Manipur: Dolls crafted by displaced persons draw global attention

Imphal: An online pre-sale campaign for stuffed toys and dolls, stitched by internally displaced women sheltered in relief camps amid ethnic strife in Manipur, has exceeded expectations. It has evolved into a global movement for empowerment, storytelling, and mental health healing.

Initiated by ‘1 Million Heroes,’ an international brand based in Singapore, ‘Stitching Hope’ equips displaced persons with skills in the Japanese craft art of amigurumi. Detailed templates, tools, and materials were provided to create dolls that tell stories of resilience—a viable means to a sustainable livelihood for individuals affected by the ethnic violence that has, so far, claimed close to 200 lives and displaced over 60,000 people internally.

The online pre-sale Kickstarter campaign ran from October 7 to November 5, garnering $11,000 worth of pre-sale orders from around the globe, with North America topping the list, followed closely by Australia, Europe, and Asia.

The Kickstarter campaign’s success, doubling its initial goal, is attributed to a blend of compassion and the therapeutic aspect of crafting dolls, according to Monish Karam, the visionary behind ‘1 Million Heroes.’

“The success of the campaign is not just about numbers; it’s about human connection. It’s about children around the world learning from stories of resilience, and it’s about our artisans finding healing and purpose through their craft,” Karam said.

As the campaign transitions to the production phase, resilient women artisans are not merely crafting dolls; they are shaping a narrative of hope and reclaiming control over their lives. The promise of delivering dolls with augmented reality before December’s end ensures that these tangible symbols of shared stories and collective empowerment reach homes globally.

The augmented reality experience breathes life into the dolls, turning each into a storyteller sharing tales of Manipur’s courage and indomitable spirit. This technological innovation becomes a bridge connecting disparate worlds, sharing the story of Manipur with children globally.

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‘Stitching Hope’ transcends economic stability; it becomes a therapeutic journey for the inmates. Khundrakpam Athoi Leima, a mother of two from Serou, shares how doll-making not only promises financial empowerment but also aids in overcoming the trauma of violence, offering a healing process. “While the economic aspect of stitching these dolls is what got me interested in joining, I realised it also helped me ease my mind a lot as the crafting process took me out of the bad memories of violence. It is also healing me, I would say,” Leima added.

As these dolls embark on their global journeys, they carry not only stories and craftsmanship but also the transformative power of hope. The ‘Stitching Hope’ campaign by ‘1 Million Heroes’ stands as a testament to the profound healing force found in art and shared narratives, connecting hearts globally through the threads of resilience and creativity.

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