Children In Minnesota Elementary School Make Stuffed Bears To Comfort Children In Refugee Camps

Photo: Bilanol / Shutterstock
Stuffed Animal

Students at a Minnesota elementary school are making stuffed animals for Dolls of Hope, an organization that provides toys to refugee children.

The fifth-grade class at Excelsior Elementary began the project in early January and had made 45 stuffed bears by the 15th. Their goal is to make 100 by Valentine’s Day.

The kids trace the outlines for the bears, cut them out, and pin them before passing them off to adults to finish the job.

School principal Stacy DeCorsey said that the kids “felt like they have a lot of stuff,” said and wanted to do something for those who aren’t so fortunate. 

The fifth-graders enjoy working for a good cause, and one said that the best part of the project was “helping others.”

They skipped recess and worked on the bears during lunchtime.

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Excelsior Elementary’s social media shared photos of smile-eyed students holding up the toys, which are sewn in a variety of brightly colored and patterned fabrics and embroidered with happy faces.

“These kids are so happy to give back,” announced one Facebook post.

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Children in the first and second grades also heard about the project, and many have asked DeCorsey if they too could help make the bears.

A first-grade student named Jack Enger, who is a distance learner at the school, joined in the efforts. 

Jack’s mother, Candice, and his four-year-old sister have been helping him. According to Candice, her son has loved sewing since preschool, and she was “impressed and very proud” when Jack made one whole bear by himself.

She also said that the project has given her an opportunity to talk to Jack about the problems faced by children his age in other parts of the world.

Although they only make up about a third of the world’s population, children are far more likely to be displaced.

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According to the UN Refugee Agency, over half of the refugees worldwide are minors, and their situation presents immense challenges.

As a study reported, the impact of COVID-19 on refugee communities is severe. These communities often suffer from a lack of access to proper healthcare and sanitation and are especially vulnerable to rising unemployment rates.

They are also less likely to receive economic relief, and “migrant and displaced children will be disproportionately affected and suffer long after the public health crisis ends.”

Furthermore, many refugee children are out of school, and most have very little stability in their home lives. These children frequently deal with mental trauma, separation from their families, and isolation from their host communities. 

Excelsior students hope their stuffed animals will soothe the children’s loneliness.

Dolls of Hope was started with the same intention. 

Sarah Carmichael Parson, a Utah mother of five, started the organization in 2016 after learning that children in refugee camps had no toys. 

According to the company’s website, Dolls of Hope “sent 35,554 handmade dolls and bears and Matchbox cars to children in 39 countries” between 2016 and 2019.

The site contains downloadable doll patterns and instructions for making them, so anyone can get involved.

“I wish I could hug all the kids and I can’t, but they can hug the doll over there that we send to them,” a teary-eyed Parson said in an interview.

“And hopefully it gives them some comfort.”

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Allie McGlone is a writer who covers a variety of topics for YourTango, including pop culture and entertainment.