No Strings International has received one of the world’s most prestigious peace awards for its work using puppetry to reach children affected by war and trauma in the Middle East.
The organisation follows in the footsteps of Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu, Noam Chomsky and Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee as recipient of the 2016 Adela Dwyer-St Thomas of Villa Nova Peace Award.
Staff have just returned from the Villa Nova University in Philadelphia, USA, where they were presented with the award during a special ceremony last week.
NSI director, founder Johnie McGlade, said: “It is an incredible honour to have our work recognised in this way. This is the biggest accolade we could ever hope to receive and we have been very humbled to accept it.
“We know that our programmes are reaching many thousands of children in Syria, Iraq and surrounding countries, and we hope that this award will help us to reach out further at a time in history where there is so much suffering in that part of the world, and where children are growing up knowing nothing but war, loss, fear, and inevitably, mistrust.”
NSI works with some of the key creators of the original Muppet Show and Fraggle Rock to make complex and sometimes difficult messages accessible and engaging for young people around the world, using puppet films and creative, hands-on activities that enable children to express freely.
Programmes manager Rosie Waller designs play and puppetry-based tools that allow children to connect further with films’ key messages.
She said: “We train adults in Iraq and Syria and region who are dealing with very traumatised young people and they find the No Strings tools both useful healing agents as they engage people to play and be creative, and also a powerful means of having children consider people who are different from themselves from fresh perspectives. We know that this has been very impactful.”
Past winners of the University’s Center for Peace and Justice Education annual Adela Dwyer-St. Thomas of Villanova Peace Award include NETWORK, Wendell Berry, Leymah Gbowee, Noam Chomsky, Daniel J. Berrigan, SJ, Sister Helen Prejean, CSJ, Project H.O.M.E., and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
“NSI has responded with remarkable creativity and care to the needs of children who have experienced conflict and trauma around the globe,” said Kathryn Getek Soltis, S.T.L., Ph.D., Director of the Center for Peace and Justice Education.
“In doing so, they remind us that vulnerable children need not only protection, but also the opportunity to share their own voices. Indeed, there can be no peace or healing without these voices.”
No Strings is also currently involved with two programmes in Madagascar dealing with environmental issues as well as nutrition, and will launch two new projects in South Sudan in the New Year around hand-washing with soap and malaria prevention.