Zambezi Dolls Are Born

by Marsha Winsryg

Zambezi doll ethnic natural fiber

Zambezi Dolls were born when it became very clear that there are not enough dolls of color in the world. It is also true that we do not need more plastic polluting our environment, so these dolls needed to be made of natural materials. Add to these truths the need for meaningful work for economically challenged women everywhere, and you have reasons that Zambezi Dolls seemed like a very good idea.

Eight years ago I decided that a simple, handmade doll could be a valuable product that the mothers of children at the Mama Bakhita Home for disabled children might be able to produce. I hoped that in time these dolls might generate real income for the women who were determined enough to learn the craft.

But it was not at all easy. In a spirit of industry and cooperation, the doll makers have shown true perseverance. Gradually every detail has been studied and practiced and the quality of each stitch is evident. They are rightly proud of their achievements and sing a song called “Our Talent Goes Wherever We Go”.

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At first each woman was expected to make her own doll from beginning to end. This did not work well because everyone had a different level of skill in handwork. Some were able to make five well-made dolls in the time it took another to make one less well-made doll. Sister Agnes Daka, then director of the Mama Bakhita Cheshire School, solved the problem beautifully. She suggested they break down the doll making into steps from the cutting out of the body patterns all the way to the making of the clothing. Everyone was capable of doing several parts of the production and together they were able to create finished dolls.

Zambezi doll ethnic natural fiberZambezi doll ethnic natural fiber

The families whose children attend the Mama Bakhita Cheshire special education school and others who come to receive other services are among the poorest in the area, with minimal income and no government services available to them. They are able to come at all because the Mama Bakhita’s school and services are free and they offer transportation that collects the school children each day.

Imagine how happy the mothers and grandmothers are that this opportunity exists for their children. Until the Mama Bakhita came into being in 1996, there was very little for them to do. They stayed at home.The school and services at the Mama Bakhita Cheshire Home are a huge improvement in their  children’s lives. Still, the lack of work and the minimal pay scale for what menial tasks the women could find left them struggling to pay rent and feed their families. And having handicapped children made working that much harder.

Zambezi doll company

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