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How to Bring Joy to African Orphans: Knit Comfort Dolls

HIV and AIDS continues to ravage Africa and orphan many of her children. Knit comfort dolls can bring joy and hope to these children

Do you remember how you were first struck by inspiration to knit for charity?

For Donna Mair and her friend, “M,” inspiration struck through their shared love of the band U2 and frontman Bono’s work with the One Campaign and Global Fund.

Both ladies knew they, too, wanted to do something to help people in Africa. But they lived in Canada. And they were just two ordinary women. What could they do?

The Birth of Comfort Dolls Project

Their idea flowed naturally from their love of music and Donna’s current charity knitting project: knitting comfort dolls for ICross Canada.

“Our idea,” Donna writes on the Comfort Dolls Project website, “was to contact actors and have them pose for a photo holding a comfort doll, then auction the photos to their fan club members and send proceeds to World Vision and ICross Canada.”

Their idea evolved from having actors pose for photos to having musicians do the honors. And the Comfort Dolls Project was off and running!

From Comfort Dolls for Guitar-String Bracelets

Here’s how the charity works. A comfort doll is a small doll that has been hand-knit and is used for packaging material when sending HIV medication to medical centers in Africa. When the medication has been unpacked, the dolls are then given to children in the area, many who are patients or orphans.

The Comfort Doll Project then went one step further. Donna, the administrator of the project, contacted musicians. She asked them to hold a doll for a photo, autograph an index card, and donate some “band swag.” She then auctioned these items off on eBay and donated the proceeds to a charity supporting Africa.

Comfort Doll Project Bracelets - Comfort Doll Project
Guitar String Bracelets
Photo: Comfort Doll Project

She moved to a new way of fundraising involving musicians when she moved from Vancouver, where it was far easier to put together photo shoots with musicians. In her new tiny town of Vernon, such photo shoots were all but impossible.

Donna asked musicians to donate their old guitar strings (which would otherwise have been thrown away) to her. She uses the old strings to create fabulous bracelets, which she then sells and donates the proceeds from the sales.

For more opportunities to make a difference around the world, check out this post on international knitting charities!

How You Can Help

You can help the Comfort Doll Project by — you guessed it — knitting comfort dolls!

Comfort Dolls - Comfort Doll Project
Photo: Comfort Doll Project

This project is suited for beginning knitters and advanced knitters alike. Donna estimates it takes a beginning knitter four to six hours to knit one of these dolls. For the very easy comfort doll knitting pattern, as well as instructions on where to send them, visit this page.

Another way you can help: purchase guitar string bracelets and other jewelry! They make great gifts. You can purchase their jewelry designs on their website.

Do you know of another organization that collects and distributes Comfort Dolls to third world countries? Donna is always looking for more, and she’s hoping to put together a database of similar organizations. Visit her Contact page to drop her a line.

For more information on this wonderful charity, you can check out the Comfort Dolls Project website. You can also visit their Facebook Page.

The children who receive comfort dolls are often either HIV-infected or orphaned by the ravages of the AIDS epidemic. This is a lovely opportunity to offer them meaningful gifts that will help bring joy into their lives.

Comfort Doll Project -- knitted comfort dolls

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  1. Hi!
    I am not too tech savvy but I love to knit for charity….I have a team going to Kenya next year and am looking to knit toys for an orphanage…I tried to download some patterns from pinterest but unfortunately, have not been successful. Do you have any you could email me? My email is above.
    naturally they must be small and light to transport via plane…and bright to be attractive.
    can you assist? Thanks!!

    1. There’s one particular designer on Ravelry who creates so many beautiful toy designs that I think would be perfect for your purpose. Here’s her page: https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/sources/esther-braithwaites-ravelry-store/patterns If you’re not a Ravelry member, I assure you it’s extremely easy to sign up (it takes maybe 5 minutes at the most). Then you’ll have access to the patterns and can download them easily. I’ll email this comment to you as well to make sure you see it. I hope your Kenyan mission is successful, I think it’s wonderful what you and your team are doing!