Spread the Hug this Teddy Bear Day!
Trace pattern on cloth. Cut. Stich, stuff and stuff, and stitch again. Stitch on the nose. Use buttons for the eyes. Close with a final stitch, and poof! A teddy bear is born.
In real life
Teddy bears are some of the most popular children’s toys around the world. Few kids and kids at heart can resist this soft, cuddly toy. But in real life, bears are lonely giants. They are non-domesticated and can sometimes be aggressive and territorial. Doesn’t sound too friendly eh? But regardless, their huggable counterpart is still a best friend to many.
The toy got its name from US President Theodore Roosevelt. It was in 1902, on a hunting trip, that the president refused to shoot a bear caught for him by his assistants. He didn’t catch a bear that day, but he caught the hearts of the people who have heard of his admirable act. News of the event was published and had latter inspired the creation of a stuffed bear. With the president’s permission, it was called Teddy’s Bear then. What follows, as they say, is history.
A handshake from the heart
In the Philippines, teddy bears have found a renewed purpose. They are no longer just ordinary cuddly companions, they are healers too. Through the HUG Project, hundreds of underprivileged children receive teddies. This helps address their psychosocial needs.
The Project’s aim is to extend help wherever it is needed by organizing events and raising funds or drives. It focuses on children’s welfare, education, and social awareness.
The HUG Project started as a personal venture of Lira Avedillo making and bringing teddy bears to various outreach activities she joins. Among these were Trails to Empower Kids and AMCi Commserve. She was also able to reach children from various parts of the country by joining private groups.
Lira also extends her support to organizations with the same advocacy. With the help of friends and volunteers, she is able to make teddy bears for them. She also shares her knowledge on making teddies to some of these organizations. Lira gathers the group often in public parks like Ayala Triangle and UP Sunken Garden. Anyone interested is welcome to support the StitchABear drive.
The Project have so far made and distributed hundreds of teddy bears, as Lira’s personal drive or with partners. Although aside from giving, receiving a smile in return is her goal too. “[..] while it is fun to stitch the bears, it is also important to remember for whom the bears will go to. Which also means that every bear should be made with love, care, and quality. This is also why sometimes I need to repair some bears ‘submitted’ to ensure that the teddies are well made. I am all for quantity, but quality is also important”, says Lira.
Comes the rainbow
The HUG Project came as a rainbow among the children survivors of typhoon Yolanda during 2013. Their first toy drive addressed the psychosocial well-being of these children. Lira finished Psychology, and as such was able to see and act on a need that was often overlooked.
“I’ve observed plenty of groups that worked on getting donations for basic needs. So my question then was what about the simple but still important needs of the kids”, she says.
In the same year, she learned how to handmade teddy bears. Driven by a passion to help and creativity, and with her family and friends on her back, she initiated the toy drive.
Indeed, the rainbow came! Even though at the end of the rainbow is not always a pot of gold, sometimes it’s better—a single stitched teddy bear, a helping hand, an unexpected help, a HUG.
A plague that is love
Since the Project started in 2013, more than 200 children received handmade teddies. Its reach has extended to different parts of the country too, inspiring children from Camarines Norte, Baguio, Fuga Island, Kalinga, Zambales, and Batanes.
200 kids besides many others, the Project was able to touch while helping private groups.
That was hundreds of kids blessed by the kindness of a stranger. Hundreds of kids whose lives might have been changed by this simple act of caring. Their young minds might not fully understand the depth of dedication enclosed in a bear. But the feeling of warmth as they hug their teddies wouldn’t be easy to forget. It can inspire them to carry the same kindness forward as they grow to compassionate adults. All thanks to an Ate Lira, who after all, might not just be another stranger to them.
The whole of the iceberg
Making these teddies has more to it than helping the kids. The volunteers making them reap some benefits to themselves too.
The Project advocates hugs through play and art therapy. Play therapy offers a refuge to kids with traumatic experiences or being isolated. With the teddy bears, they are able to socialize and transfer emotions which can be hard to express in other ways.
Meanwhile, creating something by hand can also be therapeutic. It reduces stress and allows volunteers to meet people with the same advocacies. This way, volunteers become happier while making somebody else smile.
“I enjoy making and teaching how to make the handmade bears because I see how it brings a smile to the volunteers and to the kids receiving the bears. It’s truly therapeutic.” – Lira, HUG Project
“[…] as a kid, I never had the privilege to buy my own toys, as my mom is super practical talaga. […] I got to fully appreciate what we did there and the [Bear] Hugs Project. […] I know the feeling of receiving something na you really want but couldn’t have. It’s a very simple gesture of kindness but these gestures remain with these kids. As they grow up na din, they’d be more sharing to others kasi they felt what it was like na sila yung nabigyan. I should know because I was once like them din. And whatever it is na marating ko in this lifetime, or whoever it is that I aspire to become, I see it as paying forwards to the kind gestures that I got as a kid.” – Jayn
“Volunteering with Project HUGS is really a nice experience. Not only did I learn [how] to make a bear, I got an opportunity to share one. I hope our Mangyan Kids will feel our love through the teddy bears that we made.” – Jas, iVolunteer
“It is indeed an opportunity to share and privilege to gain new skills and meet individuals with same passion. To be a part of such activity […] was a life changing experience. Enjoying spending my spare time wisely by participating in making bearhugs for less fortunate Mangyan children was such an achievement and fulfillment for me […]. Im glad to have known Shanen, Ly Ann, and Lira. Through them I was able to help, share and contribute to their goals. These young ladies has a big heart for kids.” – Mechelle
“Ang natutunan ko is that you don’t really have to be so artistic or creative or talented to do things like that. Just believe in your sincerity towards the goal and hope that whatever you have created it will somehow touch someones heart.” – April
“It was a pleasure for us, volunteers of Edicute Inc. and Rotaract Club of Manila Metro, (for you) to accept our invitation to HUG Project. It’s my 2nd time to make a handmade teddybear but the feeling when you finished your cute teddy bear was the same. It’s like ‘worth it na paghihirap kong tahiin ang mga teddybear na ito dahil deserve ng isang bata magkaroon nito.’ […]” – Ly Ann, iVolunteer
“It is always a rewarding experience for me to join group of people with the same passion to help. I’m more than happy that I was able to learn how to make DIY teddy bear and at the same time, my heart was inspired to do it because I know that it will be distributed to our Mangyan kids on Edicute Ang Pasko outreach this coming November 25 and 26, 2017. Looking forward to finally turn-over the teddy bears to the kids!” – Joyce, iVolunteer
Here and Now: Edicute ang Pasko 2017
Edicute, Inc and Rotaract Club of Manila Metro teamed with the HUG project to make 300 more kids happier. This is part of their drive for this year’s Edicute ang Pasko. The teddy bears will be distributed to the Mangyan Kids in Mindoro on November 25 to 26.
You can help bring smile to a child this Christmas by making handmade teddy bears for the kids. One day you devote to making a bear can change a child’s life. Like and keep posted on the following Facebook pages for updates and details:
Be a healer
The world needs more healers. Filipinos have been wounded, time and again. We were stricken by poverty, natural calamities, socio-political issues, and more. Dark times do come, and when it does, stars can shine brighter. Where there are people in need, there is a chance to be a healer. It is right within our reach, all we need to do is extend our reach a little higher and let our HUGs be felt.
Trace pattern on cloth. Cut. Stich, stuff and stuff, and stitch again. Stitch on the nose. Use buttons for the eyes. Close with a final stitch, and seal with love.
Let’s celebrate Teddy Bear Day and make someone smile today!
Gie Maningas, iVolunteer Philippines