July 1st. It goes so fast!!!!
To mark the milestone, here’s a glimpse at what we’ve achieved so far in 2014, then a bullet-point overview of four key project delivery objectives for the rest of the year.
Programme Update, Syria:
Feedback from the facilitators we’ve trained over the last few months in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey is very positive indeed. They’re finding the two films we’ve made for displaced and refugee children in the region, Out of the Shadows and Red Top, Blue Top, are helping them make big strides into getting children to disclose about their personal feelings and experiences, and to share thoughts on the ‘other’. For some, naturally, it’s too soon to think positively about this other who has brought so much destruction to their worlds. But one day children know they will live together again, and what some of those challenges will be. They, more than anyone, understand the beauty and desirability of peace. On a more day-to-day level, war brings mass movement of peoples who are forced to live with those they don’t know or wouldn’t, under the circumstances, associate with. Here, the messages in this film are proving very helpful indeed.
One big finding has been the sheer number of puppet-based sessions facilitators will deliver with a single class over a series of weeks and months. Children are using a whole range of puppetry like table top, shadow and sock to tell their stories and to work in groups to focus in greater depth on a particular element of one of the films, like understanding happy and difficult feelings, or practicing effective listening skills.
We’re obviously really inspired by all of these stories, and we’ll be blogging with interviews with key partner staff in the weeks ahead.
Four Key Delivery Areas, next six months:
In the mean time, here are four key project delivery areas No Strings will be focusing on over the second half of this year.
- Egypt: A year ago, more than a 1,000 people were killed in intergroup clashes that tore apart some of the heart of Egypt. Back in October last year, our partner there sent a number of key staff supporting Syrian refugee communities in Egypt to one of our workshops on Out of the Shadows (trauma healing) and Red Top, Blue Top (peace building). The enthusiasm generated has led them to call for a new No Strings workshop in their own country for teachers in regions affected by intergroup and interfaith tension and conflict. We’ll be delivering it this summer.
- Sierra Leone: No Strings’ WASH (water, sanitation & hygiene) film was originally developed for children in Haiti, a country where diarrheal diseases cause widespread sickness and claim many young lives. The Amazing Machine introduces messages around the importance of hand washing with soap, latrine use, and drinking clean water in ways that don’t preach and are fun. It’s about inspiring young people to see that they have the magic and the power to do something positive for themselves. The film also talks about rubbish and recycling, and how, if we work together, we can make our immediate environments much nicer and safer to live and to play in. This is nothing children don’t know, but we do know from Haiti that the message of empowerment has been hugely inspiring. School clubs have grown up on the back of it, parents have bought into it, and it’s also been used widely among children who are prevented from going to school through poverty. Freetown in Sierra Leone not only looks a little like Port au Prince, but is a city sharing many similar health and environmental risks. We’ll be re-dubbing the film and working with specialist WASH facilitators who are focused on bringing these messages to life for children in ways that will have a tangible impact on their health and wellbeing.
- Madagascar: Like Sierra Leone, Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world. Many communities in Madagascar live in constant vulnerability to the effects of natural disasters, principally floods, landslides and cyclones. We’ll be running two workshops ahead of the commencement of cyclone season in mid October, re-dubbing some of our Tales of Disasters films into Malagasy. We’re working with exceptional partners here and will be excited to post more as the weeks go on. As with all our workshops, participants will include people working directly with children on an everyday basis, and senior staff charged with rolling the training out to other staff so that dissemination grows organically. To make this happen – to reach as many vulnerable children as possible, one of the challenges is to really get these senior staff on board and inspire them with our methodology that uses play as a central facet of learning. Our champions so far are the five school principals from Rizal in the Philippines who attended a regional workshop in Cambodia, and went home and developed a cascade training system for literally thousands of teachers in their province. Why? Because there was an urgent need, the training itself was fun to deliver, and they saw measurable impacts on children’s awareness and behaviour.
- Central African Republic: Again, one of the world’s very poorest countries, with many children and communities now sub-existing amid a brutal civil war. Nothing set in stone yet as we wait for news on funding, but we’re hoping we’ll be able to carry out an assessment visit here in the coming months to meet with local partners about a future programme that may, like our conflict in Syria work, reflect around trauma and peace.