Arts & Entertainment

Venezuelan hospital gives new life to old stuffed animals

By Genesis Carrero Soto

Caracas, Dec 20 (EFE).- In the midst of a dire economic crisis and woes resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, a hospital in Venezuela found a way to draw a smile on the faces of children and help inspire hope for families through breathing life into donated dolls and stuffed animals.

Since kicking off its services in 2017, the hospital recycled and repaired more than 25,000 soft toys before giving them to low-income children across the country.

It is not only about donating toys but rather about teaching the values of giving back and recycling.

“I am your new friend. I am a stuffed animal with experience because I played with other children. Love me and take care of me and I will do the same with you. When you grow up, give me to another child who will love me and play with me like you,” the message each child who receives a toy from the Stuffed Animal Hospital reads.

The idea came to Lilian Gluck, a teacher and the founder of the hospital, when she was tidying up her house and decided to donate her children’s stuffed animals.

In the first year, the hospital received 400 dolls that were cleaned and returned to a good condition before they were donated. Now there are 40 volunteers who work between February and December each year to restore toys to give them to children during festivities and Christmas.

“It is a recovered stuffed animal that brings the energy of another child and completes the cycle by cleaning it and giving it to a new child. That is the value of recycling; that is maybe not useful for you, but for another, it can be very valuable,” Gluck tells Efe.

With that idea in mind, this woman turned her house into a hospital and the donation of toys into the reason that keeps her attached to Venezuela.

Boxes full of soft toys placed at the entrance of Lilian’s house are ready to be delivered to one of the 72 foundations in Venezuela’s 16 states, with which the hospital has partnerships.

They receive donations from all over the country. Once they arrive at the house, they go to the waiting room at the entrance and head from there to the surgery room in the courtyard of the house.

The volunteers, almost all of them are women, start operating on toys by washing, cleaning, combing, sewing, putting eyes and noses, dress and even perfuming the dolls. They then put the finishing touches and pack them for delivery.

Sometimes they receive help from other foundations that have washing machines and storage spaces, but all operations take place at the Stuffed Animal hospital.

“We are creating a mentality of solidarity, of companionship, of sharing, which is so much needed in children,” Evelyn Vaisreg, one of the volunteers, explains to Efe.

“Here we have a pleasant time. We are all happy. Remember that it is a voluntary job; here everyone comes because they like it because I believe that there is motherly love at the heart of it,” says Vaisreg.EFE


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