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Afghan refugees to receive custom-designed dolls as they begin new life in Iowa

Kate Hoch is sewing culturally specific doll clothing to give to children who are refugees from Afghanistan. It's her way of welcoming them to the area.

IOWA, USA — An Iowa native living in Massachusetts is sewing culturally specific clothing for dolls meant for Afghan refugee children living in the metro. 

It's an idea Kate Hoch thought would be personable and help make the children, who had long journeys to get here, feel at home.

"I want to welcome these children," Hoch said. "They've been through so much. Not only back in Afghanistan but their journey here has been very difficult." 

Hoch, who has a background in costume design, has made clothing for about 20 dolls. She is sewing a Hijab, a dress and leggings to imitate what the kids could be used to seeing.

The dolls she's using are 18 inches and have brown skin to resemble some of the refugees. 

She said initially it was hard to find dolls with the skin color she wanted. So she searched on eBay and found dolls that needed repair. This process added some uniqueness to the toys, Hoch added.

Now, she uses the Our Generation Dolls she finds at Target named Abril, Cassie and Riya to dress. 

Hoch is partnering with Erin Bell and Des Moines Refugee Support to distribute the dolls in the metro. The toys can bring a sense of comfort the children need.  

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"It's really important to have them see themselves in these dolls and themselves here in the United States," Bell said. "Where they are now trying to start a new life and it's empowering and validating to who they are."

Hoch hopes the dolls provide a companion to the kids who get them.

"The doll is their friend," Hoch said. "It's at home it's going to give them some security and they can work out the issues that happen at school, and at home with the doll, when they're pretending."

The dolls and their costumes should be in children's hands shortly. 

Hoch said they are looking for more dolls. Those can be donated directly to the Des Moines Refugee Support. 

Hoch is also looking for people to help with the sewing of the Hijab, dresses and leggings and she is willing to teach people how. 

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Watch: 300 beds for Afghan refugees delivered to Polk County