No Strings and Trócaire

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Soon after the tsunami, Trócaire began an innovative collaboration with No Strings, a small Irish NGO set up to promote awareness on issues affecting children in the developing world.

The result was a series of short puppet films that present children and adults with highly engaging visual lessons in how best to ensure their safety in the event of a natural disaster. Episodes included stories about tsunamis, earthquake and volcanoes.

Written and performed by Kathy Mullen, an internationally acclaimed puppeteer and one-time principal performer with the Muppet Show, the No Strings films provide an entertaining and educational way of teaching children about possible disasters in some of the most disaster-prone regions of the world. The films have been translated into various local languages, including Acehnese, Bahasa Indonesian and Timorese. The films are continuously shown in classrooms throughout the region, and the screenings are accompanied by live puppet shows that teach the kids how to behave during a disaster.

The importance of this work cannot be overstated. When the recent earthquake hit in Padang, Indonesia, many of the schools had received visitors from the No Strings team. One boy, nine year old Abi, had his house completely destroyed in the earthquake. But he that he remembered the No Strings puppets well, and that after they spent a day in his school he knew what to do.

“We were laughing at all of the characters. I loved the puppets and I enjoyed the day very much,” he said.

“I remember that the puppets taught us to hide under the table if there was an earthquake, or try to get out into an open area. I ran outside and brought my sister with me. I still get nightmares about the earthquake but we are ok.”

HIV/Aids education

Since the success of the post-tsunami work, Trócaire and No Strings have continued their collaboration. Together they have recently launched a new series of short films for East African children called Kibing.

Through the Kibing puppet films, audiences are introduced to key issues surrounding HIV – gender, stigma and prevention – in a highly entertaining and engaging format that they will not only enjoy, but which will challenge them to think more deeply about their own attitudes and behaviours.

The films will feature at the International AIDS Conference in Vienna on July 19, 2010.