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Dolls offer hope for African AIDS victims

Duke students can now support HIV/AIDS victims in a fashionable way.

Little Travellers, an initiative that supports African women infected with HIV/AIDS by helping them sell their beaded doll pins, will be offering the accessories to students at locations both on and off campus.

The group organized on the West Campus Plaza Tuesday to raise money. The $180 they collected from the sales will go toward fighting the disease in the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa. They will be on the plaza again Thursday.

Audrey Warren, a third-year Divinity School student, brought the nonprofit organization to the University earlier this fall and has sold the doll pins outside the Refectory Cafe every Tuesday.

"We can't just give people medication and expect them to get better," Warren said. "We need to provide them with other things as well, economic empowerment being one of those things."

Warren also collaborated with undergraduates to sell the dolls on the West Campus Plaza Tuesday, and will do so again Thursday.

The pins, which are sold for $5 each, have been distributed throughout Canada since Little Travellers was founded in 2002, but Warren has only recently brought the dolls to North Carolina.

In addition to their availability at the Refectory Cafe, the pins have also been stocked at One World Market on Ninth Street, where they are the third-best-selling item, Warren said.

She added that although the initiative only began this fall, approximately 500 pins have already been sold at the Divinity School location.

Warren became involved with Little Travellers after she visited Durban, South Africa this summer through a program organized by the Divinity School.

She spent much of her time at the Hillcrest AIDS Centre, which is where Ilan Schwartz, a third-year medical student at the University of Manitoba, started the program.

"Like Ilan, I fell in love with the center-most importantly, I fell in love with all the people that I met there," Warren said. "I saw people die, and when I came back I felt like I couldn't be silent about it, but [I] needed to educate and raise money for the people in South Africa. Little Travellers is a way to do that with dignity."

After spending time volunteering in South Africa, Schwartz returned to the University of Manitoba wearing one of these handmade pins, Warren said. Someone asked Schwartz if they could buy the pin off of him for five dollars, sparking his interest in founding Little Travellers.

Forty percent of the funds earned from selling the beaded doll pins go to the women who made them, with the rest of the profits going to funding a new respite unit at the Hillcrest AIDS Centre.

"All of the money from Little Travellers goes to providing unconditional love for those infected with HIV/AIDS," Warren said. "It does this by economically empowering the women who make them, as well as providing the money to build a new respite unit."

Approximately 100 women currently work with the Hillcrest AIDS Centre in crafting the pins. Warren said a part of the center's mission is spreading the word about the women behind the pins by encouraging buyers to wear them as often as they can. As a result, the pins have become very fashionable in South Africa, she said.

Warren said she has made an effort to get undergraduates involved in Little Travellers.

Sophomore Julia Chapman, a Baldwin scholar, said she decided to work with Little Travellers after Warren spoke to her group about selling the dolls.

"I met Audrey through the Baldwin Scholars program," Chapman said. "Because Audrey is somewhat separated from undergraduate life, she spoke to the Baldwin scholar women to see if we would be able to help with this program. I was really excited about what she was doing and started working with her."


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