The dolls look like the medley of kids who will cuddle them.

They have white skin. Dark and light brown skin. Black, blonde and brown hair. Even orange and bright pink.

They were created by a group of women who have come from places around the world and who now call Niagara their home.

The 20 dolls were donated to Family and Children’s Services Niagara and will be given to children over the holidays and beyond, says Ann Godfrey, FACS director of development and public relations.

A doll might be offered to comfort a young child who has recently come into care, or a family who needs some extra help over Christmas.

“We love that the dolls are reflective of our community,” says Godfrey. “It’s good for kids to see themselves in the dolls.”

When the group of women meets every Thursday in a room at the Niagara Folk Arts Multicultural Centre, it’s a chorus of languages. Spanish. Arabic. Urdu. Tagalog, a dialect in the Phillipines. Cantonese. Shona, spoken in Zimbabwe. And many more.

The women are part of a New Horizons program for newcomer women 50 years and older.

“The biggest struggle is the isolation,” says co-ordinator Irene Altimira, a retired social worker who came to Canada from Argentina some 26 years ago.

Many of the women left their families and friends in their home countries and because of their age, and English-language challenges, have trouble finding work, she says.

They connect in the program and are given opportunities to share skills and give back to the community.

They have knitted scarves for Positive Living Niagara and crafted crib blankets for Strive Niagara, an organization that helps young families achieve an education by providing child care and other support.

It was their collective idea to sew dolls that reflected a diverse population.

Some of the women also participate in a cooking program through which they cook and eat together, and then donate food to YWCA of Niagara, which helps homeless women and their families. They also chop vegetables for Start Me Up Niagara.

It gives the women purpose and fosters self-confidence and pride of accomplishment, says Altimira.

And because the only common language is English, it’s also an informal way to practice speaking and learning new words, she says.

Sometimes younger friends and family members join the group, which allows the women to share their experiences and talk about their lives with generations.

For information on the centre visit

905-225-1626 | @Standard_Cheryl

Source: Niagara Falls Review