Listenbear teaches Children how to bear the unbearable

Listenbear is a hand embroidered bear, made in South Africa. He is the hero of his story. In the book “Listenbear learns the Trees’ Secret” he is told by the old growth trees:

“Bad things happen, they just do…But you are still you…And, No-one can ever take your smile away from you.”

He is taught a meditation technique that is easy and fun: “Close your eyes and smile”

At a Silent Retreat in Italy, that Merle was co-facilitating, she told her students about the power of teaching a child through a story, and how she had written storied for her grandson Kieron. One of her students it turned out, was head of a department at Ulleval Hospital in Oslo, and asked if she would write a story for children who came to the hospital, often traumatized and afraid.

But there’s more…lots more.  This was just the beginning, of the small germinating acorn that would one day grow into a huge oak tree.


Merle spent a year researching material for the book for the hospital.  She interviewed Doctors, surgeons, anesthetists.  She visited hospitals and the burn unit at Red Cross hospital in Cape Town.

She looked for a soft toy for the child to hold while reading the story. This led her to the beautifully, hand-crafted bears, made by refugee women from Zimbabwe. Voila the birth of Listenbear.

Merle wrote “Listenbear learns the Trees Secret” to help children bear the unbearable pain of growing up.

In this book she teaches children a gentle, loving meditation practice she learned from the Vietnamese Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh

“Close your eyes and smile”

The book has been adapted and used by Save the Children and World Vision International.  It has been translated into many languages and distributed in refugee camps where local women make the dolls to accompany the story. It is reported that up to a million books have been printed and distributed

All profits from the sale of Listenbear go towards purchasing new bears to be distributed to children in need.

The story of the women who embroider the bears:

In  Wawa, Northern Zimbabwe, fifty years ago,  a group of women were taught to embroider by Norwegian Missionaries. These women began to teach their unique embroidery technique to other women and their signature embroidery style is now found widely throughout Zimbabwe.

Some years ago a group of these women escaped the terrible conditions of rural Zimbabwe and settled as refugees in Cape Town. They live in tin shacks with no electricity or running water. Their ability to embroider was noticed by a woman setting up a hand-craft project in Cape Town and she designed the bear for them to embroider.  8 women work on each bear, they are free to embroider their own stories and it takes approx. a week for each bear. The bears are made in a sanitary environment that meets International Health Standards.

The Christmas Charity drive to give abused South African children a Comfort Pack

Merle has teamed up with Habonim South Africa to distribute Comfort Packs to children that contain medical and emergency supplies for emotional or physical abuse. Each Comfort Pack will also include a book and Listenbear.  Please help us reach our goal to hand over at least 100 Comfort Packs over this coming Christmas /Chanukkah period when sadly, so many children have extreme needs. We’ll keep you updated – so far we have given 30 Comfort Packs which were received by Habonim with enormous gratitude.

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