
She said: “What we really need are more blankets. We need you to crochet and make a blanket. We have a historical project. Prisoners and well-wishers from all over South Africa and the world are crocheting in an attempt to help break their current Guinness World Record for the biggest crochet blanket in the world. It’s going to take place on the 24th of April 2018 on Mandela’s 100th birthday.
Over the sports field of Zonderwater Correctional Centre we will put all these blankets in a correct position and Mandela’s face can only be seen from the sky. We need wool, we need blankets.”
Asked how people who are knitting in various countries get their blankets in South Africa, Steyn said: “We have blankets made in India, Britain, Wales and other African countries. Basically we also need help for blankets to get in South Africa. The person who brought in the 50 blankets from India brought them in as personal luggage.”
On her connection and working relationship with correctional services Steyn said the person who is at the head of correctional services loved the project. They signed a memorandum of understanding and the project, 67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela’, has been introduced to prisons all over South Africa with inmates making blankets. They say crocheting has improved the settling of inmates’ minds, it’s like therapy.
Carolyn Steyn was asked to describe the late statesman, Nelson Mandela. She said: “Saintly and almost unworldly. I could never be comfortable with him, he had this aura. I was always aware of greatness. He used to tell great stories. I was privileged to spend time with him.”
Who is Carolyn Steyn?
Who wouldn’t ask this lady who she really is? Dr Makamba asked her and she had a long chronicle on whom she is.
A cheerful Carolyn said: “I am a girl who grew up in Johannesburg. I went to Jeppe Girls’ High. I come from a middle class family. My mom taught us a lot since she grew up in an orphanage. She is always giving, giving and giving. Now I speak French better than Afrikaans. I love pasta. I don’t cook, I have cooked a few times. I love simple things. I don’t eat red meat, I am more of a vegetarian.”
Carolyn started acting when she left high school. She did a BA honours in drama at Witwatersrand University in 1981. Steyn worked with SABC and used to work as a newsreader on Radio 5 (5FM).
Light-heartedly, Dr James Makamba asked Carolyn Steyn on how she met her husband, Douw Steyn, and her relation with her sisters.
After a few giggles, she said: “I met him through a mutual friend. It was like a blind date. I was coming from Los Angeles and a friend invited me to the Saxon. There I met Douw and the rest is history.
I thank God for both my sisters. Sharon works with me very closely. She controls me and my schedule. Sisters have good times and bad times but remain sisters, supporting each other.”
Lesson about life
Since the thrilling public TV Show Makamba Life resonates on life topics, Steyn was asked to share with viewers what she has learnt so far about life. She shared: “Life hasn’t always been easy. I had to fight to get where I am. My parents couldn’t afford my university fees. I had to work as waitress and backstage in theatre. If you need something go get it. Find mentors. Doors will open. It’s also important to find a purpose in life. Get a reason to wake up.”
Each stitch – a different story!
Author: Gesture Chidhanguro