Sockmonkey Report

Several months ago, Naomi, one of the WNET girls, forwarded a link for Operation Sock Monkey.

I’ve offered a couple of sockmonkeys as charity auction prizes where I’ve found opportunities, so this appealed. I like when my sockmonkeys make their way around the world, and this time it could be a sockmonkey with a mission!

It being the sweatshop winter, I’d already cranked out a bunch, and so whipping up another wasn’t a big deal. (This sockmonkey season didn’t end til May — the latest it’s ever gone.) I mailed it off to Lindsey, and I believe it went over to Africa in either March or April.

And so earlier this week, I received a Sock Monkey Report in my inbox. Interesting stuff. Much as the folks for whom I’ve made sockmonkeys are important to me, to my knowledge they don’t tend to be orphans, living in poverty, or dealing with things like AIDS. I’m grateful for that.

From: “Lindsey Hodgson”
Date: June 3, 2008 2:43:15 PM GMT-04:00
To: Operation Sock Money
Subject: Fwd: Sock Monkey report!

Hey Sock Monkey fans
Here’s an update from Clowns Without Borders South Africa about our Sock Monkeys in the field. You’re receiving this because you’ve

A) Made a sock monkey
B) Sponsored one or
C) Bought one and therefore donated to Clowns Without Borders South Africa.

Read on to find out how your contribution has had a profound effect on the life of small South Africans. Operation Sock Monkey would not exist without your kindness and support. Stay tuned for photos from the field and further fund raising efforts- I’m hoping to travel to S.A. in February 2009 as part of a residency program CWBSA is starting… but first I’ll have to raise some dough!

Many Thanks,

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Jamie Lachman
Date: Fri, May 30, 2008 at 5:19 AM
Subject: Sock Monkey report!
To: Lindsey Hodgson

Hi Lindsey,

Hope this email finds you well. We have been having great success with the sock monkeys in Swaziland! I created a lesson plan to accompany them with the caregivers we are teaching. Each caregiver works at a Neighborhood Care Point in the community just south of Matata – a place where drought, poverty, and HIV/AIDS have taken a tremendous toll on the lives of children.

The NCPs are centres set up by UNICEF to provide basic needs to children who are vulnerable and orphaned. These mostly involve food, shelter, and clothes. We are working with Lutheran Development Service to introduce psychosocial mechanisms in these NCPs so that the caregivers can provide emotional support to the children, too. This is something that they have been asking about for a long time.

Of LDS’s 57 NCPs, we have worked with 9 that are close to where we are staying. The workshops are primarily focused on teaching the caregivers ways to interact with the children through storytelling, song, and games. We also instruct them in mindfulness based stress relief exercises to help them carry the emotional burden in their lives. Our 2nd week working with this particular group of caregivers, we hauled along a suitcase and a backpack full of sock monkeys.

The exercise was simple but carried a lot of significance. We asked the caregivers to close their eyes and touch in with their breath. Noticing what feelings, emotions, and memories came up during this sense exercise, each woman was given a SM to explore through touch. When they opened their eyes, they were asked to notice how this changed their perceptions and emotions. We then led them through a series of questions placing them in the perspective of a child: What does your sock monkey like? What does your sock monkey dislike? What makes your sock monkey happy? sad? angry? And finally, how does your sock monkey feel loved? In pairs, the caregivers shared these answers and then explored their sock monkey’s greatest wish. They then either told a story about how this wish came true, or, depending on the time, shared a day in the life of the sock monkey. We did all this in role playing mode with one of the caregivers acting as the child and the other as the questioner. At the end of the exercise, we shared about the experience as a group. Although some were skeptical about the exercise and only participated half-heartedly, others saw that it could be fun to try to do the same with the child. Nevertheless, we thought that it might be different when they were actually interacting one on one or in small groups.

That night, the caregivers were supposed to do the same exercise with either their own children or the ones at the NCP. We explained that the children will share many things that are going on in their own lives through the sock monkeys. It gives the caregivers a chance to interact and listen to their children on a deeper level without asking them direct questions. The caregivers shared that they have learned so much about their children through playing with the sock monkeys. Here’s some of the responses!

Samu: Her child said that SM doesn’t like it when someone shouts at her. She doesn’t like goat meat. The child then told a story about how the SM is mean and steals meat from everyone. The people in the village set a trap for SM who falls in it. When the SM calls for help, nobody comes because she was mean. She then said that SM feels loved when someone sits with her and talks to her and laughs with her.

Thokozile: When she came home she found her 11 year-old sister with friends who are all orphans. They formed a group of friends that play with each other since they have no parents. Thokozile introduced them to the SM. They said that SM likes to play with others. She doesn’t like it when other people tease her because she doesn’t have money to buy clothes or shoes like other children. She felt loved when there was someone there to take care of them.

As you can see, there is so much richness in this exercise to be continually explored! I wish I had more training as a psychologist (or someone on my team who did) to go further with these exercises. But perhaps it isn’t necessary. The SM are simply a wonderful way to connect with the children and deepen their relationship to their caregivers.

Thanks so much for being a part of this adventure. I never thought we would receive such a great response from the sock monkeys. It is also a perfect teaching tool that each one is different, just like each and every child. Go Operation Sock Monkey!

May you be peaceful and happy,


Jamie McLaren Lachman
Founder and Director
Clowns Without Borders South Africa
SA: +27 76 384 9478
USA: +1 860 232 9891

“no child without a smile”

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