A long term skin condition, Vitiligo, affects around 1% of people worldwide. Vitiligo causes the skin’s pigment-producing cells to die or stop producing melanin, resulting in patches of lighter or white skin.  Although physically harmless, it can result in sensitivity to the sun and more seriously, psychological stress and social stigma because of looking different.

João Stanganelli Junior, a 64 year old grandfather from Brazil has lived with Vitiligo for about 30 years, the condition becoming more noticeable as the years passed.

Joäo recently ‘semi-retired’ from the food industry due to health issues and decided to take up a hobby to keep active. He and his wife both started crocheting and although he struggled at first, he soon got into the rhythm, and now finds it hard to stop!

“At first my fingers and back hurt a lot, today no more,” João told Bored Panda. ‘’I’m not yet retired, I still keep up my old work with food, but much less intensely. At the moment I spend 90% of my time with the dolls. I have many orders.”

As his first project, he made a doll for his granddaughter. He created the doll with vitiligo patches so his granddaughter would always remember him. Thus an idea was born and João, it seems, found his calling.

João started making dolls, including a wheelchair doll and a visually impaired doll, to name a few. His aim is to help children feel normal and boost their confidence, regardless of what kind of condition they were living with.

Motivated and inspired by the joy and self-esteem his dolls were bringing, João continued to create, using Facebook and Instagram to display his latest works. “My view of vitiligo seems to me to be very different from the general, I think it is necessary first accept that you have Vitiligo, after this acceptance you choose what you want to do,” João continued. “I still quote Benjamin Disraeli: ‘Life is too short to be small.’’

“The horrible spots are the spots on the character.”

A recent recipient of a doll made by João, Maria Luiza started getting slow growing white spots on her legs, back and arms when she was just three years old.

Her mother, author Tati Santos de Oliveira, after a diagnosis of vitiligo, devoured all available literature. “When I learned of the diagnosis, I sought, in addition to treatment, publications for her to feel represented,” she said. “I did not find in the market any work on the subject for children. Then it clicked!”

Two days later, Tati had written ‘A Menina Feita de Nuvens‘, or ‘The Girl Made of Clouds.’ “The book tells the story of Maria Luiza and her special secret. She has spots made of clouds. It is a way to treat the acceptance of the disease with delicacy.”

João loves the book and says it’s “a great information tool for parents and children about Vitiligo, so I always make it known.” Perhaps an English translation will be available soon.

João’s hobby has brought smiles of happiness to many young children and created awareness and understanding of the plight of those who are different. We should all join the good fight against social stigma fueled by ignorance.

Image credits: joaostanganelli

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