Saturday, April 18, 2009

Dolls for Charity: The Uthando Project

The Uthando Project is about making simple handmade dolls for Zulu children in South Africa that are HIV positive. It was brought to my attention by the nurse at my children's school. It seems like a perfect fit for some of us. The website offers basic patterns for a few different dolls to knit or sew from leftover yarn and fabric, but you are free to make a doll however you like, with whatever you like. I know it's no surprise to any of us that most of these children have heart wrenching stories that include whole families wiped out by the AIDS virus. I will arrange to have any dolls we make sent (this includes any blog readers that would like to contribute, too).You can contact me at

From their website:

KwaZulu Natal (KZN) is home to one quarter of South Africa’s children. Two in every three of them live in poverty and 1.5 million are younger than six. The HIV and AIDS pandemic affects everyone, and the ravages of the pandemic increase the vulnerability of all children. Children need the loving care of at least one adult for optimal growth and development. When one in five children has already lost one or both parents to the AIDS, the care-giving capacity of families is stretched and at times overwhelmed. While nutritious food, clean water, shelter and education are essential for a child’s wellbeing, so is play.

Play enables children to develop physically, intellectually, emotionally, socially and spiritually in a more robust way. Through play children have the opportunity to experience delight and to unleash their imagination. They may also express their grief and loss, and come to better understand things that trouble or confuse them. One grandmother may have up to a dozen children in her care, and some children live in child-headed households. Tired, grieving and overburdened caregivers sometimes need help to find a place in their day to day lives to support and join in their children’s play.

To support this process, dollmakers around the world, provide handmade dolls, sewn or knitted, for the caregivers to give their children.

Could YOU make a doll for a child who has never had one?
If you can sew, knit, or crochet . . . we have the patterns. You can be as creative as you like - all we ask is that your doll be sturdy, cuddly and colourful with brown skin.

Where are the dolls going?
To children living in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, where two thirds of children live in poverty. All have been affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic and one in five children grieves the loss of one or both parents.

Dolls are distributed through the agency TREE (Training Resources in Early Education).

Who makes the dolls?
Anyone! This is a grassroots project. Craft groups, individuals, school children, seniors, church groups . . . all want to send something made with their own hands, to show children and families living midst the pandemic that they are not forgotten by the rest of the world.

How did the project begin?
In 2004, Dr Julie Stone, an infant, child & family psychiatrist visited South Africa. She witnessed the stark situation and invited people to respond by making dolls. Since then, many have. Uthando means 'love' in the Zulu language.

How many dolls have been sent?
Dolls have arrived in KwaZulu-Natal from all over the world. 20,000 dolls have been sent, including 18,000 from Perth. KwaZulu-Natal has 1.5 million children under the age of 6, and each one would love a doll of their own.

How are the dolls used?
The dolls are an invitation to play. They will bring delight to the children and their carers. This play may help the child with grief and loss. To own and play with their own doll encourages a child's development in all spheres: physical, intellectual, emotional, social and spiritual.

Written by Shelly Daly of A Stone's Throw


tarabu said...

I'm in - and not just because this gives me an excuse to buy some brown fabric!

Karen said...

Yeah, me too!

Yummy and Company said...

go shelly go!