18/05/2018 - Published by

How a Guatemalan doll is helping children recover from the Manchester Arena attack

A Guatemalan traditional legend about a doll is being used to help young children who were affected by the Manchester Arena attack.  The dolls are part of the therapies being offered by the Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Peace Foundation, an organisation set up nearly 25 years ago to support victims and survivors of terrorism.

The worry dolls are used by the Foundation’s caseworkers to help children to deal with their fears following their appalling experiences resulting from the attack outside the Manchester Arena.  They are part of the Foundation’s proprietary clinical health approach called SENSE (see below).

The Foundation gives each child a bag of dolls as part of their support.  The Worry dolls allow children to share their sorrow, fears and worries and then hide it under the pillow at night  The child sleeps ‘over the doll’ and by the morning the feelings are taken away.  Worry dolls are used in child psychiatry.  When our caseworkers work with children, they use a worry doll as an imaginary and trustworthy “listener.”  The doll works as a ‘bridge’ between the child and adult.

The origin of the Worry Dolls (Worry People) refers to a Mayan princess named Ixmucane. The princess received a special gift from the sun god which would allow her to solve any problem a human could worry about. The dolls are in huge numbers in Guatemala and Mexico as souvenirs.

Earlier this week, the Foundation with the agreement of 10-year-old Ellie and her mum, and support from caseworker Will Roberts allowed ITV Granada an exclusive look behind the scenes and during the film, the dolls are seen being used by Ellie to talk to Will.


Ellie was aged nine at the time of the Ariana Grande concert and was badly impacted by what she saw and experienced.  Ellie is being helped to cope and recover by the Peace Foundation and is one of 750 individuals and 300 families the organisation is working with following the attack.  The little Guatemalan dolls are just one way the Peace Foundation works with young children affected by terrorism.

Ellie has spoken about the difference the Peace Foundation made to her and her worries about how other childen might be feeling and, in encouraging others to take up support that without the Peace Foundation she said: “they could still be very angry and upset and I don’t think it would be a very good state of life.”

Nick Taylor, Chief Executive appealed for parents to come forward: “What happened after the Ariana Grande concert is beyond comprehension and young children and their families need our help to cope and recover.

“Our techniques are developed to be kind to children and are clinically informed as part of our SENSE methodology.  I appeal to anyone needing help to get in touch to take up our free and confidential support:

In response to traumatic incidents, the ‘SENSE’ model provides an evidence-based framework in which to deliver the immediate support, to facilitate the monitoring of PTSD symptoms, mobilise social support networks and promote opportunities for early engagement with psychological services. The SENSE model is part of the Peace Foundation’s ‘trauma-informed’ practice and is developed in association with the Foundation’s Mental Health Consultant, Nikki Lester.

The model comprises of five key interventions; Stabilisation, Education, Normalisation, Social support and Engagement; all of which have been recommended as best practice in both the NHS NICE guidance and broader trauma literature. In addition, the order of the letters in creating the word ‘sense’, in turn, reflect the chronology in which the interventions are offered.  Techniques used such as the worry dolls form part of the Peace Fclinicallyclincially informed process

The Peace Foundation thanks Ellie and her mum for their bravery in sharing their experience to help others.

If you have been affected by terrorism at home or abroad, you can get free and confidential support from:

Survivors Assistance Network website

Survivors Assistance Network | The Peace Centre | Peace Drive | Warrington | Cheshire | WA5 1HQ

Email – SAN@Foundation4peace.org
Phone – 01925 581240

Twitter – @survivors4p

(c) 2018 Survivors Assistance Network is a service of Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Peace Foundation, a registered charity in England and Wales. The service is partly funded by the Ministry of Justice, the Victims and Survivors Service (Northern Ireland) as part of the European Union’s PEACE IV and by the generosity of our donors and supporters.