'I won't give up': Syrian woman creates doll to help kids raised in conflict

After spending five years through the Syrian crisis, Micheline Youssef is hoping to make a doll especially for children living through war.

Micheline Youssef hopes to raise $10K to have 300 dolls made for children in Syria and Quebec

If all goes to plan, Micheline Youssef hopes to make 300 dolls to give to children in Syria and to refugee children in Quebec. (Rebecca Martel)

After spending five years through the Syrian crisis, Micheline Youssef is hoping to make a doll especially for children living through war.

Youssef managed immigrate to Sherbrooke, Que. nearly two years ago. Back home in Syria, she said she saw children struggling daily with the consequences of war.

"Kids that were killed because of bombing attacks...They saw their parents killed because of the bombs," she said. "That touched me a lot because they cannot understand what is going on."

After she arrived in Quebec, Youssef found work helping refugees settle in Sherbrooke, where she helped young children.

"I saw that so many kids were happy when they saw, for example, dolls or any type of games," she explained.

The experience inspired Youssef to come up with her own doll to help children deal with the trauma of war.

'I won't give up'

The doll's name is Shaam, named after what Syrians call the capital Damascus. Shaam is a Syrian girl who escapes the war and lives in a refugee camp.

Youssef said Shaam lost a friend in the war called Jasmine and her spirit lives in Shaam's own doll.

"So Shaam in her refugee camp talks to her doll and tells her all about the bad stuff she's seen," she said.

Youssef said she wanted to create something that kids could have fun and play with, but also use as a tool to share their feelings. Her hope is that children will talk to Shaam when they have no one to speak with about what they witnessed.

Micheline Youssef says the idea for Shaam came from seeing the joy refugee children in Quebec had when playing dolls and toys. (Rebecca Martel)

She said a prototype of Shaam will be ready soon.

Her goal is to produce 300 dolls that she would give to children in Syria and to refugee children in Quebec, but before that can happen, Youssef needs to raise enough money.

So far, Youssef has raised online close to half of her $10,000 goal and has until Sept. 25 to raise the full amount. If she doesn't reach her goal in time, she said she will find another way.

"I won't give up," she said. 

"I will do anything to...give these dolls to kids because I want to make a difference in the life of a child who has been (through) atrocities."

Youssef would also like to create a book that tells Shaam's story. It would be available in Arabic, English and French.