Izzy Dolls - A Canadian gift of peace and comfort to traumatized children of the world.

Posted in Community Programs / Youth / Children / Families

Izzy Dolls - A Canadian gift of peace and comfort to traumatized children of the world.

Opportunity for volunteer knitters and crocheters to create the Izzy Doll, a gift of love for children experiencing trauma around the world.  

For the past two decades, Canadian soldiers and health care workers have given out more than 1.3 million of the tiny dolls, a gift of peace, to children in worn-torn countries and regions affected by natural disaster. 

Shirley O’Connell is the Canadian coordinator of the Izzy Doll project.  She tells of how the dolls help to put a smile on children’s faces during difficult times. She’s asking the public to help get the these dolls into the hands of the thousands of refugee children who resettle in Canada. They can be knitted or crocheted.  www.izzydoll.ca    

Izzy Dolls - A Canadian gift of peace and comfort to traumatized children of the world.  - Image 1

She hopes that a lot more knitters and crocheters will become aware that many innocent children coming into our country have been 'bumped around from place to place', and that these little dolls will bring them some comfort. O’Connell, an RCMP widow and grandmother of nine, works with the help of church groups and The International Community for the Relief of Suffering and Starvation (ICROSS Canada), as well as individuals who knit or crochet dolls and drop them off at locations in different communities. 

History of Izzy Dolls

The 'Izzy Dolls', which cannot be bought or sold for profit, were inspired by and named after Master Cpl. Mark Isfeld of No. 1 Combat Engineer Regiment, who served on peacekeeping missions in Kuwait and Croatia in the early 1990s. There, he was deeply affected by the suffering of children he encountered. Because they often had to quickly flee from dangerous situations, many children he met had no toys or personal possessions, as they had to leave them behind. His mother, Carol Isfeld, started knittng little woollen dolls that he could give away to the kids he met. 

Izzy Dolls - A Canadian gift of peace and comfort to traumatized children of the world.  - Image 4

Isfeld was killed in Croatia in 1994 while removing landmines, and his mother has since died. But the legacy of the Izzy dolls lives on.

Izzy Dolls - A Canadian gift of peace and comfort to traumatized children of the world.  - Image 2

The dolls — at first made either as boys with the peacekeepers’ UN blue berets or girl dolls with braids and a floppy hat, are now made in many different versions and colours by volunteer creators.  They are to be about six inches tall and kept light so they are easy for soldiers to carry in their pockets.

There is a design on the website http://www.izzydoll.ca/dolll/dolll.html that can be followed. Typically they are made out of scrap or donated wool and take about three hours to make.

As someone who has knitted several dolls herself, O’Connell knows that the process can bring on an “overwhelming” sense of emotion, knowing the gesture will cause a ripple effect. Others have testified to the joy it gives to know that this small gesture can mean so much to a hurting child.  

“It’s about the person knitting the doll because to me it speaks for Canadian women. It says we care about the children of the world, we care about the soldiers and health care workers, when they get the dolls there’s always smiles on their faces — and when you are knitting the dolls knowing that all that love is coming from Canada to the children of the world.” 

Youth are also interested.  Through the program 'Encounters with Canada', sponsored by Veterans Affairs Canada, selected students participate in a program where they discover their country through many experiences - including an Izzy Doll workshop (where they learn the story/history and finish making a doll to be donated to a child in some troubled spot in the world). 

Distributing agencies have increased, and children around the world have also received Izzy Dolls from the Toronto International Police Officers in Afghanistan, ICROSS Canada, Canadian doctors on short term medical missions, and various Canadian charities, including refugee settlement agencies, which continue Mark’s legacy.

The Izzy Dolls continue to bring comfort and smiles to the faces of the children around the world, in Mark's memory.

Izzy Dolls - A Canadian gift of peace and comfort to traumatized children of the world.  - Image 3

If you are interested in being part of this effort to provide a small gift of comfort, welcome!   

Instructions to make the dolls can be found online at http://www.izzydoll.ca/dolll/dolll.html - for knitters.

Instructions for crocheters can be found at http://www.hpicanada.ca/izzy-dolls/pattern-for-crocheters/  

For more information about patterns and information on distributing the dolls, contact O’Connell at  


In Regina, there is a special drop-off location for the Izzy Dolls, which are then given to refugee children locally and shared with other agencies for world-wide distribution.   


Regina 'Izzy Doll' Drop Off Location:

Thee Lingerie Shoppe
4037 Albert St, Regina SK S4S 3R6 


Locally, Regina Open Door Society (RODS) staff are distributing the Izzy Dolls to refugee children arriving from many countries. RODS is the local Settlement Organization serving Government-Assisted Refugees (GAR's).

Izzy dolls will also be given to private sponsors to share with sponsored children.

If you a part of a group sponsoring refugees, please contact the RRLIP (Regina Region Local Immigration Partnership) office at 306-791-6841 or 306-791-6846 or  for further information on receiving Izzy Dolls to distribute to refugee children you have sponsored, in Regina and district.


Izzy Dolls - A Canadian gift of peace and comfort to traumatized children of the world.  - Image 5

With excerpts from an article by Paula McCooey Ottawa Citizen 11/18/15

There is a continued great need for refugee sponsors in Canada, as displaced persons around the world seek a place of shelter, safety and peace. 

For more information on the process of privately sponsoring refugees, see the Refugee Sponsorship Training Program website at http://www.rstp.ca/en/ 

The RRLIP is coordinating a support network for Sponsoring Groups in Regina - hosting meetings, bringing information on resources available, and connecting local sponsors.  Please contact the RRLIP if you are interested in learning more, or coming out to a meeting.  The next meeting will be held Tuesday Sept 11 at 6:30 pm, at 2220 - 12th Ave., in the RRLIP office.  Call or email   for details.