Sahar Wabeh, the founder of Dumyé: Dolls With Purpose, explains the importance of giving back and how we can instill social consciousness within our children. For every Dumyé doll purchased, one is donated to an orphaned child. Each purchase enables an orphan to create their own special dolls through an interactive workshop. Dumyé aims to connect a child’s innate need for play with a necessary sense of social responsibility.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your childhood. Do you remember your favorite childhood doll or toy?
I was born and raised in Northern Virginia in a small town called Clifton. I spent much of my childhood at a ballet barre, dreaming of nothing else but spending my life on the stage. However, once I got to college, I realized that instead of expressing myself through movement I wanted to do it through design. From that moment forward, I dedicated my life to the communication arts. I spent more than a decade working in branding from New York City to Dubai, where I live now. I believed then as I do now, that through design we have the power to shape our culture for the better. Through the years my medium may have changed, first dance, then branding and now dolls, but my heart has been unwavering. When I look back on the journey, so far it is incredible to see how each phase has unknowingly prepared me for the next.
As a child I was admittedly a tomboy. I wanted to play with my big brother and he loved Heman and GI Joes, so I followed suit. Having said that, I had a very special relationship with my Strawberry Shortcake doll. Oh, I can still smell that sweet strawberry scent. When I think of my younger years, I think of her. Well her and that fact that my brother and I used to arrange and re-arrange all our stuffed animals and then take pictures with them. For whatever reason we thought that was the coolest thing since sliced bread.
What does Dumye mean?
Dumyé comes from the Arabic word for “doll.”
What inspired Dumyé?
It was the holidays and I wanted to gift my daughter something really special. Something that would become symbolic of her childhood – her first doll. I looked everywhere but nothing I found captured my heart and her spirit. It needed to be beautiful, handmade, safe, washable and preferably look a little like her. I finally gave up and decided to make one myself. After a trip to NYC’s garment district I dusted off my mom’s vintage sewing machine, made a workspace out of an old ping-pong table and got to it.
What began as a meaningful gift for my daughter launched what is now Dumyé. A doll company handcrafting, eco friendly, limited edition dolls. Each one with a name and personality. Through our online boutique Dumye.com, you can easily personalize a doll by selecting her skin tone, hair color, hairstyle, eye color and you can even add a monogrammed heart to her chest.
But there is more to Dumyé than selling dolls. 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. From the beginning, we decided that for every doll purchased we would gift a doll to an orphan and allow them to make it their own in an art workshop. The creative process is both liberating and healing. But maybe best of all, each child will be left with a meaningful gift that they can laugh with, play with and dream with.
Once I became a mom there was this overwhelming sense of responsibility. You look into your child’s eyes and wonder, “How on earth will I teach you all the things you need to know?” That is a difficult task for any parent but I realized that if I wanted to have any semblance of a chance I needed to start living the example. Dumyé began as a living lesson to her. An example of what I felt was most important for her to know. Marry your passions with your life’s work, find the courage to fulfill your potential, respect mother nature, show compassion for your fellow man and know in your heart the real gift in life is in the giving.
It is our mission to bring love and light to not only our children but the children who have not been spoken for, so that one day we may leave our children to a world better then the one we were born to.
The design process is so interactive. I love the fact that each doll can be customized. What is the manufacturing process like for each doll?
Each doll is cut to order in our small studio in Dubai. This enables us to personalize the dolls for each customer, ensures their quality and gives us greater control over keeping our process as socially and environmentally conscious as we can manage. We incorporate organic and sustainable materials into the dolls, we naturally dye the various doll complexions and each doll showcases a great deal of hand stitching and embroidery work. The dolls take hours to make but I believe love is in the details.
How can we teach children the importance of giving back?
The best way to share the importance of giving back with our children is by making it a priority in our own lives and getting them involved in the process. No matter what activities you do together be sure to explain the “why” and then celebrate their efforts. It will make them feel good about themselves and motivate them to seek out other opportunities to give.
Does your daughter understand the connection between these lovely dolls and the charitable work you do?
Although she’s only four, she will tell you that her “mommy makes dollies for orphans.” Orphans are children who don’t have mommies and daddies’. The older she gets, the more meaning those words will have to her, but for now the seed has been planted.