Helping Kids Embrace Their “Otherness”

Helping Kids Embrace Their “Otherness”

Maybe because I woke up one morning last week to an air quality rating of 249, officially “very unhealthy” and couldn’t see to the end of my block because of the smoke from the still-raging wildfires here in northern California, I went looking for encouraging news about resilience and people helping other people be resilient.

I found Teen Sews Custom Dolls for Kids with Rare Medical Conditions to Help Them Embrace Their Uniqueness. (Excerpts below)

Yes, from my favorite “good news” website: karuna-virus.org (Karuna is the Sanskrit word for compassion. Fitting to post news of compassionate actions from all over the world in this time of pandemic, all over the world.)

I was drawn to this post because of its focus on honoring “otherness” rather than shaming, shunning, despising, discriminating. There are so many ways to “other” people – race, class, gender the most prominent, pervasive, and punishing. We’re hardwired to distinguish “otherness” – kin or not kin? like me or not like me? And then layers of rules and restrictions that confine and diminish can get layered on top of that, causing great harm to the people we are “othering”.

Even when we try our hardest, our most sincere, we can still react to differences by distancing – closing our minds and hearts – to folks who are “other” – of a different religious faith or sexual orientation, or vegan, or football players, or classical music lovers, or CEO’s.

Ariella Pacheco’s decision to create beautiful tailor-made dolls for youngsters who have rare medical conditions that give them a unique appearance was just the kind of compassionate response to “otherness” I was looking for.

As a young girl, Ariella Pacheco had an American Girl doll that looked just like her. Her parents had let her choose the doll herself from a catalog and it was the one with the hair color and style that matched her own that appealed to her the most. “She looked like me and I felt there was a piece of me in her. You see yourself in a doll and it’s really special to have that connection.” As she grew up, the now 17-year-old realized that not every kid has the privilege of seeing themselves reflected in their favorite dolls or represented in society.

Ariella began to make beautiful tailor-made dolls that one would never find amidst the mass-produced dolls on store shelves, dolls that included the conditions of young patients who have rare medical conditions that give them a unique appearance, including a port-wine stain birthmark, surgical scars, a jaw alignment issue, and face and cranial differences. 

“I really value the beauty in the little things,” Ariella explained. “Each of these kids are so unique, so special. I hope through these dolls they can see themselves in a new light and really embrace their beauty.”