What began as a fun hobby for a 64-year-old Brazilian grandfather has turned into an extra special project, touching children facing various disabilities.
Brazilian grandfather João Stanganelli Jr. is using a brand new hobby to help kids who have the same skin condition as him. When he was in his late 30s, Stanganelli began to show signs of vitiligo, a disease in which the epidermis loses pigment and colour in patches.
Although that didn’t affect his ability to work (vitiligo is painless), a separate heart problem in his early 60s caused his whole world to change. He turned to crochet – specifically, amigurumi – to keep his hands and mind engaged and active while he got used to a slower pace of life.
After mastering rug and animal designs, Stanganelli decided to make a special doll for his granddaughter that included vitiligo patches so she’d always remember him.
He says his granddaughter was overjoyed, and Stanganelli was so proud of the creation that he shared a photo of it online. Soon after, Stanganelli began getting requests from people looking for their own “vitilindas” and “vitilindos.”
“I feel blessed for the opportunity to bring a little encouragement to people,” he said in Portuguese. “The response is always positive. I’m happy! The kids love the dolls and feel represented.”
Vitiligo is a genetic condition with the most visible manifestation. While it does not cause any major physical harm, it causes a lot of psychological stress. The condition is stigmatised and has many myths surround it in certain countries.
Dr Shekhar Pradhan, Head of Skin Department, Sassoon General Hospital, said, “It is not a disease. But people having this have a lot of emotional burden. Many times, problems do occur when it comes to marriage. Many treatments like topical creams, steroids, phototherapy unit and some surgical modalities are available. People should consult a skin specialist. Medical science progressed on new methods for treatment; the visible patches caused by the condition can be treated.”
Stanganelli has lived with the condition since he was 38 years old, he said. The doll maker says he’s happy to uplift so many children with the same disorder, and doesn’t plan to stop any time soon.
“It has been rewarding, stimulating. I’m happy to be a good influencer,” he says, adding a message for people everywhere: “Stains on vitiligo are beautiful. What is ugly is stains on people’s character.”