From Indiana all the way to Uganda

August 12, 2014 Blog Post

back to blog


Students from Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA) set off in the summer of 2014 to several countries across Africa, to be of service in a myriad of ways.  Seven of the students went to Masaka, Uganda where they each lived with a local “host” family.  During the day they worked with children at the elementary school.  The “host” families generously shared their culture, foods, language, customs and lifestyle with the IU students.

Karrie Zuccarello, SPEA’s director of development had distributed a mixture of 30 dollies and teddy bears amongst the university students before they embarked on their journeys, with the only instruction being “Find a child who would love a hand-made dollie or colorful teddy bear”.  One of the graduate students, Jasmine Burditt, shared this story:

“My internship was at a primary school in Masaka, Uganda with about 600 students. Since we divided the dolls between the 7 of us (about 4-5 dolls per graduate student), I knew I wouldn’t have enough to distribute at the school. The first day I arrived in Uganda I was met with my warm and inviting host family including my 5-year-old host brother Ethan. I noticed that Ethan enjoyed playing with his friends outside after school, but saw that they were partaking in a lot of imaginary play with no toys. Once I settled in and began unpacking, I realized I had 4 dolls that I could give Ethan and his friends to play with. I called Ethan into my room and gave him the dolls so that he could distribute them to his friends. His eyes literally lit up and his dimples showed as he beamed to the backyard to share the dolls with his friends. Ethan gave a doll to each one of his friends and they immediately began playing “baby” with the dolls. I watched on for hours as they pretended to put the dolls to sleep, wrapping them in the knitted blankets, pretended to feed the dolls, and even burped them after feeding (Ethan’s friends are as young as 2-years-old but apparently they already know great parenting procedures). Watching them interact with the dolls was truly heart-warming and I know that Ethan and his friends were touched by the dolls. Throughout our 10-week stay in Masaka they played with the dolls weekly and used them as a way to still have imaginary play, except with actual dolls this time.

Choosing to give them to my host brother Ethan and his friends allowed a few of the children living in the village of Nyendo to experience joy through the gift of these dolls. No they don’t know about Dollies Making a Difference, and I’m sure that even in a few years they’ll forget about me. However, they will remember the wonderful gift of joy and comfort provided through these dollies they can play with instead of just playing in the dirt all evening. The need for dolls for children in impoverished countries is definitely present as children at Ben Jarvis’s school – Ben was another intern on the Uganda trip this summer – sometimes walked long distances to school with no shoes and without wearing their school uniform. I could tell that these children just needed love, or even just a way to express themselves. More dollies could give these children hope, as I know it’s given hope to my little brother Ethan and his neighborhood friends.

The efforts made by your organization to extend love and compassion to children in impoverished areas by taking the time to delicately sew these dollies and teddy bears is absolutely aligned with the mission of SPEA, which is to provide students with skills to do work for the greater good of all societies. I am so happy and honored we were able to partner with you this past summer and hope that your organization can continue to partner with SPEA to further spread this love, joy and compassion to many children abroad. “