There is Hope

Filed Under (Stories) by maripipi on 16-01-2010

Da Luz Culibra and Naida
Members of MPM working dolls.
MPM members working dolls
Naida sewing dolls dress

I usually work the night shift as a pediatric nurse. As a widowed mother of four, I took my responsibilities seriously after the death of my husband in an accident. The only way to survive was to work nights. I made a lot of sacrifices but it worked well for me.

One night as I was making my rounds after midnight I heard one of the patients crying. She said her mother forgot to bring her dolly and she couldn’t sleep without her. I went to the playroom, found a teddy bear and give it to her. “I don’t like that. I want my dolly’’ She said crying. Her mother lived three hours away, in Poughkeepsie, New York and in the middle of the night I was not about to disturb her for the doll. So I promised the little girl that if she kept quiet and slept through the night I would make her a doll just like her dolly. “How big is your dolly”I ask. “About this big”. Stretching both hands sideways. I figured the doll must be about 20 inches long.

I quilt to keep me awake at work at night. I had supplies of scraps of fabric in my locker. I decided to make a doll for my patient but my problem is that I never made a doll before. How would I start? I looked at pictures in the magazines to have an idea. Later, I took a piece of paper cut out the head, the arm and the body and the legs and that was my pattern.

I drew the face, made a hole into the eyes, nose and mouth and traced it with a pencil into the cloth and stitched it. When I got home I sewed my doll. I was surprised that I was able to make a doll. I wrapped the doll before I went to sleep. The girl was already in the nurse station when I arrived at the hospital. I gave her the doll wrapped in a package. She opened the packaged, found the doll, hugged and thanked me and ran to her room. That was in 1989 Seeing the joy of the child having her doll and seeing the child hugging her doll as she sleep inspired me to make more dolls.

I made Pilgrims, Pocahontas and Captain John Smith dolls and placed them in the nurse station. Soon there were elves, fairies and superheroes hanging up the ceiling. One day an African American boy was visiting his sick brother in the hospital. “Mom look at that black Batman, can we buy him for my brother”? He asked his mom. “Of course yes”, said the mother. From that day on my doll making was known all over the hospital. My doll making success also ended my quilting activities. Co-workers, patients, visitors, doctors, they all wanted to buy my dolls. Some of my co-workers brought pictures of their child and ask me to make a replica of their child.

When I retired in 1996, I thought that that was the end of my doll making activities. I thought of going on tour to many places, cruise across the seas and just have fun. A few months after I retired, I moved to Denver, Colorado where all my children were living. I hardly saw my children, They were single so after work they went out to have fun. By the time they came home I was sound asleep. Outside of my children, I did not know anybody in Denver. I was alone most of the time and I was lonely. After 5 months in Denver I thought of taking a vacation to the place of my birth in the Philippines called Maripipi Island. I told my children I would be away for three months. In Maripipi, people that I know who had comfortable lives when I left, were now among the poorest. They lost their jobs when plastic and aluminum replaced the pottery industry of the island.

One night I thought about the doll. Why not teach these people how to make dolls? They can share the profit and improve their lives. It was difficult in the beginning because I had to teach them from the bottom. A strong foundation was necessary. We met every Saturdays for two hours. The first hour I allowed them to talk about themselves. The second hour I used it to teach them values, virtues and the principles of natural laws.

Because of poverty, these laws are violated, and it affects their environment and their lives. I invited experts who could discuss the subject with authority. When I felt that they were ready to be trained to make the dolls. I introduced them to the cloth doll making process. After ten years we finally have the dolls in the market. We have ethnic dolls and other dolls representing the nations of the world. The dolls are handmade of cloth by members of Maripipi Crafters Association, a non-profit organization in the Philippines. The members are all women. Each doll sold will help feed a family. The members are determined to improve their lives. Their goal is to be financially independent, to survive and prosper in the midst of government neglect. I thank the United States of America for the idea of giving, sharing, reaching out and to bending backward to the less fortunate. And for me at 75 I am still capable of a productive life. As the saying goes “Only in America.” Without my adoptive country, the dependable and reliable old USA, my doll project would have been impossible to achieve.

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