Jul 2021

Meet Carolyn Steyn! You probably know her as a philanthropist and founder of 67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day, but did you know she is a KitKat lover, a chewing gum hater and often gets her best ideas at 3 am. She credits her husband Douw Steyn for being her mentor and fiercest cheerleader and her dedicated team for “keeping her keeping on” with her daily hustle. Not one for sitting around, Carolyn presents a radio show every evening on Hot 1027 FM, keeps her finger on the pulse of operations at 67 Blankets for Nelson Mandel Day, runs a large household and is upping her linguistics game by improving her French. Bravo Madame!

Carolyn’s late mother, Yvonne Mazotti Barkhuizen, grew up in the Nazareth House orphanage in Johannesburg. The experience of having nothing and being reliant on the kindness of others was a lesson passed down, and Carolyn credits her mum with being “the most loving and generous person I have ever had the privilege of knowing.”. For Carolyn, this commitment to helping others and supporting individuals through action is the driving force behind 67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day.

We managed to get some time in Carolyn’s diary and found how “every stitch tells a different story”.

Since creating 67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day, what is the most surprising thing you have learnt?

We have set ourselves some very challenging and sometimes seemingly impossible tasks over the years, some of which have even resulted in us setting new world records. I honestly would never have thought I would be able to do some of the things we have achieved. But with the dedication and tireless efforts of our ‘KnitWits’ for Madiba, we have been able to meet and even exceed these massive goals. In the words of Nelson Mandela, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

Tell us what 67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day means to you on a personal level?

Handing over blankets made with love, and our own two hands, to someone in need, is incredibly rewarding. It is our main goal, but there has been another spinoff. When I see the spirit of ubuntu, the sense of community that has grown within our group of ‘KnitWits’ from all walks of life, from all backgrounds, I am truly inspired. I often see the most unlikely friendships being formed. People who often felt alone suddenly become part of a group, part of a team that helps enrich their lives and the lives of others. So many of us find a sense of purpose and belonging. And I feel blessed to count myself as one of those people.

If you chose to volunteer full time – what would you do?

Travel the globe setting up 67 Blankets networks and appointing Ambassadors in each country to fulfil Tata Madiba’s dream – “we can change the world and make it a better place, It’s in your hands now to make a difference”.        

How important is collaborative work and sponsorships? 

Without our stakeholders/sponsors, 67 Blankets would be hard-pressed to achieve many of their illustrious and ambitious achievements. Corporate sponsors allow 67 Blankets to reach new and wider audiences, corporate endorsement, and approval.

Putting on your business hat...what does your organisation look like in 5 years?   

Bigger, better, and globally represented to ensure the legacy of Nelson Mandela continues to live in the hearts and minds of generations of the future 

Putting on your learner’s cap - share your top learning experience from your 67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day journey. 

Forti Nihil Diffilcilius – Nothing is too difficult for the brave. Real men can knit/crochet; generosity and kindness lie within every human. It just needs encouraging and nurturing. 

How do you define success for 67 Blankets for Nelson Mandela Day?  

At 67 Blankets, we certainly acknowledge Tata Madiba’s birthday but believe that every day should be celebrated as a Mandela Day. This way, we encourage the magic to be spread out over any given year.       

Post-covid - what are you most looking forward to?

Being able to spend time with family and friends again, going to the theatre and concerts, especially by our wonderful Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra. And I’ve really missed travelling, so I’m looking forward to being able to do that again as well.