Refugee children in Winnipeg receive special dolls to remind them of home
CTVNews.ca Staff with a report from CTV Winnipeg’s Beth Macdonell
Published Tuesday, December 11, 2018 10:00PM EST
A U.S.-based non-profit called "Don't Cry... I'm Here" sent special toys to newcomer families in Winnipeg to help them adjust to their new life.
Five kids in a family from Congo were the first recipients of the group’s new project to send packages of gifts to remind refugee and asylum-seeking children of home. The dolls and teddy bears they were given were dressed in the style of the kids' homeland.
The Minnesota-based organization sent toys from the regions with the highest number of refugees such as Iraq, Syria, Ethiopia and Eritrea.
The gifts were sent in partnership with Welcome Place, a branch of the non-profit Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council, which helps settle refugees in the province.
They were a warm welcome for the family who only arrived in Winnipeg a few weeks ago with few of their possessions from Congo. At the gift-giving event on Monday, one of the children, seven-year-old Isimbi Kevine, was tightly clutching one of the dolls that looked like her.
"She's happy now because she has a doll to play with, but without the toy, she was feeling lonely," said a translator sharing Isimbi’s thoughts.
Besides dolls with five different culturally-sensitive outfits made by volunteers, each of the children also received a basket of toys, tote bags and teddy bears — all of which were donated by people in the U.S.
One of the children receiving a basket was Rukundo Amos, 16, who loves soccer but said life in a refugee camp was hard.
"He[wasn’t] sure he would get money to buy the soccer ball and he's grateful to Welcome Place for this gift,” he said, through a translator.
The gifts his family received were months in the making.
The “Don't Cry... I'm Here” initiative was started by Gail Harvey, who isn't a refugee herself, but was sent away from her Minnesota home because of a family crisis when she was nine.
She had to live with other relatives but remembered how out of place she felt.
"It was a really difficult situation. To have had something that would have reminded me of home, would have been so huge," she told CTV Winnipeg.
Harvey said she looked to Canada to find new families who can benefit from the program because the number of newcomers has decreased in the U.S. This is due to the Trump administration slashing the number of refugees accepted for resettlement, she said.
Earlier this year, she got in touch with Manitoba’s Welcome Place with an offer of 40 dolls and teddy bears.
The executive director of the non-profit, Rita Chahal, was thrilled when she saw the gifts for the first time in Fargo, N.D. last month.
“We were just amazed. We had seen photographs of them on the website, but we had no idea until we first saw them,” she told CTV Winnipeg.