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An Abuelito Makes Dolls With Vitiligo To Build Self-Esteem In Kids With The Skin Condition And If This Isn’t The Sweetest Thing I Don’t Know What is

Brazilian grandfather João Stanganelli learned to crochet with one goal in mind: to uplift the self-esteem of children with vitiligo. Stanganelli began to show signs of the skin condition when he was 38. Vitiligo causes the loss of skin color in blotches and can affect any part of the body. 

“Vitiligo occurs when the cells that produce melanin die or stop functioning. Vitiligo affects people of all skin types, but it may be more noticeable in people with darker skin. The condition is not life-threatening or contagious. It can be stressful or make you feel bad about yourself,” according to the Mayo Clinic. 

While some of the possible symptoms listed are sunburn, susceptibility to skin cancer, eye problems, and hearing loss, professionals also note that one of the most difficult issues is a social stigma which can lead to low self-esteem or other psychological issues. 

Fortunately, abuelo João Stanganelli is out here putting smiles on children’s faces and reminding them that they look absolutely perfect. 

A new beginning

Stanganelli began to show signs of vitiligo when he was 38. However, it wasn’t until last year, at 64, that he began this amazing project. After losing his job in the gastronomy industry due to a heart condition, Stanganelli wanted to keep busy while he was at home. He and his wife Marilena took up crocheting together. At first, it proved to be difficult, causing him to develop calluses on his fingers. But after five days of practice, Stanganelli crocheted his first doll. 

A tiny idea becomes a big one

While he only intended to create something to pass onto his granddaughter, things quickly snowballed.

“I decided to make the doll for my granddaughter, and wanted something that she would remember about her grandfather,” he told Romper.

Stanganelli decided to crochet her a doll that looked like him, one with two skin tones. However, photos of his adorable doll began to circulate – people wanted in. 

A new way to honor children’s differences

Parents of children with vitiligo wanted a doll for their little ones, but they weren’t the only group that wanted to be seen. Others began to request dolls with a wheelchair, hearing aids, blindness, alopecia, and other differences. They wanted their children to see themselves, and it’s not like there were many options on the market. 

It may not seem like a big deal to you, but just take a look at one of the comments on this doll with a wheelchair, “This is so beautiful it just made me cry. My Jenna has cerebral palsy and is in a wheelchair. You truly are so awesome for all you do sir. May God bless you over and over.” 

“These are beautiful. I’ve had vitiligo since my mid-40s. My face, chest, back, neck and some on my arms. It is a, “how did this happen” disease. These are a beautiful way for ppl to converse abt this so others understand. God bless you Joao,” another person wrote.

Difference is beauty

“The spots I have are beautiful. What hurts me are the flaws in peoples’ characters,” Stanganelli told CTV News. Kids and parents have told him that the dolls are “helping with their self-esteem.” Just more proof that representation matters, especially to those most vulnerable. 

It’s no secret that kids can be particularly cruel about differences, Stanganelli is providing children with an honorable service — a little taste of what it feels like to be represented just like anybody else. Sometimes the ordinary can you make feel extraordinary. 

“Vitiligo can be life-altering… Some people develop low self-esteem. They may no longer want to hang out with friends. They can develop serious depression. Most people have vitiligo for life, so it’s important to develop coping strategies,” according to the American Academy of Dermatology. 

Redefining beauty

Stanganelli’s dolls come at a time where people with vitiligo are embracing their unique aesthetic rather than covering it up. The Brazilian children’s book Menina Feita de Nuvens, or “the girl made of clouds,” tells the story of a little girl with a superpower: vitiligo. 

Models like Winnie Harlow, Breanne Rice, and Ash Soto have brought vitiligo to the mainstream of fashion. 

“Female models with vitiligo now appear regularly on designer runways and in advertising campaigns, empowering those who once hid behind the makeup to use these tools to enhance their individuality. Women with vitiligo who span the spectrum, including White models with vitiligo and Black models with vitiligo, are expanding the public’s definition of what it means to be attractive,” writes Anna Papachristos for APlus

If you would like to purchase a custom crocheted doll, please reach out to Stanganelli and his wife on Facebook

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