Making dolls for South African children orphaned by AIDS
Dateline: July 8, 2007
Source: Newsday.com — Merle English
They don’t play with dolls, but Jaffie Balthazard and other boys at Renaissance Middle School in St. Albans like creating them — for a cause. They make dolls to be distributed to children in South Africa who have been orphaned by AIDS.
Balthazard, 12, and his classmates, Kwesi Wilson, 11, and Max Couloute, 13, were among nine boys and girls from the school who went to the Sri Chinmoy Meditation Centre in Jamaica recently to show off the dolls they are making.
Volunteers at Sri Chinmoy’s Centres International will send the dolls to Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s AIDS Clinic and several pediatric nutrition centers in South Africa for distribution.
The students are participating in the Oneness-Heart-Tears and Smiles program, started in 1990 by global peace advocate Sri Chinmoy, 76.
The Oneness-Heart-Tears and Smiles is a humanitarian outreach for world peace in which Sri Chinmoy’s students at 150 peace centers in more than 60 countries send containers with food, clothing, medical, educational and building supplies and toys to hospitals, orphanages and schools in countries ravaged by conflict or natural disasters.
Everything is donated and handled by volunteers, according to Kritagyata Nicholls, the program’s director. “There is no paid staff.”
Under a Kids to Kids unit of the program that began in 2002, Sri Chinmoy — a native of India who came to the United States in 1964 — set a goal of 1,000 dolls to be made by children around the world for their peers in South Africa.
Nicholls said Sri Chinmoy wants his volunteers to “transform the tears of children. He’s trying to change people’s consciousness,” Nicholls said. “If you can touch the heart of someone, they change.”
Gathered in the flower-bedecked Aspiration Ground courtyard at the Sri Chinmoy Centre, where Sri Chinmoy sat holding one of the dolls over his heart, the Renaissance School boys, who help to cut out, sew and stuff the cloth dolls alongside girls in an art class project, explained what motivates them.
“I want to give dolls to the kids that are lonely, to show them that we love them,” Balthazard said, clutching a doll that was nearly complete.
“Kids who never saw a toy before will feel happy,” said Wilson, “and it was a fun experience.”
Couloute said kids without a family would know, “There are other children in the world that care about them.”
“We all work together toward the same good. The destination is peace,” said Sri Chinmoy. “These children are the future of the world.”
Chameli Herdes, of Jamaica, a Sri Chinmoy student who teaches the boys and girls how to make the dolls, said more than 30 were produced over the last five weeks.
Before they start, she said, each student “imagines their finished doll being full of love so the child who receives it would feel their love.”
Copyright 2007 Newsday Inc.