In January 2003 Amy Berman, a Minneapolis mom, read a magazine article that changed her life. Working in advertising sales at the time, Amy had no idea that she would one day become the accidental executive director of a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing comfort to humanity’s most innocent–children. But that’s exactly what happened.
The article was about infant and child rape in Africa, an increasing problem caused, in part, by the myth of the “virgin cure”–a belief that if a man has sex with a virgin, including infants and toddlers, he will be cured of AIDS, a disease that has reached pandemic proportions in Sub-Saharan Africa. The youngest victim in the article was only 2 months old.
Amy was shell-shocked. She simply could not close the magazine and continue on with her everyday life after learning the horrifying pain of these children. She felt compelled “to do something”.
The article mentioned that the Child Protection Unit in Durban, South Africa was collecting teddy bears, dolls, games and books to deliver to the rape victims. Amy thought of the one item that had brought her own two children comfort throughout the years. A teddy bear knitted by her mother using a pattern circa World War II.
Although Amy was not a knitter, she was so motivated that she learned quickly, under her mother’s instructions, and soon began teaching other women to knit. The price for her lessons? One knit bear sent to a child in Africa. Thus, Mother Bear Project was born.