Friday, February 18, 2011

Doll Project in Zimbabwe

I belong to a piecemakers group here in South Africa.  Many of the members are not quilters but we all do some kind of handwork and chat and have tea/coffee, etc.  As we were sitting together sharing projects Irene brought out several dolls.  She is an American who, together with several other expatriate volunteers, began working with a group called Batsiranai while she was living in Zimbabwe.
Batsiranai is a collaborative made up of mothers of disabled children who make embroidered handicrafts to raise money for food, housing and school fees for their children.  Irene and her friend Ellen, both with backgrounds in maternal child health programming, joined the group in 2003 as volunteers.  They developed a child health and stimulation program for the disabled children and their preschool siblings in order to compliment the handcraft  business enterprise. Some of the mothers were trained to run the child center; the children began to repond to music and play activities and their mothers were amazed at the changes in their children. Ellen and Irene felt that the children could benefit from having some toys, so began experimenting with different doll designs including a doll with a knotted cloth body and head.  In the end the women liked the design of the doll shown above the best and decided to add it to their list of crafts for sale.  This doll has a Waldorf like head, an embroidered pocket on an African cloth (shweshwe) body and of course the pocket holds a baby.  These dolls and the other work of Batsiranai have been Fair Trade certified and they can be purchased through the website.  The dolls and other crafts would made a great addition to a Christmas bazaar.
Note: An interesting history of shweshwe can be found here.

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