Toys, Izzy dolls replace empty bottles

by Capt Alex Munoz, Maple Leaf, 10 Mar 2010

JACMEL, Haiti — When they’re not conducting air operations in support of the humanitarian aid effort, CF personnel deployed at Jacmel Airport find ways way to bring local children a little reassurance.

Corporal Gregory Evans was on patrol in town when he noticed many children had found “toys” to play with – they were having fun with empty bottles that they rolled on the ground. Touched by the simplicity of the game, he began making toys from off-cuts of wood he picked up around his workshop.

One by one, other members of the task force started helping out. In very little time, they built trucks, cars, helicopters, airplanes and many other toys. In all, some 50 wooden toys were completed.

At the same time, the engineers received a shipment of Izzy dolls, little toys originally knitted by the mother of a CF engineer who lost his life in Croatia. As with the wooden toy project, the Izzy doll project attracted many helpers and is now a major effort, turning out thousands of dolls. Distribution of Izzy dolls has become a tradition for the military engineers, who hand them out to children to put smiles on their faces.

For Cpl Evans, it’s quite an accomplishment. “It really touched me to see kids playing with empty bottles tied to a string,” he said. “The toys kids play with here are nothing like toys in Canada. You have to see the smiles on their faces when they get a new toy, however simple it may be.”

Through these two projects, and with the help of the non-governmental organizations working in the area, more than 250 toys were distributed to the children of La Cité, an isolated village west of Jacmel.

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