disabled-children

Zambezi Dolls Are Born

by Marsha Winsryg


Until the Mama Bakhita Cheshire Home came into being in 1996, there were few options for children with handicaps in Livingstone, Zambia. They stayed at home and many were kept out of sight because of prejudice and shame. The free services offered at the Mama Bakhita, such as education, physiotherapy and medical attention, gradually made people aware that these kids could learn and contribute to their community.
Still, the lack of work and the minimal pay scale for the menial jobs available, left their mothers struggling to pay rent and feed their families. Having handicapped children made working that much harder. It was clear that these women needed income.
It seemed to me that a simple, handmade doll could be a valuable product that the mothers of children at the Mama Bakhita Home might be able to produce and sell.
And so, Zambezi Dolls were born….
In 2011 I spent three weeks working with these women to develop a doll that could be made entirely by hand, and could be sold for enough money to make an economic difference in their lives. I hoped that, in time, these dolls might generate real income for these determined craftswomen.

Doll Work/mothers of disabled children
Zambezi Doll Makers

It was also clear to me there are not enough dolls of color in the world and that we do not need more plastic polluting our environment. So these dolls needed to be made of natural materials in a variety of skin tones. Add to these facts the need for meaningful work for economically challenged women anywhere, and you have reasons that Zambezi Dolls seemed like a very good idea.
Production began, but it was not at all easy. We began to make dolls with the idea that each woman would make her own from beginning to end. But 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. What to do?
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.

In this way they evolved into a true cooperative that produce beautifully made dolls entirely sewn by hand. Gradually every detail has been studied and practiced and the quality of each stitch is evident. Each doll is unique and no two are alike. This makes them very special indeed and ensures variety and creativity for the doll makers. As each woman advances her skill level, she can take on new and more difficult aspects of the process, like embroidering the faces and designing new hair styles. They are rightly proud of their achievements. And it means that any child anywhere can find the doll that is right for them.

Dolls of color, natural fiber

The twelve women can produce about 400 to 500 dolls per month. When the sales of the dolls increase, we will assemble a new group of twelve economically challenged women from the same community to be trained alongside and by the skilled original doll makers. We hope to grow this way and improve quality of life in the area.

Zambezi handmade ethnic dolls cotton soft unique
The Zambezi Doll Company women in 2019

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Dolls of color, natural fiber

Many of you have already contributed to our on-line campaign to raise money to finish the Zambezi doll makers website. We still have a ways to go and difficult work ahead so we ask that you consider a gift to the on-line campaign or purchasing a doll from the website that can now securely accept credit and debit cards through PayPal.

http://zambezidolls.com

If you want to boost morale and income for the Zambezi ladies, please look at their selection of dolls, in all their diversity, and purchase one or a family of dolls, for someone who would appreciate the variety of skin tone.

You could do this for mother’s day and we will write your mother a note if you include her name and address in the special instructions part of the order.

There is a heap of editing needed in the copy on our fledgling website, which we are slowly getting to, so please ignore the typos and grammatical errors. Getting everyone on board with writing content and marketing is a huge learning curve, but we improve  each day and finally our payment system is reliable.

With your help, this site will reach kind and tolerant people all over the world, like yourselves, who agree that this world needs a doll that represents every kind of person and every combination of colors in a family.

Youcaring.com:

http://www.youcaring.com/HelpZambeziDollCompanyFly

Thank you, once again.

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Thank you for Believing in Us

by Marsha Winsryg

We have put all of our time and energy into getting the Zambezi Doll on-line store up and running. When we ran into snags with the credit card payment company and marketing challenges, I didn’t know how we would be able to work these things out and continue to pay salaries and other expenses until sales could cover them. How would we get to the sought after “break even” point? More importantly, how could we stop now that so many people had worked for so long and achieved so much? How could we fail them now?

So I started a crowd-sourced fundraising campaign through Youcaring.com, praying that many of our friends and well-wishers would contribute something, anything, and that this would add up to enough to sustain us until we could swim on our own.

It worked!! We have raised half of the money in a week!

We are so grateful at the out-pouring of contributions. It is a wonderful feeling to be supported by all of you in our efforts to create steady and meaningful work for these women who have worked hard to achieve skills and independence. It takes a village.

With humble thanks for your generosity and faith,

Marsha

http://www.youcaring.com/HelpZambeziDollCompanyFly

 

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My Vote for Mother of the Year

by Marsha Winsryg

The Story of the Woman with 14 Orphans

14  zambian orphans of Dorothy Bwalya
Dorothy Bwalya was a Franciscan Sister in Zambia for 18 years. Internal politics drove her away and when she quit, her family disowned and shunned her. Years later, her siblings began to die of AIDS and other causes and Dorothy began to take in the orphans.
With very little income as a teacher at a vocational school, she has tried to provide for them, but with 14 now, many of them with health problems, it has become impossible.
I am going to write her story in the days leading up to Mother’s Day hoping that some of you out there will recognize her hero Mother status and help me raise money for her to rent a house with more than 2 rooms and eventually become an accredited orphanage.
Stay tuned.

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