DHARAMSHALA: Based in Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, this initiative called ‘Dolls4tibet’ is a socially aware doll making workshop that aims to support Tibetan refugee women in India economically and emotionally by manufacturing Tibetan dolls that remind each one of them and their children about their ethnic roots. Dolls4tibet was founded by a German woman Mona Bruchmann, who has been living in the Tibetan refugee community in Dharamshala for 13 years with her Tibetan artist husband, Karma Siochen, and their two daughters. Also Watch & Read: Local To International, Foods From Chhattisgarh You Didn’t Know About
According to Mona, the idea to start the workshop came up when they were looking for a doll for their first child that supported her Tibetan identity. The market offered no such choices and so she decided to make one herself. Mona and Karma then employed their first Tibetan trainee doll maker in the spring of 2007, after learning the art of doll making.
Dressed in typically traditional attires, these dolls speak volumes about Tibetan culture and are sought after today by many Tibetan families to support their own identity. Mona’s primary reason to begin the workshop was to create a unique work environment, specifically supportive of women who might not fit into the mainstream job market. These unskilled workers are trained from scratch. While she initially had dolls for Tibetan children in mind, the workshop now manufactures dolls good enough for any child, to create an awareness about different sets of people, as she believes that social integration is a vital part of refugee life.
Through this project, Mona hopes to reach out to a wider global community and create awareness about the situation in Tibet and also about those in exile. Some of the refugee women who have just arrived can hardly speak English or Hindi. They lack formal education or training and have been long unemployed. Dolls4tibet offers them solace and a way of life out of such bondages.
The finished and distinct Tibetan product, while offering them an emotional connection with their homeland, also gives them financial independence. In fact, the happy smiles on the faces of these women say it all.
Dolls manufactured at the workshop are sent in bulk to different countries. On the social front, the workshop distributes dolls to school children and also collects funds towards the Tibetan cause. Amongst the variety of dolls produced are traditional Tibetan Bopa dolls, Himalayan angels, Steiner-inspired friendship dolls, Tibetan nomadic dolls and Indian dolls to name a few.
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