Giving the gift of love, one doll at a time

"Grandma, Didi (sister)," says Busha, a 20-year-old orphan who is sponsored by our charity, Hands of Hope, to attend college in Kathmandu, Nepal.

“Grandma, Didi (sister),” says Busha, a 20-year-old orphan who is sponsored by our charity, Hands of Hope, to attend college in Kathmandu, Nepal.

As we sipped chai, Busha zipped open his well-used, black-and-red daypack and dug to the bottom. Then, with a huge smile on his face, he announced, “Look, I still have my doll you gave me.”

That doll had travelled around in his daypack from Chemistry to Physics to Math class and home in the cramped bus.

Several years back I toted 24 dolls to the Linh Son Orphanage in Lumbini. They had come to us from Doreen Sorrenti of Surrey, who loves knitting.

At the time, my daughter Rosemarie and I had no inkling what impact a little soft doll, 16 centimetres long, would have. What Doreen didn’t know was that this gift of love has remained with this young man through high school and college.

Some dolls are definitely girls, with pink, mauve, blue and yellow outfits or multi-striped skirts with yellow or purple or blue tops and a green shawl or a green skirts with a pink top, little beige faces, big dark eyes, brown eyebrows and pink or red mouths.

The boy dolls have striped gold, brown, green or blue pants and a coordinated top. Some dolls have little added flourishes for necklaces, suspenders, bows, bow ties, broaches or buttons. There are little coordinated hats and brown shoes. Each one is different.

Doreen got into knitting over 70 years ago. She’s knitted for the Christmas Bureau in Surrey and for friends. Her arthritic fingers fly along creating beauty. She just can’t stop. And why should she?

It all began at age five, when Doreen made her first knitted squares. Later she launched into bigger projects, casting on to create hats, afghans and blankets, baby coats, sweaters and socks.

Then along came dolls. It started several years ago when Doreen helped a friend do up dolls for Africa. Then, when Doreen heard about children in Nepal who didn’t have any toys or “stuffies,” she decided to remedy that.

She had heard the children there treasured even the smallest gift. Doreen loves children. This whiz of a knitter had yarn remnants from other projects. With the multicolored yarn scraps she knitted small unique dolls, only needing to purchase brown yarn for the shoes and stuffing. Doreen puts special love into the dolls she’s making for children she never had.

With the first set of dolls complete, she packed them up to go with Maggie Leary, a teacher at Mayo’s JV Clark School. Since then we have taken dolls to Nepal or India and given them to children in communities where we are doing volunteer work.

One year, the dolls I took to Nepal went to a school without walls. I placed those flashy dolls out in the field for the four- and five-year-old children.

It was the perfect storm. Boys, girls, dolls, dust and one teacher pulling his hair. Pandemonium. And there was love. Dolls were grasped and hugged to the chest.

And it hasn’t stopped. In September 2013, Rosemarie dished out dolls to little Hindi and Tibetan girls and boys in Bir, Himachal Pradesh, India. The instant bedlam was a joyous occasion. No one turns away from a rich hued doll. Everyone wants to cuddle one.

We had purchased and donated sports equipment for two schools and set up a library in an adjacent school. Dolls were the frosting on an electrifying day.

Do you remember your first doll or stuffed toy? How long did you cherish it? We can definitely say that the dolls we lug to India or Nepal are cherished, kept and much sought after. The love Doreen has put into the dolls is passed onto the children they are given to in Nepal and India.

Maybe this woman never had any children of her own, but she has at least 150 grandchildren in India and Nepal. Those children love the dolls and the person who made them. True love

never dies, it only get stronger with time.

For the more complete story of the work of Rosemarie and Liesel Briggs of Hands of Hope please go to: www.hands-of-hope.ca. We are currently accepting donations to keep children in school. You can also call 668-7082.

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