With the encouraging news that schools in Sierra Leone will reopen at the end of March, No Strings is busy finalising dates with partners led by Oxfam and Save the Children there for a workshop around Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) issues.
Diarrhoea kills a staggering 2.2 million people each year (WHO), most of them children in parts of the world where major challenges exist around washing hands with soap, drinking clean water and using latrines.
Through our newly-trained facilitators, Sierra Leonean children will watch The Amazing Machine, an imaginative puppet film exploring the power in all of us to make fantastical changes to our environments and wellbeing by working together and making good choices.
And then they’ll meet Mr Poop! He’s a dirty old sock puppet with flies round his head who’s great pals with Germ, a stick puppet. He likes to trick naive old Hand, a simple chap made of cardboard, and the lovely Mouth. Children will make these characters from throw-away objects and work out for themselves how diarrhoea actually gets into our systems – and what we can do to stop it. Bring in our heroes: Soap, Clean Water and Latrine.
It’s all about making connections for ourselves, and nobody knows more than us how puppets are a such a powerful way of having this happen. Older children will pin down practical challenges using shadow puppetry and toy theatre and work out achievable plans of action that will help keep them and their families safer, helping to regain a sense of control and positivity after an unimaginably difficult period of the country’s life. We’ll also encourage involvement of mother’s and other community groups.
Schools in Sierra Leone were closed in July last year when the government announced a state of emergency in response to the Ebola outbreak which has now killed more than 9,000 people in the region, almost 3,500 of them in Sierra Leone, according to WHO figures of February 9th 2015.
As part of our workshop, we’ll be introducing a special guest, Ebo, the Ebola puppet. Horrible and fascinating at the same time, made from easily-available items and yet magnificently vibrant, Ebo will help children discuss troubling issues relating to Ebola in a safe and supportive environment.
Washing hands with soap has been compared to the most powerful ever vaccine invented in its power to prevent diarrhoea. We also know it helps in the fight against Ebola. Two very good reasons for rolling your sleeves up, puppet fans!
• WHO – World Health Organisation