Keep your eye out for little travellers this June and July.

Little Travellers are thumb-sized beaded dolls made by patients at the Hillcrest AIDS Centre in KwaZulu-Natal. To coincide with the FIFA World Cup in South Africa, Avant Cards outlets across Australia will give away postcards featuring the cute little dolls to highlight the issue of HIV/AIDS in southern Africa.

The campaign is a partnership between Avant Cards and charity group Little Travellers Australia.

Little Travellers Australia founder Justin Koonin said his organisation had been selling the dolls in Australia since July last year, with all profits going back to charity.

“Because we’re a volunteer organisation, our overheads are almost nothing,” Koonin said.

“So if you give us $5, that $5 is going back to Africa. Fifty percent of that goes to the bead worker and the other half goes to the Hillcrest AIDS Centre for funding its respite unit and other needs they may have.”

Koonin became involved in the project after travelling to South Africa to treat patients and train Hillcrest workers in complementary therapies.

Every doll is handmade and comes with its own passport. Little Travellers Australia also sells jewellery and other items made by the Hillcrest bead workers.

Koonin said the income from the dolls, which are sold by Little Travellers groups all over the world, can make a difference in the lives of Hillcrest patients.

“One of the ladies who makes them must be about 75 years old now,” Koonin said. “She had 10 children, nine of whom died of AIDS, and she looks after six grandchildren.

“Before she started with the project she was unable to clothe and feed her family, but she is now able to provide food and clothes for them. She was too scared to go outside because she was scared people would laugh at her for having no shoes. It’s ordinary people making small contributions that can actually change people’s lives.”

Little Travellers Australia will sell the dolls through their website and participating businesses in the city and the inner west from June 16. They also plan to sell the dolls at the Rocks Markets in coming weeks.


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