Bringing comfort to kids, one bear at a time.
Look at this adorable teddy bear.
This is a Threadies bear.
Threadies bears are incredibly special.
Threadies bears have a very important job.
They bring childhood comforts to kids in refugee camps.
The idea for Threadies came after co-creator Steve Lehmann visited Haiti a year after the massive 2010 earthquake, where he observed that for the children growing up in the wake of the disaster, it was "as if the basic ingredients of childhood had been violently ripped away."
Looking back on his own childhood, Lehmann remembered how much comfort he got from his favorite stuffed animal. And while his childhood is without a doubt a vastly different experience from that of a child refugee, it occurred to him that perhaps there was something universal about the comforting quality of a stuffed animal.
After visiting refugees in Haiti — along with refugees in Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda — Lehmann resolved to find a way to bring those ingredients of childhood to children living in poverty, war, or in the wake of natural disasters.
Threadies are made specifically with humanitarian emergencies in mind.
Lehmann enlisted help from his friend Andrew Jones, and the two started work on creating, as Jones describes it, "a teddy bear that is both adorably cute and extremely comforting."
After two years of work and the help of experts and nongovernmental organizations around the world, Threadies was born.
The first batch of 60 Threadies bears was delivered to Syrian children at Azraq refugee camp in Jordan in August 2015.
The kids at Azraq loved the hand-sewn bears. For a group of children for whom relocation from their homes has been especially hard, the bears were an unexpected comfort. While there's no way to make up for the loss of their homes or the distance from relatives, the children greeted their new stuffed animals with smiles, laughter, and love.
Each bear comes with a "coping kit." The kit is basically the bear and a set of "coping cards," which fit into its front pocket. The cards are based on the research of Dr. Meghan Marsac of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and they contain useful tips to work through symptoms of trauma, such as night sweats, bed-wetting, bad dreams, and anxiety attacks.
The first delivery was so successful that Lehmann and Jones are ready to take Threadies to the next level.
The pair has enlisted the help of fair trade manufacturer Child's Cup Full, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting refugee women in the West Bank, to produce the bears.
Child's Cup Full trains and employs women, pays them the "wage rate set by the United Nations for a head of a household with children," and helps to fund local childhood education programs.
"We're really proud of this," Threadies co-founder Andrew Jones told Upworthy, acknowledging that, "as a result, each bear from CCF costs us about eight times what it would cost to make in China."
CCF works with a group called International Medical Corps (IMC) to make sure the bears reach kids who are the most in need.
For every bear bought in the U.S., a "twin" bear will be delivered to a child in a refugee camp.
In place of the "coping kit" given to the Syrian children, the U.S. bears come with short poems to help their new owners learn about and empathize with the children of the refugee crisis in a gentle, age-appropriate way.
These little poems tackle heavy issues like feeling sad, missing friends, having bad dreams, or being scared.
It costs $40 to buy a Threadies bear and give one to a child in a refugee camp. And while that price may seem a little steep, Jones said the price breaks down into four categories: "labor, programming, logistics, and re-investment."
With an estimated 60 million refugees in the world (half are children), Threadies has their work cut out for them.
In every sense of the word, Threadies is a startup, and Jones said that any money the company raises that doesn't go toward paying the workers, transporting materials and goods, and paying CCF will be reinvested in the company to begin scaling up to get the bears more widely distributed.
"We will not be paying ourselves a dime from the Kickstarter," he said.
"Even if we're wildly successful with Kickstarter, we'll only be able to deliver a fraction of the bears that are truly needed," Jones explained. "In two refugee camps in Jordan alone, we could deliver over 50,000 bears without blinking. The true need is closer to a million, and that's just Syria."
The goal is, with the help of IMC, to be able to swoop in and deliver bears to children wherever there's unrest in the world. ("We want to go to East and Central Africa next," Jones said.)
But right now they're just trying to fund the next batch of bears.