L.O.O.K. is the acronym for our newest endeavour. It stands for LOVE: Orphan Outreach for Kids. We have several ongoing projects happening at the same time. They all have to do with AIDS orphans in other countries. I will explain each of the projects so you can understand the sphere of influence that young people can have in our world today. It is very exciting!!This first orphan project came about serendipitously when a friend told me she and her daughter were going on a missionary trip to Tanzania. They would be going to help at an orphanage in Moshi called KIWAKKUKI. She asked if I would like her to take some plain dolls in case there were HIV+ women who wanted to make some. I heartily agreed.What happened in the meantime was nothing short of a miracle. Because of time constraints another woman, Trish, who lives at the orphanage, took over administering the doll project. She purchased tribal cloth for the clothing of the dolls, to make sure they reflected the heritage of these people. Then she worked with one psychosocial group that was having some problems. Following is an excerpt from an email that Trish sent:The orphanage is what would be considered, very under-funded, but relatively loving. The caretakers are relatively few and very young, and most are orphans themselves, but they are very enthusiastic to learn. The program started when one of the Norwegian benefactors at KIWAKKUKI relayed information to the orphan support program that they felt that the issues of psychosocial care were not being addressed well enough by KIWAKKUKI and most other AIDS organizations in the Tanzanian (and indeed in Africa) areas. The children were dealing with the trauma of the death of their parents, and yet being expected to be grateful that they had a roof over their heads and that for most, their school fees were paid. So the benefactors requested that KIWAKKUKI do a study of orphans in different areas of Moshi to identify issues that the caregivers had and issues that the children had. They found interesting results, not rocket science, but for both groups somewhat of a surprise and conundrum.They found that the caregivers were exhausted, overworked and overwhelmed. The caregivers reported that the children were disrespectful, ran away from school, screamed in the night, and generally wore them out even more. The caregivers reported that they scraped to just feed the family, and that they just couldn't take any-more. The children reported that they were tortured at school about their parents dying of AIDS, that they were taunted and that fights were picked, so it was much easier to run away. Even their teachers picked on them, they stated. They said that they were frightened particularly at night because the ghosts of their dead parents appeared before them when they were in bed and asked them -where are you?, why did you leave me?, I miss you etc. It was very frightening and caused them to wet their beds, to scream, and to be unable to sleep at night so that they were exhausted, terrified and dirty in the morning. The program formed its goals, based on the 8 principles of international child development (ICDP) which included, hugging, talking, touching, teaching respect and playing. The volunteer leaders were trained for 3 weeks in facilitating these trainings. Then the groups were formed in different areas of town. Children for the most part were separated from the caregivers, and had time to talk about the issues they were having, and with the help of the facilitators were forming plans on how they could give better care to one another without causing further exhaustion. Just simple things like teaching both boys and girls to cook some of the traditional dishes and sing traditional songs and games etc., that wouldn't take time, to do things like when the children wound up screaming to take them into bed with them or let them sleep near them etc. They brought in the teachers and worked with teachers on AIDS education, treating children equally and helping the children with problems to become part of the group, also tolerating one another and breaking up fights. They were told that they should report when children were coming to school with no shoes, ragged clothes (more ragged than usual) or not coming to school at all.So at the end of the training sessions, the children and caregivers were re-surveyed and both groups reported that things generally were better. The children found that they loved learning the traditions of their tribes, and the caregivers found that the children liked helping them. The children were having fewer nightmares and when they did, the caregivers were sharing the little space that they had so that they could sleep. They stopped wetting the beds, and screaming. Everyone got more sleep, and though there were still a lot of glitches; most especially related to poverty, not enough food, kids around to sell the boys esp. marijuana and trying to get the girls in the sack, that things were generally better. Teachers were very appreciative of training regarding HIV/AIDS. There are many myths in Africa about it and the teachers are generally young women who have just graduated from secondary school themselves, hardly prepared to deal with psychologically disturbed orphans. Anyway, these pictures are just one of the psychosocial groups. They have been meeting about once/month to discuss the issues that most concern them. Most of the time they meet separately, but they always come together for a soda and cake at the end. It was very moving. The children loved the doll making. Some of them worked so hard on their dolls, and we didn't have enough needles and thread, and many of the children weren't old enough to use a needle, but they made dolls of their fathers and mothers, and also of course samurai warriors as well. The girls wanted to make dolls that would show the way they would be when they got older. So that is the story as best as I can tell. And you are most welcome to add the KIWAKKUKI children to the project. They would be thrilled. I will send you their stories as well. They are rather self- explanatory with the lifelines showing quite clearly when parents died. It is moving. Thanks for your interest.TrishaSo you see, the orphans loved making the dolls and kept them to remind them of their parents. What a wonderful way to help heal the lives of these unfortunate children. On these pages you will see pictures of these children and you will read their handwritten biographies, most with time lines of their lives. They were written in Swahili, their native language, so we have translated them into English so that others may understand these children’s words.The second orphan project is with a new orphanage that is opening in Honduras. It is called Walking With Children. The facility houses children living with HIV infection so that they can get proper care. STITCHES Doll Project is currently seeking grant money to fund a training mission to Honduras. Our plan is to train volunteers and local women to plan and implement a doll-making workshop. In this way, they can continue to empower girls and women who are living with HIV infection. The facilitators will take pictures of the dolls that we will then post on the STITCHES website for all to see and learn from.At present we are making beautiful traditional jewellery with beads made from Honduran river clay. We get the beads directly from the women that make them by hand, then, our STITCHES volunteers make them into different jewellery items. We will sell these pieces at displays, fund-raisers and on our website, and share the profits with Walking With Children. This will help raise the awareness of the plight of the orphans in Honduras, raise needed money, and forges a great working relationship between the orphanage and our organization.The caveat to this is something wonderful that happened when I told this story to some middle school girls in inner-city Detroit. I had been requested to bring some dolls to Durfee Middle School on the west side. The girls loved looking at the dolls and hearing each of their moving stories. Then they asked lots of questions about AIDS and sex in general. You could see that they were hungry for good information. Upon hearing about my involvement with these orphans, the girls also wanted to do something tangible. A few weeks went by and their teacher contacted me to say that she had a gift for me from the girls. When she arrived she presented me with 14 colourful dolls, handmade by the Durfee girls. Each one had a message of love and hope attached to it is“ for the orphans in Honduras. Needless to say, it brought me to tears. A month later I met with the Director of Walking With Children while she was in Michigan for a fund-raising mission. I presented her with the the Durfee Dolls and a huge bag of brand new socks for the children. She was as overwhelmed.Because there is such an interest by young people to get involved in this work, we have developed several other workshop sessions that we offer. Our resident artiste, Gloria, designed beaded doll pins made on wire. These are fun to make for people of all ages. We then sell these at local events and on our website to raise money. Each doll pin is unique and colorful. They can be worn on a lapel, used as a sun catcher, or hung from a rear view mirror.The other workshop ideas involve sock puppets, made from socks and small pillows made with scrap materials. These are very simple craft projects that kids and adults of all ages can take part in. Once they are finished we send these creations to the orphanages to bring fun, love, and entertainment into their lives. It lets the orphans know that other children of the world care about them. And it teaches our children here how blessed they are to live in this country and have the resources that are available to them.