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Early Days of the Zambezi Doll Coop

I am up early swimming at the Back Packer’s pool around the corner and using their wifi because nothing doing at Mama B. Again the ladies made too many dolls in hopes of a yearsworth of pay, I guess, so we are again working on many details, but we ‘ll work this week on the old dolls and whatever gets done, good. Next week we start a doll from scratch, one for each woman, and try to list on paper all the criteria and best practices, as they say.

This is being posted after the fact because wifi was non existant during my stay. What actually happened was that we had to work on the half-finished dolls almost the whole two weeks because I was adamant that they be up to my high standards, i.e. symmetrical bodies and faces, completely hemmed and fitted clothing, attractive and well-sewn hair and accessories to heighten their desirability. This work has in the past been done after I received the dolls in the States by groups of craft handy friends. We called them Doll Parties, and they were fun, BUT, I have to try to teach the God Given Gift Club ladies these western standards so that the dolls will sell well in our markets at the higher prices we must ask in order to pay the doll makers well: $25 a large doll and $15 for a small doll.

They made 42 large dolls and 62 small that we managed to mostly finish by working long and hard. They never complained at my continual requests for improvement: we resewed many eyebrows that were too large and heavy and gave the dolls a threatening expression. We refitted clothing that was too large and enlarged clothing that was too small and could not be removed. We removed arms that were sewn at right angles instead of 45 degrees and loosened legs where they joined with the body so that the dolls would sit. Sometimes the days were long and hot, especially when the power was off and no fans could cool us. But at the end of two weeks the ladies earned $2100 which they will share according the hours of work each put in. This is a very substantial amount that will sustain them for months.

Sr. Bridget and I spent Wednesday afternoon going to some very upscale hotels near Victoria Falls and found some interest at one of them. Sr. Bridget will take the dools and meet with one of the shop owners. This would be a step in finding local support and very encouraging if it happens.

An interesting dilemma is the need to work as a group and the desire of each woman make her own complete doll. So far, this is not possible because of varying skill levels, especially in facial embroidering and clothes tailoring. At this point, they must still work as a cooperative which impresses me more that individual expertise. In any case, they continue to be a very supportive group who look out for one another, and heaven knows, that’s hard to find.

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