Puppets Deliver the Message
By Save the Children Azerbaijan
BAKU - Through the performances of colorful and enthralling puppets of the Children’s Tolerance and Education Program, implemented by Save the Children and supported by UNICEF, the Avian Influenza and Healthy Lifestyles program has shared vital health knowledge with primary school children across Azerbaijan. By interacting with children at each school they visit, these smart puppets promote tolerance and understanding allowing children to gain healthy life skills, keeping themselves safe from Avian Influenza and other threats to their wellbeing.
The Avian Influenza and Healthy Lifestyles (AIHEALTH) Program covered many regions of Azerbaijan including Goranboy, Mingechevir, Sumgayit, Salyan, Neftchala, Lenkoran and Masally. Some may assume that Avian Influenza should be dealt with by the governments and question what primary school kids have to do with the Avian flu? But the right approach to any problem has great results—participating children shared their newly found knowledge with others in their family and community.
Every child sitting in the concert hall of each school was interested to hear what the bird, Gushchugaz, and her friends will present to them in an interactive puppet show. Usually school children’s attention is difficult to keep focused for more than 10 minutes, but during these shows, the children never get bored, as Gushchugaz and her friends not only talk about the danger of Avian Influenza but invite children to participate in learning, answering simple questions, like “How do we protect ourselves from germs?” Half of the hall shouts their answers and the other half raises their hands high into the air to be given the opportunity to show everyone their knowledge and share their eagerness to answer the question. At this point in the event, Gushchugaz and her puppet friends have the full attention and participation of all the children in the hall and so every child learns that traditional breakfast eggs should be boiled for at least five minutes and that the chicken that every child loves to eat for dinner should be cooked at no less than 70 degrees centigrade. In schools where the puppets are visiting for the second or third time, children already know these answers and surprisingly well remember Gushchugaz’s advice.
To make sure the information is well absorbed not only through listening, but also visually; colorful brochures from UNICEF with tips on preventing Avian Influenza are distributed to children. Some children approach program staff to ask for more brochures to share with a friend and even adults present at the show curiously read through the brochures and take them away when leaving.
Although the engaged eyes of the participating children tells the answer, program staff anyway ask young Elvin, a 9 year-old boy at the Neftchala school if he liked the show. Elvin quickly affirms with a resounding yes, because, he adds with a smile, Gushchugaz is funny. Avian Influenza may not be the most gripping topic for seven to ten-year-olds, but with the right approach, this age of an audience can easily comprehend a complex message while enjoying still themselves. Additionally, over 2000 children across the country know how to protect themselves from Avian Influenza, something they will readily share with friends, parents and their community.