Home Doll sale ‘Inclusion matters’: Edmonton woman creates various dolls to represent all children

‘Inclusion matters’: Edmonton woman creates various dolls to represent all children

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It all started with a simple Google search when an Edmonton mother went looking for a doll with similar features to her daughter.

“I think my child looks perfect, like all parents, I’m sure,” Diana Rivard said.

“But I mean there is definitely a physical difference between her and her brother. There is a distinct difference between her and most people.

Violet, who is around three and a half years old, has trisomy 21, one of the most common forms of Down syndrome.

After scouring the internet to try and find a doll Violet could relate to, Rivard posted a message on Facebook to see if anyone locally could help.

“Inclusion is important,” she said. “Seeing each other is important.”

Andile Pfupa, the founder of Bee You Kids and an early childhood educator, responded to the post.

“She was so nice,” Rivard recalls. “She said, ‘I’ll bring a doll that’s as close to your daughter as possible.'”

“Every child deserves to see themselves portrayed in some way because it boosts their self-esteem,” Pfupa replied.

“I never realized how excited it was going to be to see a kid who looked like mine,” Rivard added.

Violet with her Bee You Kids doll. (Source: Andile Pfupa)

Pfupa sells a range of dolls of all ethnicities, cultural backgrounds and abilities, including dolls with vitiligo and albinism.

But what sparked Pfupa’s mission to give kids more representation actually stemmed from a shopping trip to find a doll for her niece.

“We went to the local store and couldn’t find any black dolls,” she explained. “It took us a few months and when I finally found one it was at the bottom of the shelf, on sale, and it was the only colored doll there.”

Pfupa said she was shocked because she felt like every child should see an “image of themselves” no matter where they shop.

“This is what I wanted to create for my niece. I wanted her to have all kinds of dolls, to have those options.

“Even when I was growing up, I never had Barbies or dolls that looked like me,” she added.

Rivard echoed a similar sentiment.

“I just never realized how little representation there was until I had my daughter.”

Now Pfupa sells the dolls not only to Albertans, but there is a market for them in the United States and even New Zealand.

“I didn’t think it would be that big. I realize that there is a need not only in Canada, but around the world.

Pfupa noted that some parents of able-bodied children use the dolls to teach children “acceptance of others.”

“Teach them it’s okay for someone to look like that.”

(Source: Andile Pfupa, the founder of Bee You Kids)

As for Violet, she lights up as soon as she plays with one of her dolls.

“She is very maternal,” smiles Rivard. “She loves her babies and she loves her dolls.”

Pfupa told CTV News that she plans to expand her business and will continue to expand the selection of toys she offers.

“I put my heart and my ideas into this business and so I’m glad Canada recognizes that,” she said.

“I am happy to be part of the change in this country and it is a legacy that I would like to leave here as the country that adopted me.”

To learn more about Bee You Kids, click here.

With files from Jessica Robb of CTV News Edmonton