November 23, 2017 8:56 pm
Updated: November 23, 2017 9:22 pm

Montrealers knit Izzy Dolls for impoverished children in developing nations

WATCH: Montrealers with a love of knitting are getting together to create Izzy Dolls to give to impoverished children who are struggling overseas. Global's Phil Carpenter reports.


If you don’t have much experience knitting dolls, getting the details just right is a bit harder than you think.

Orley Pinchuk who has been knitting scarves and blankets for 30 years, found out exactly that when she tried to make one recently.

“The eyes like one of them was crossed and the other one kinda looked a little weird and they were kinda lopsided,” she laughs.

“I brought it home and my son picked it up and started crying!”

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But setbacks like this haven’t discouraged her from hanging out with her friend Robyn Grauer in their knitting group.

Grauer recruited a bunch of friends and clients at Lainages Du Petit Mouton, her wool store in Pointe Claire Plaza, to knit the small dolls.

The tradition was started in the 1990s by a Canadian military peacekeeper while on duty.

“Master Cpl. Mark Isfeld was serving overseas with the Canadian military and he saw that there were children who didn’t have anything,” Grauer explains.

So the member of the 1st Combat Engineer Regiment asked his mother to knit dolls for the kids.

But while on a mine-clearing operation in Croatia in 1994, he was killed. The Izzy dolls, as they are called, were named after him.

Health Partners International of Canada (HPIC), an NGO that delivers health care support in developing countries, is responsible for delivering the dolls.

“Haiti, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Ghana, are some that come to mind,” says Christina Parsons, director of communications at HPIC. “In the developing world and in impoverished communities, kids, they play with everything, they play with sticks, they play with stones and they are so grateful to receive something like that.”

Their volunteers deliver the dolls that they get from knitters all across Canada, and according to Grauer, “HPIC tries to collect like 12,000 of them every year.”

So far, Grauer and her group have made 168 dolls. They plan to deliver them to HPIC in January and continue to make more.

Heather McClure, one of the knitters, thinks it’s a worthy cause. “They’re fun to do and it’s a great way to use up scrap yarn.”

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