Thursday, May 14, 2009

The following is an excerpt from
the CEI Newsletter article
"From Seniors’ Hands
to Children’s Arms
Dolls for Africa"
by Elinor Davis

Six women, several in wheelchairs and each holding a soft doll, sat beaming before a room full of seniors at the Eastmont Center for Elders Independence (CEI). Each spoke about the process of making and naming her doll.

Soon these appealing handmade dolls, each of which began its existence as a new pair of long, brown socks, will embark on a journey that will take them to the arms of children in Africa.

At a stage of life that too often features frailty and pain from multiple medical conditions, and declining physical and cognitive function, these seniors are choosing to create something beautiful to comfort children they will never meet.

“Most of them never sewed before,” says Activity Aide Lillian Jackson, who started the doll project with about thirteen CEI participants earlier this year. "Learning to make the dolls at the Center gives them something to do and helps them forget about limitations brought on by strokes, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and heart or kidney ailments," Lillian says. The group is completing 50 dolls – 25 girls and 25 boys – and will donate them to children at Kids Haven, a residential shelter for abused and abandoned children outside Johannesburg, South Africa. They chose this organization because it is endorsed by Oprah Winfrey and Lillian is a big Oprah fan. Each doll wears a label that identifies the maker and the name she chose for her doll.

Explaining why she loves her CEI job of 16 years, Lillian says, “It’s about the clients. I like doing things for them. A lot of them don’t have any family.” Lillian’s affection for seniors is mutual. Many Eastmont participants say she is the reason they come to the Day Center. Because they respect and relate to her, she is able to draw them out of themselves and motivate them to take their medications, maintain healthy habits and stay engaged with life. She’s already planning her next project for the sewing group – quilts for babies with HIV/AIDS. If the beautifully crafted dolls are any guide, the quilts will be lovely, and more than that, permeated with love itself.