Persona Doll Project

Persona Doll News

Great beginnings in work with Persona Dolls

Teaching with Persona Doll
Teaching with Persona Doll

Help to break the silence that is AIDS

We are raising money to pay for the training of teachers in the use of Persona Dolls.

Persona Dolls are large, soft bodied dolls used to help young children to talk about difficult issues.

The Early Years Practitioner develops a character profile – the ‘persona’ of the doll – and by introducing the doll to groups of children, encourages them to develop empathy for the doll and open up about issues which affect their lives. This method has been shown to be highly effective in practice here in Britain and in South Africa.

In 2005 and 2011 Jane took her Persona Doll, Lindiwe, with her and Jane and Lindiwe visited many of the pre-schools in the Centocow area.

Using Persona Dolls in South Africa

In South Africa the dolls are used to help children to come to terms with fears, anxieties and loss in communities where HIV/ Aids is still subject to the kind of stigma which silences them into helplessness.

Approximately one in five young children has been orphaned by the virus. The highest incidence of HIV transmission is amongst young people, teenage girls being the most vulnerable.

Jane w Lindiwe at PreSchool
Jane & Persona Doll, Lindiwe at a Pre-School in the Centocow area

The preschool teachers in and around Centocow in KwaZulu-Natal are dedicated to giving care and education to young children and work with pitifully few resources. Their training is patchy and sometimes non-existent.

We are raising money to pay for the training of teachers in the use of Persona Dolls.
Representatives of the Pre-school Association in Centocow are keen for their teachers to receive training. It will not only benefit the young children, but the training itself will provide a safe space for the teachers to begin to break the silence that is crippling their communities.
Money collected will go directly to Persona Doll Training South Africa and  TREE, the not for profit, Early Years Training organisation in Durban (Training and Resources for Early Education) whose members are trained and deliver Persona Doll Training in Kwa-Zulu-Natal.

For further information see ‘Confronting Silence’, Jane Habermehl’s MA dissertation.

Persona Doll Training

Read the article by Phelisa, who was recently appointed as a senior trainer for Persona Doll training in South Africa. Her account of her role is a powerful and candid testimony to the effectiveness of Persona Dolls.

‘The persona dolls are very powerful – hear it from me. I am very happy and proud to be part of this team that offers diversity training and touches many lives while creating the space for people to talk about hidden issues. Coming from a disadvantaged background myself I wanted to be the agent of change which led me to development studies and psychology studies. It is satisfying to know that this training of teachers, ECD practitioners and parents is doing exactly that, bringing about significant change to children’s lives’. Read the full article here

After we advanced £850 to Persona Dolls, Carol Smith, [the then]  director, said, “This is fantastic news! We really are so happy to be working with Centocow and this support will really help.”

And Mandy Hudson, also from Persona Dolls, “Thank you so much, this is wonderful and will go a long way towards training the participants in Centocow.”

Great beginnings in work with Persona Dolls

The Teachers will be trained by TREE (Training and Resources for Early Education) trainers.
In 2014 Persona Dolls South Africa trained 14 volunteers with TREE, in the Centocow area for work supporting families and communities. The trainer commented, “It’s humbling to see how little people have.”

The participants were videoed in their first sessions with the children which gave the group a chance to discuss strategies and approaches. The dolls were given messages to take back to the parents and parents then were involved in the process.

The trainer commented, “It’s humbling to see how little people have.”

There were practical issues which were raised only as a result of the persona doll sessions which could be addressed by the family workers; these included abuse, keeping safe, behaviour and road safety as well as the need to access documents so that a child could be immunised, and lack of food.

Child with Persona Doll
Child with Persona Doll

The children really began to open up to the dolls. One doll, Nsipho, brought a bag containing a three legged cooking pot and the dangers of fire were discussed with the children.

Seeing themselves on video participants were able to discuss the value of open ended questions and also see that the greatest challenge for them was to allow the children to speak more and for the teachers to speak less.

Participants were also given fabric to make a bag so that the dolls could bring in a prop to help initiate a conversation.

Persona Dolls director, Mandy Hudson now has plans to train 25 teachers in the Centocow area.

The Persona Doll trainers in South Africa are based in Cape Town, so travel and accommodation are a huge cost in this undertaking. 25 trainees will be trained over three days with two further follow up days. It is important that participants really understand and work with the process together, having time to discuss good practice, their response to difficult conversations and with the support of the trainers. Part of the cost of the training is also the cost of the dolls which each of the trainees will have to continue this valuable work.

Devon-Centocow-Link funded Persona Doll training in Centocow.

In August 2017 24 Family Support workers from this very rural area of KwaZulu-Natal were each given their own Persona Doll and during a workshop they were shown how to use the dolls. The session started with a song and participants practised creating the Persona for their Dolls and learned how the process empowers young children to talk about difficult issues.

Singing to begin the day
Singing to begin the day

The objectives of the training were
• Practitioners will become more aware of their stereotypes of people.
• Develop anti-discriminatory attitudes and become more able to combat exclusion and unfairness.
• Session with the dolls increase participation by children, develop the active listening skills of teachers and encourage them to accept each child’s responses and give positive feedback.
• The dolls will make it easier for the practitioners not to impose their own ideas on the children.
• Teachers will step back and let the children identify the dolls feeling and problem solve.
• Teachers will be able to use the Doll’s feeling and problem solve.
• Teachers will be able to use the Doll to react to issues as they can also use them pro-actively to raise issues of discrimination and prejudice e.g around disability, language, culture, faith, health and HIV/AIDS.
• The Doll can help to turn the culture of the group away from teasing,name-calling and exclusion towards caring, respect and support.

Children Shy pic
fun small group pic

Thobekile Zulu led the training.

Teach and Learn Pic
Trainer: Thobekile Zulu
Trainer: Thobekile Zulu

She summarised; “All objectives were well met and in line with the expectation of the practitioners. 24 Practitioners gained from the training.”

£2,500 has been raised to train teachers in the Centocow area in using Persona Dolls to help young children to talk about difficult issues which affect their lives..

A Big thank you for helping us reach the £2,500 target.