News

Norwich children support doll-making effort to send a message to politicians about child poverty in Canada

By John Tapley, Ingersoll Times

Volunteer Terri Hibbs, Linda Woods, co-chair of the Bread Not Stones project with the London Conference of the United Church of Canada, and volunteer Brooke-Lynn Simpson, 10, work on a rag doll assembly line at Norwich United Church on Tuesday, Aug. 15. Bread Not Stones advocates for an end to child poverty in Canada by presenting “dolls of hope” to politicians who create policy and direct funding.

Volunteer Terri Hibbs, Linda Woods, co-chair of the Bread Not Stones project with the London Conference of the United Church of Canada, and volunteer Brooke-Lynn Simpson, 10, work on a rag doll assembly line at Norwich United Church on Tuesday, Aug. 15. Bread Not Stones advocates for an end to child poverty in Canada by presenting “dolls of hope” to politicians who create policy and direct funding.

NORWICH - 

A group of children made rag dolls at Norwich United Church on Tuesday to help send a message about the plight of Canadian children living in poverty.

The effort was in support of the United Church of Canada's Bread Not Stones initiative to advocate for an end to child poverty in Canada by presenting “dolls of hope” to politicians who create policy and direct funding.

“It's not a fundraiser,” said Linda Woods, co-chair of the Bread Not Stones project for the London Conference of the United Church of Canada. “Our mission, our job, in the project is to advocate with politicians at all levels.”

Woods, who was helping run the doll assembly line in Norwich on Aug. 15, said more than 1.3 million children are living in poverty in Canada, which works out to about one in five or 18.5 per cent of children. That figure includes more than 50 per cent of First Nations children living on reserves, she said.

The United Church of Canada launched Bread Not Stones in 2014, picking up the idea to use dolls of hope as a symbol from a similar initiative started by three women in Calgary in 2006.

“Each one represents a child in poverty living in our country,” Woods said, explaining that every doll is given a name. “Each one will have a certificate attached. The certificates state what children and families need most.”

The certificates ask for five things – affordable housing, nutritious meals each day, affordable child care, a living wage and a national strategy.

Made from mainly donated materials, the simple dolls are given to people of influence and politicians at all levels of government.

“The politicians control the billions that are needed (to end child poverty),” said Woods.

She said support for Bread Not Stones is continually growing with men and women and children making dolls.

Woods, who co-chairs Bread Not Stones in the London Conference with Laurel Kenney, said she is particularly encouraged when children get involved.

“You've got children helping children, you don't get any better than that.”

In 2016, Bread Not Stones managed to have a doll presented to all 107 MPPs at Queen's Park in Toronto – a rare concession as anything that could be used as a prop is not normally permitted inside the house. It only happened after every MPP agreed to allow the dolls in.

“We were in the gallery when we saw the pages deliver the dolls to every MPP's desk,” said Woods.

The organization is hoping the same thing will happen when it takes it message and 338 dolls – one for every MP – to Ottawa on Nov. 21. Among them will be the dolls made in Norwich and others made in Tillsonburg and Alberta and Nova Scotia.

“We want to have a doll at every MP's desk,” said Woods. “Normally that's an absolute no, no. It's forbidden.”

She said the dolls given out so far have had an impact.

“The reaction has been great,” said Woods. “The dolls speak a whole lot louder than we do. I'm still amazed at how powerful they are.”

More information about Bread Not Stones is available on the internet at www.endchildpoverty.ca