The seniors of Bethany Courts in Markham are a busy bunch usually. But for a group of friends that meet every Monday, their activity of choice is anything but usual. It’s not every group that makes sleeping mats out of milk bags and send the much-needed results to a mission hospital in Zambia, but that is what this group enjoys spending time on.

It started a number of years ago – in 2010, the group estimates – but continues under the leadership of Joan Hamilton and George Telfer, along with their senior friends.  The familiar outer milk bags advertising various brand names are collected for this project from various sources and turned into comfortable sleeping mats, approximately 3′ by 4′ in size. They are washable, durable and pest free, and very much appreciated by those who receive them.

First, the used outer milk bags are collected and smoothed out flat, then clipped together and prepared for cutting. Each group of bags is cut crosswise producing two 6” and one 2” piece and four 2” pieces are then “looped” together to use as vertical strips on a specially designed wooden frame. Four 6” pieces are also looped together to use as horizontal strips when weaving. The “weaver” then proceeds to make a mat, which takes about 90 minutes to complete. About 15 workers come each week and the group ships a container with about 200 mats each year.

The hours spent each afternoon produce great mats but also lots of good conversation among the volunteers keeping energy high.  A cup of tea and some goodies complete the afternoon together with a hope that they have made someone comfortable in another part of the world.