What would you make of a young boy from Lebanon giving his doll a sad face and refusing to dress it in nothing but bullet holes?
Sahar Wahbeh, Founder of Dumyé(Arabic for dolls), has no answer to that and wonders what this child would haveseen or been through. But she tells Yasmeen Maqbool that it takes diligence, ethics and passion to do whatshe does.
Sahar designs Dolls With Purpose® andin 2007 she moved from Washington DC to Dubai to start a new chapter of her life as a newlywed.
Before taking on designing dolls, she spent more than a decade of her career creating high impact brands, from NY to Dubai, working with both regional and international companies, moving fluidly from strategy through to creative.
But life finds its purpose in strange ways. Sahar started making dolls because she wanted to gift her daughter something really special for the holidays.She wanted to present her with something that would one day become synonymous with her childhood. Disappointed with what she found available in the market, Sahar decided to create a doll of her own that captured her little four-year-old daughter, Neeva’s spirit.
“I knew I wasn’t the only mother who wanted to gift her child with something timelessly beautiful, personal and meaningful – however this understanding alone was not enough to persuade me to shift careers,” Sahar insists. Inspiration struck and after a trip to New York city’s garment district the idea began to form. Sahar dusted off her mother’s vintage sewing machine, made a workspace out of an old ping-pongtable and got to it.
She saw Dumyé as an opportunity to not only share with her daughter what she valued in life, but to actually live by it. She says,“We are a hand crafted limited edition eco-friendly doll company,that began as a meaningful gift for my daughter, and ultimately, launched as what is now Dumyé.”
She hasn’t stopped since.
Each one of the dolls has a name and personality, and at dumyé.com, you can personalize your doll and select her skin tone, eye and hair colour too.
Sahar wants her daughter to respect Mother Nature, so her dolls are made with a mixture of organic, sustainable and mostly natural materials. “I need her to have compassion for her fellow(wo)men, which is why we commission an NGO in one of the poorest states of India, to handle elements of our production,” she details.
“This allows us to empower the women in their community to be self-sufficient,while they use their proceeds to educate the next generation of girls,” she says.She wants her to know in her heart that the real gift in life is in giving. “So for every doll that we sell, we gift a doll to one of the millions of children orphaned around the world and allow them to make one at their workshop,” she smiles and says.
According to Sahar, UNICEF estimates that there are more than 132 million children orphaned around the world.Many have lost their families to senseless wars, preventable diseases and suffocating poverty. Dumyé began as a living lesson to her daughter, but today the dolls live in more than 15 countries. They stand as a tangible reminder of Dumyé’s Karmic Goodness™ promise to each and every family that houses one. “I believe,through design, we have the power to shape our world for the better, and through Dumyé, we are putting those ideals to work,” Sahar is confident.
The entire process is not only healing but also liberating for all those who become a part of Dumyé.
“Ultimately, it’s my hope, that when our generation passes the reigns to my daughter/ our children, we’ll be leaving them a world better than the one we were born in,” she hopes.Dumyé partners with an NGO called START (http://startworld.org/) to help organize doll workshops in orphanages.Talking of workshops Sahar says, “We chose to do our first workshop in the UAE since we are based here. The second was in Lebanon.” She decided to go there because of the overwhelming amount of refugee orphans residing there.
Sahar says that the children come with varying stories, almost always heartbreaking. “Through their drawings and the dolls they create, we get a peak into what is happening in their heads and hearts. Art really is a form of release and that makes for a powerful tool of healing,” she believes. Each of these dolls come with a Purpose Pocket, which is a special little pocket on the back of the doll, with a blank piece of cloth awaiting a meaningful message. When someone purchases adoll they get to write a special message for whoever the doll is intended.
“When we work with the orphans we ask them to write down their greatest wish and we stitch their pockets closed for safe-keeping,” she explains.
A lot of exciting things are happening for Dumyé. Currently they are the global finalists for The Venture (www.theventure.com), a world wide search for the most promising social entrepreneurs. Dumyé will be representing the GCC at the finals in Silicon Valley, competing against15 other countries for a stake in 1 million USD in prize money. In May,the competition will begin with online voting and a crowd funding campaign where Sahar promises to offer exclusive perks to their backers. Sahar hopes that she receives great support on this exciting and incredible journey.