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"3 People, 3 Projects Making a Difference"
NEED - The Humanitarian Magazine
Issue 5, 2008
By Kaysie Paul

What can offer a comforting presence to a child affected by HIV/AIDS? When an article about women and children infected with the virus posed this question, Amy Berman remembered the comforting teddy bears her mother used to knit for her as a child. She asked her mother to teach her the teddy bear pattern and invited friends and family to join her in knitting bears at her home. “With every stitch I make, I know that bear is going to be held by a child,” Berman says. “It makes me feel so good to be able to do something to alleviate this feeling of ‘what can I do?’ Well, I can do this, and it is making a difference.”

Interest in her project rose when a local paper ran a story about her efforts. In response, Berman created a Web site where volunteer knitters can request the teddy bear pattern. Now she ships roughly 1,000 teddy bears each month to numerous African countries. Her small volunteer operation has become a nonprofit organization aptly titled Mother Bear Project. Volunteers have established knitting clubs across the US and in several European countries.

The bears are as individual as the caring knitters who make them. Some are clothed in simple shirts and pants, while others are adorned with detailed accessories such as scarves, hats and jackets. Their individuality makes them special, Berman says, because each child receives a bear that is just for him or her. Every bear does share one feature with the others: a tiny red heart sewn onto its chest to “show that they were made with love,” explains Berman.

Berman has received hundreds of calls and letters saying how much the bears mean to the children. One young boy in South Africa rushed into his home to save his teddy bear just before the house was washed away by a flood. Another story was told by one of Berman’s distributors about a 7-year-old girl in Zambia who had AIDS. Her classmates refused to play with her, and soon she became too sick to attend school at all. Before she died, she asked to be buried with her teddy bear because, she said, it was her only friend. Her family honored her wish.

                                            Mother Bear Project • PO Box 62188 • Minneapolis, MN 55426 • Email Contact