Campaign calls for action on child poverty

A women’s group handed out faceless rag dolls to city council members this week as a symbolic reminder they should take action on child poverty locally.

“These dolls are a vital component of our project to raise awareness of the more than one million kids in the country,” said Angela Schwarz, president of the Toronto Conference United Church Women (UCW). “Stephen Harper, Justin Trudeau and Thomas Mulcair already have dolls and now we’re going to local municipalities and getting the word out.”

The dolls are made from mismatched pieces of cloth, explained Sharon Hepditch, leader of the United Church Women at St. Paul’s in Orillia.

They are not dressed up, she said, because some children aren’t able to dress up for school. They don’t have clothes that are colour co-ordinated, because poverty doesn’t think about colour or style; impoverished kids wear what they have.

Each doll came with a note attached to its arm, asking the reader to take steps to put a smile on its face.

“We feel politicians have got the power to make change, to vote in something that can make change,” said Hepditch. “We would like to see them put more emphasis on children and poverty in whatever way they can.”

Affordable housing, healthy meals for kids, affordable child care and a living wage for their families are some of the ways governments can help, she said.

“There’s always money from grants to build new affordable homes,” Hepditch said. “(For example) Habitat for Humanity has property from the city, which is an awesome move, and we want more of that.”

After receiving the doll, Coun. Ralph Cipolla asked if the dolls were being sold to raise money. Schwarz noted the group is not raising money; it’s just raising awareness.

To Cipolla, the doll brought back fond memories from his daughters’ childhood.

“My girls carried a doll with them everywhere and gave them a name,” he said. “And this makes it important, because it affects children. It’s got to be a No. 1 priority, because the last thing anyone wants to see is a child go hungry.”