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A local newspaper article spoke to me. An Ottawa woman was looking for knitters to create small dolls for refugee children. This project was named after a Canadian soldier, Master Cpl. Mark (Izzy) Isfeld, who died in Croatia in 1994. His mother started knitting small dolls for the local children, as a legacy to her son. Once they heard about it, groups of knitters started contributing, as well. As I read about this, I thought to myself, “I can help.”

I sent out a request on our condo’s internal electronic bulletin board, asking if anyone would be interested in getting together to knit dolls for refugee children.

I was delighted with the enthusiastic response – some wanted to knit, some wanted to donate yarn, some wanted to donate money to buy yarn and stuffing.

An initial group of 10 or so ladies (no men yet) met at my place and I handed out downloaded instructions for Izzie Dolls. We knitted dolls. We drank tea and munched on cookies. Our members ranged in age from 59 to 89. Some of the ladies hadn’t knitted in years, some very experienced, some had yet to learn. Others had arthritis in their aged and aching fingers.

No matter, we knitted. And knitted.

At the time, Canada was in the process of inviting as many Syrian refugees as logistically possible. It was the big headline story. For it or against it, everyone was talking about refugees coming. Talk was of finding homes and setting families up. Initially, we thought these toys would go to refugees arriving here in Ottawa and maybe some did.

Last fall, we heard from our Ottawa organizer, who sent us pictures of where our Izzie Dolls have gone, via the Canadian military who pack them with their medical supplies and fly them into hardship areas – pictures of our soldiers handing them out to kids in refugee camps in Afghanistan, in the Philippines, and even one of Prince Harry giving an Izzie Doll to a child in a hospital in Nepal.

For almost two years now, our Izzie Doll Knitters have met every Monday afternoon to knit, stuff, sew and embroider faces – each little doll has its own personality. They are adorable and we love them.

We take turns hosting at each other’s apartments. We chat. We visit. We become little girls again, as we admire all our finished and unfinished dollies. We experiment with different hats, faces, scarves, stripes, colours of the season.

Each one a little different.

The face colours vary from white, brown, black and some even with no skin colours.

One person was very ingenious with her dolls, with bibs, aprons and even a made one with a little baby doll of its own. Some had big hats, baseball caps, some with skirts, as I said, each person made them differently.

It was a joy to make these little dolls and we put ourselves into each one. Showing off the completed doll to the group made it sometimes difficult to part with them. They are beautiful and we know each one will bring a smile to the face of a sick or displaced child somewhere in the world.

To date, we have donated more than 350 dolls. We wonder when we will have done enough. As we all continue to pray for peace, we have been assured that there is still great and ongoing need in those war-torn countries.

We’ll keep knitting.


By: Patricia Hall and Vera Kielback.

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