Love and comfort in knitted dolls

From my visit to Haiti 28 Feb-5 March:

Scene One, Act One:

The Episcopal Church Women of St. Paul’s and St. Timothy’s Episcopal Churches in Winston-Salem, N.C., spent untold hours creating Duduza Comfort Dolls, small, knitted dolls, each individualized, some boys, some girls, some with long hair, some with short. The women’s goal: To provide comfort to the children of Haiti, so many of whom lost so much, if not everything, in the Jan. 12 earthquake.

By Jan. 25, they had 168 dolls ready for me.

Scene One, Act Two:

The dolls are taken to Sherwood Forest Elementary School in Winston-Salem, to the third-grade class of Ms. Kelly Ballard, where the children write a personal note on a heart-shaped piece of paper for each doll. With love, from a friend in America, they typically say. Some dolls get BIG hearts. Others get small ones. Either way, the message of love is clear. I tear up when I see them.

Scene One, Act Three:

I attend the meeting of the St. Anne’s Circle of the St. Paul’s ECW. There were more than 100 people present for this meeting, women and men, all of whom wanted to know more about Haiti and the aftermath of the quake, all of whom are deeply committed to helping those most in need around the world.

There, I am presented with all the dolls, from both parishes. Some of the dolls, it seems, have not yet been blessed. Would I do the honors? I say yes, but when the time comes, I am not able to complete the prayer. The love, the power of it, overwhelms me. I signal for another priest to come forward to finish the prayer for me. The emotions are still so raw, and this outpouring of love and care is more than I can handle at the moment.

Scene Two, Act One:

I arrive in Haiti with a duffel bag full of the dolls. My dear friend, Michelet, whom I have not seen or heard from directly since the earthquake, greets me at the door to the church compound. We go upstairs and I immediately begin to unpack so I can get something out just for Michelet.

He sees the dolls and asks about them; I take them out and explain, and from the expression on his face, I KNOW that he has to have one. So I find a boy doll, with a big paper heart expression, and present it to him, telling him that women in North Carolina made the doll, and children there made the note. I tell him these are messages of love.

His grin never leaves his face.

Scene Two, Act Two:

My friend Frantzy, the artist from whom I commission individual pieces, picks me up on his motorcycle one afternoon. It is a joyous and raucous reunion – we have not been in contact since the earthquake, despite repeated tries.

He and his wife and three children are living on the street, sleeping on the ground under a single tarp that does not keep off the rain. I tell him to come with me: Soon he has a new, small tent; a ground cloth; sheets; and a sleeping pad.

I show him the dolls, and give him three for his children. He is overjoyed at this final gift, because now his children will have something of their own. The messages of love cause his eyes to fill with tears. Mine do as well.

Scene Two, Act Three:

Finally, I am able to arrange to get down to Port au Prince from where I work in Petion Ville. It’s only 7 kilometers, but between the awful traffic and the heavy work-load in the office, it seemed I wasn’t going to make it there. pastedGraphic.pdf

Jeanne Pocius, a master musician and teacher

and inspiration, who survived the earthquake by

crawling and stumbling her way out of the Holy

Trinity Music School, has been running an informal

school for the children of the Tent City at College

St. Pierre. She’s been a God-send since long before

the quake: teaching music, beginning an

international nongovernmental organization for

music and teaching, living in Haiti and the U.S. for years and years, inspiring all with her faith and commitment. After the quake, she cared for more than 300 patients, despite being injured herself. Now, she’s working to care for those in need, and to help rebuild Haiti.

Jeanne organizes the children to come meet with me about 5 p.m. There will be about 100, she says. That’s what they average per day at the school.

But more than 100 children show up. In fact, more than 164 – the total number of dolls I have left – show up. It is nearly a riot, the children are so excited! They each want a doll; they swap them back and forth, to make sure each has the right boy or girl doll. The girls especially like the ones with the braided hair. The boys like the ones with the hats. ALL love the messages; I have to explain that some dolls have large heart messages and some have small ones, but ALL have the same message: We love you and are praying for you.

The children demand more dolls … those who didn’t get any want one. Can I come back? Can I bring more? I promise them: In three weeks, I will return, and I WILL bring more.

Please, I pray to myself, let there be more folks out there who can knit! Fast!

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Scene Two, Act Four:

Just because we ran out of dolls doesn’t mean we didn’t keep playing. In Sudan, I taught kids everywhere to play “Thumbs,” the thumb warfare game. There, we called it “Suba,” the Sudanese Arabic term for “thumb.” It brought great joy.

At College St. Pierre, I introduced the same game with its French name: “Pouce.” All of the kids wanted to play. One in particular, Demarius, was excellent. In fact, he beat me all but one time. I think his “pouce” is double-jointed.

I promised to return and play this game as well.

Scene Two, Act Five:

I return to College St. Pierre the next day with the Archbishop of Cape Town, The Most Rev. Thabo Makgoba; the Bishop of Haiti, The Rt. Rev. Jean Zaché Duracin; and the Bishop Suffragan of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, The Rt. Rev. Pierre Whalon. We want the visiting bishops to see the devastation, to visit the Tent City, to learn first-hand what has happened and is happening in Haiti.

Jeanne calls; the children have gifts for ME! In class that morning, she had the kids make thank-you notes with drawings. She teaches them art therapy part of the day, to help them emotionally through the trauma. The drawings are simple but powerful and cause me to cry again.

I will send the drawings to the women and children in North Carolina, who did all the work and sent all the love.

I am merely the messenger of that love.

Some days, it is good to be a messenger.

X X X

For those of you who might be interested in creating Duduza Comfort Dolls to send to the children in Haiti, see the following web site:

http://www.creativestitchonline.com/pattern.html.

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About Lauren Stanley

All my life, it seems, I’ve been on mission. And it’s all my mother’s fault. You see, when I was a child, my mother was adamant: We were to help those in need, those who had less than we did. We were to speak for those who could not speak, feed those who had no food, give water to those who were thirsty.

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