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LWR Quilt Campaign: To Thai with Love

by Terri Lackey

Temperatures in the province of Tak, Thailand—where 70,000 Lutheran World Relief quilts are shipped every year—can fall into the 50s on some nights.

High in the mountains in Umpiem Mai refugee camp, constant rains and whipping winds can make it feel much colder. When camp residents reach for protection from the damp chill, they select the warmest cover-up they can find. Often that is a scratchy wool blanket, not a “beautiful” LWR quilt.

“The quilts are very beautiful, but they can be too thin sometimes,” a camp resident said with the help of a translator, rubbing a Lutheran World Relief (LWR) quilt between her fingers.

Mud generated during the months of near ceaseless Thailand rains renders lighter-colored quilts useless after about one season, though the residents continue to use them until they are threadbare. The refugees’ bamboo houses with leaf roofs do little to stop the rain and wind and cold.

Believe me, I know. I was there with two LWR staff—Melanie Gibbons, quilt and kit ministry manager, and Joanne Fairley, regional director for Asia and the Middle East. Each evening after we visited the refugee camps, I was filthy, wet, and cold—but headed to my comfortable hotel room. After taking a hot shower (not available in refugee camps), I reached for the warmest cover I could find.

“You might find it interesting to learn that even in places we think of as warmer climates like Thailand, it’s very important that quilts be warm,” said Gibbons who explained quilts are processed and baled before their final destination is determined. “In Thailand, technically a tropical climate, I saw almost exclusively thin quilts. The people we talked to said that the quilts are sturdy and beautiful, but simply not warm enough.”

Gibbons said that in deserts or tropical parts of the world, “the temperature can drop dramatically at night. The trip to Thailand was a good reminder for us that the batting or blanket or other warm layer in those quilts really matters.” In fact, she said, LWR’s guidelines specify “that all quilts be warm because warmth is important no matter which country refugees live in.”

Terri Lackey is managing editor of Gather. She traveled to the refugee camps in Thailand in August 2012.

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