Do you remember your favourite toy? Maybe it was a fluffy teddy bear, a Barbie doll or a set of LEGO. Regardless of its form, these toys all had the same function: they brought you happiness. For an hour or two, the world around you dissolved into the background as you created a new fantasy, living in your imagination.

For many, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated an already dire situation. Those without jobs, homes and food are deeply in need of assistance and a kind soul.

This is where the Milnerton Community Action Network (CAN) comes in. This movement is a rapid social response to COVID-19, aligned with various NPOs and feeding schemes within the area. Member Janine McEvoy explains that Milnerton CAN is about bringing the community together to help more vulnerable and less fortunate communities. They run a host of worthy initiatives, and their latest one is super sweet.

‘The Ubuntu Doll Initiative – Spreading Hope and Joy” encourages knitters in the area and beyond to come together to create adorable knitted dolls wearing face masks to donate to underprivileged children.

The idea was inspired by Jean Flynn, a member of Milnerton CAN who has been making the dolls for ages. Jean discovered a pattern at least 45 years ago in a magazine. She used the pattern to knit adorable dolls for family and friends over the years, and also donates them to charities like Home of Hope, Red Cross Children’s Hospital and to the babies suffering from Aids in Nazareth House.

While taking part in Milnerton CAN’s weekly sandwich drive, Jean offered this pattern up to become part of the initiative.

“It is through our Sandwich drive that Jean Flynn was initially inspired by her granddaughter, Julia Fiander who has been doing the sandwich drive for quite a while. Jean started going along with Julia which got her thinking that maybe she could make these dolls to go along with the much needed sandwiches,” Milnerton CAN member Janine McEvoy tells Cape Town ETC. “On further thought, Jean adapted the dolls to wear a mask to possibly help normalise the present situation for the children and also to encourage them to wear a mask.”

Working alongside PR Ward 4 Councillor Ursula Barends, they were able to successfully distribute food parcels and other essentials, including these dolls to children and people in need in the Joe Slovo and Phoenix communities.

These dolls are so much more than toys. When Councillor Barends handed a doll over to one little girl, she handed it straight back, thinking it’s not for her. Barends handed the doll over again, telling the little girl it’s hers to keep and her eyes widened. Clutching the doll close to her chest, she sped off as if fearful she would have to give her precious doll back. It may seem a small thing, but having a toy of your own can mean so much to a little child.


“The dolls bring hope and joy but also awareness of the importance of wearing a mask and this is a very important message to convey,” says McEvoy.

The Ubuntu Doll initiative further allows people to help out in different ways beyond donating and creates purpose within the community.

This is just one amazing project by Milnerton CAN. Every Saturday they host a Sandwich Drive initiative, fondly labelled #SandwichSaturday at The Paddocks Shopping Centre in collaboration with the Milnerton Ridge Neighbourhood Watch. Pre-made sandwiches are dropped off by members of the community, together with fresh fruit, pet food and any other contributions such as pre-loved clothing, knitted blankets and Meal-In-One meals (another initiative they run).

In order to sustain the success of the Ubuntu Doll project, Milnerton CAN requires the following assistance:

– Sponsorship or contributions of wool, foam cuttings and knitting + sewing needles

– Volunteers who wish to knit these dolls for them to distribute (the pattern will be supplied)

– Monetary donations to purchase the items mentioned above and/or towards food relief and winter care packs

“It is essential that we get more involved to help others and to show that together we can make a real difference. One step at a time, ” says McEvoy. “The damage to our economy and the effects caused by this crisis is going to have a negative impact for years to come and we need to take our blinkers off and stand united to make a real impact for change #togetherwecan.”

If you would like to support this cause, please contact Milnerton CAN on [email protected] or follow them on social media (FB and Instagram) to keep updated on the latest developments.

Picture/s: supplied by Janine McEvoy

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