This post is intended to give a little more clarity about what The Bábóg Project is and what it is not. I hope it will help explain why we did certain things and I hope it will serve to provide the transparency that a project of this nature should have.
Firstly, I would like to clarify who The Bábóg Project is. I Laura Whalen, am the curator of this work.
When I first conceived of the idea I had a small circle of friends around me that helped me greatly (and still help me now) with many aspects of the project. At times these ladies have taken on various roles; of correspondent, researcher, support and assisting with things such as cutting out fabrics for workshops.
One of these ladies is a survivor of a mother and baby home and it was her baby brother, Stephen and his death also in a mother and baby home, who was the inspiration behind the whole project.
But The Bábóg Project is more than those who collect and curate this work. The Bábóg Project is the hundreds of people: men, women and children from every county in Ireland, from all over the world who have participated in this project by making a doll (or many) as an act of love and care.
What is the Project trying to do?
The Bábóg Project aims to make a doll for each of the estimated 6000 babies that are said to have died in Ireland’s former Mother and Baby homes.
This project has no other aim but to acknowledge that each of these infants were human beings with human stories, no matter how short and they are therefore deserving of our love, care and attention.
The number 6000
There is a huge amount of discrepancy about the numbers of babies that died in Ireland’s Mother and Baby homes. One source I read claimed it could be as high as 35,000. There will possibly be no way of ever knowing the extent of this horror.
However, for the practical purpose of being able to have an endpoint to the project, we settled on the number of 6000. This number is the estimate that most online sources give and it is the number given by the Coalition of Mother and Baby Home Survivors.
It is a symbolic representation of the enormous extent of the lives so terribly lost at these institutions.
To this end I am careful to say that is the estimated number of babies said to have died in Ireland’s mother and baby homes.
Are there any survivors; mothers, adoptees, family members involved in the project?
Yes there are, many. Beth Wallace, who has been involved from the start of this project is herself a survivor. Her little brother Stephen, as already mentioned as being the person who inspired me to start this project, was also born in a mother and baby home and he sadly died there.
This project is not the work of a few.
It is the collaborative work of hundreds and hundreds of people. Some of the participants were born in mother and baby homes, some of them gave birth there, some of them lost siblings there, or uncles or aunts or cousins.
When we started the project we made a very concerted effort to contact all of the relevant support groups that we could find. We shared with them the idea of the project and invited them to participate in whatever way they would like to, or not at all. While we may not have managed to contact every group, any omission was no more than us not knowing about them, and we truly attempted to inform as many people as we could.
What will happen to the dolls when you have gathered them?
The dolls will form part of a travelling exhibition. They will be able to travel all over the country. It is likely that they will visit many places but I think it would be particularly powerful and meaningful if they could visit the places where the major homes were. I use the term “major” to denote those institutions that are recognised as and were called “Mother and Baby Homes”. I know that there were many smaller institutions and county homes around the country, and that they possibly hold similar stories.
However, yet again this is a symbolic gesture. It may not be possible to bring the dolls to every county in Ireland, so choosing the places where there were the institutions commonly termed “Mother and Baby Homes” is a symbolic gesture and does not mean to leave out or over look any body. Once the tour is finished we are entirely open to what will happen to the dolls and we welcome any input that anyone may have from offers to ideas.
What is the point of the project?
The point of this project really is to do nothing else but to give the people of Ireland a way to say “we care, we love you and we are sorry”.
It cannot rectify what wrongs have been done. It does not absolve anyone of any guilt, it does not seek justice nor can it offer anything other than a way to say “we care”.
This project can only help with keeping the issues related to those who survived and did not survive these institutions, in the public eye. It can only help with offering one small way for people to experience a deeper level of empathy. I am sorry that it can do more, and I am sorry that I can offer no more than this. I would if I could.
This could be triggering for some people
We understand that any project can be triggering, and we are aware that this is a particularly difficult and emotive subject. To this end we have always asked all participants to try to be aware of their own mental health whilst participating in the project.
While I am running workshops we begin and end with a grounding exercise and I invite participants to take time out at any time and I also invite them to approach should they need further support and I can point them in the direction of professional support.
We also have a list of supporting organisations that we reference both online and at the workshops. These I will list here for further reference should you, or anyone you know require further support around any issues that have arisen for them working with The Bábóg Project. Their details can easily be found online.
Adoption Authority Ireland
Adoption Rights Alliance
Irish Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy
There are a multitude of support and advocacy groups on social media, some linked directly to individual institutions and which also can be found with an online search.
I hope this post is helpful and informative and please do feel free to contact us if you have any further questions: email@example.com