Dolls bring comfort

By Ashleigh Fielding | posted on February 9, 2019

IN AN attempt to bring comfort and support to children affected by physical and emotional abuse in parts of South Africa, more than 30 Albany women spend a few hours each fortnight knitting and crocheting toy dolls.

It is done in the name of the Uthando Project, which has sent handmade dolls to children in Kwazulu-Natal since 2004.

Albany group coordinator and doll maker Julie Fletcher said the dolls are a “vital” aspect in children’s counseling and education.

The Albany group has sent more than 7500 dolls overseas in eight years.

“The dolls are important because they bring comfort; the children can talk to them and cuddle them,” Ms Fletcher said.

“And they help the children play too, as well as help to teach grandparents how to play.”

Some of the group’s members have been involved in the project and similar projects for decades.

Topsy Pratt joined the Uthando cause a few years ago.

“I was doing stuff for Joseph’s Coat [charity] for about 20 years before they closed,” she said.

“I made clothing for children and rugs, and they went all over the world.

“So when that ended, I wanted to find something to do and I found this.”

Fellow doll maker Norma Lyons said the multi-faceted approach to the project intrigued her.

“I got caught on to the enthusiasm,” she said.

“And then, I coerced my neighbour Hazel into it!

“There’s just so many aspects…knitting, making wigs, the bags, spare sets of clothes, embroiding faces…”

Ms Fletcher said the Albany group’s most successful year was last year.

“We made 1743 dolls,” she said.

“That’s been our biggest year so far.

“Our last shipment was in November and it’s just arrived [in Kwazulu-Natal], as it takes three months to get there – just in time for the start of the school year.

“When some of the children come on the first day a bit anxious, they’re given a doll.”

Ms Fletcher said the group would be focusing on ‘family dolls’ at their group meet this week.

The dolls come in pre-determined sets of parents, siblings and extended family to help children explain situations during counseling sessions, and in their classroom work.