In 2004 Dr Julie Stone spent a three month sabbatical in the Hlabisa District of KwaZulu Natal. As an infant, child and family psychiatrist Julie was moved by the plight of children in KZN whose lives were so severely impacted by the HIV/AIDS pandemic sweeping South Africa.
Play was not seen as a priority in the busy difficult lives of carers and ther were few resources to encourage and stimulate the social and emotional development of the children. On return to Perth, Julie set about recruiting friends to provide simple, brown skinned dolls to send for carers of children in KZN to engage in meaningful communication through play.
Uthando Project was born and the continuing quest for dolls was coordinated by Gooseberry Hill artist, Georgia Efford. Georgia’s home became the headquarters for many years, and every Friday was a hive of activity where dolls were made as well as being received from many points of Australia.
In October 2006, following attendance by Julie and Georgia at a CINDI Conference in Pietermaritzburg, partnerships were established with TREE (Training and Resources in Early Education), who operate from Durban, with centres throughout KZN: the Rob Smetherin Bereavement Services for Children (now dlalanathi) in Pietermaritzburg, who worked with training in grief therapy; and the Sizabantwana group of schools, linked with the Psychology Department of the University of KwasZulu Natal. Additional partnerships have developed over the years, with Family Literacy Project and Lifeline becoming recipients of Uthando dolls to use in their work with vunerable children.
Further information on growth and development of the Uthando Project may be found in our Newsletters and in the book “100 DOLLS, COUNTLESS HEARTS”. This 200 page book is a major resource contributing background, individual and group dollmaker’s stories, the context of each of our partner agencies in KwaZulu Natal and their use of Uthando dolls. It is designed to appeal to all ages and cultures. It engages our humanity and is highly practical too. It is rich in photographs and patterns. You can buy this book in our Shop.