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We had been in the in a training of CAMPAIGNING FOR CONSERVATION in Kapilvastu district of Nepal. The 2 weeks residential training was tightly scheduled starting from as early as 8:30 AM to as late as &  7:30 PM  which could mean being involved 11 to 12 hours a day. Due to the ingredients of fun and joy intermingled in the course modality with wonderful facilitation from Ms. Kate and Ms. Ann from RARE, Konrad from IFOAM and similarly fine coordination of Mr. Dhruba and Mr. Madhu of NDRC the training achieved its intended target. Before we were involved with the puppets we had already had 1 field trip to the project site for the practicum on quantitative and qualitative data collection on the third day.

Days 1 to 4: The first day, second day and fourth day dealt with Social Marketing, Theory of Change and Marketing strategies related contents on respective days. The fourth day was for the registration in the interested group for materials preparation hence we had already had our names in the puppet groups viz Ishwor Malla BB Hamal Maharup Khatri Sunita Chand and Ms. Jhila.

Day 5: The plots had to be prepared on the day finalizing the characters. The puppet show group brought some of the prepared materials demonstrated by the trainers after which brainstorming began. Improvisation technique was undertaken to create some interest in the plots thought of. At the end of the day, the members of the group drew the attention of the other trainees when ventriloquism and role play was exercised. A common consensus was drawn to finalize the characters and prepare the script.

Day 6: It was an off day so the group could not meet each other among ourselves so we had plenty of time to make individual preparation. On the day some of us visited Lumbini: the birthplace of Gautham Buddha

Day 7: The day was for a visit to organic farms and visit ginger processing unit during which not much could be done on puppets in group works so again the group member had to spire with the different ideas which were to be suggested on the following day while the other sessions would be ongoing. The script for the puppet was in progress.  

Day 8: The sessions on organic agriculture were conducted. On the day the puppet makers were contacted who were supposed to arrive the following day. The first draft of the script for the puppet show was finalized.  The doll makers were met who were consulted to prepare the puppets and the two doll makers were supposed to work on the characters.

Day 9: The session of organic accreditation and guarantee systems were dealt due to which the organics related topics were understood for which the puppet show got some more ingredients. The initial draft of the script for the puppet show was finalized and little role play was done so as to get the preliminary impression. The puppets designs were prepared of which only one character got finalized since the ladies had little idea on puppet making. The first puppet was of a little school girl. The script was again tested and the 4 characters were supposed to be a girl, a woman, a monkey and a cow for which the dialogues were again improvised and were sent for the correction of the script.

Day 10: The tenth day was for preparing 3 more puppets of which 2 were animal and one was human: the mother. The seamstresses were asked to prepare for the mother puppet as it would be faster then the cow was sketched out for the puppet design. The puppet for monkey got rejected as the size got wrong and afterward its appearance was compromised while trying to improve. The other groups from billboard, songs, posters and sermon sheets got involved for the stage preparation and drawing of the backdrop scenes of the puppet show. At the end of the day during dust, one of the colleagues suggested that the eyes were shrewd so they were again retouched with her assistance and the mother and the daughter characters looked very compassionate than angry or frowned. This was a very critical observation from our fellow participants. The children came to the training venue for the testing the puppet script and practice the show. The children liked the plot of the puppet show hence the script was finalized and the dialogues were rehearsed with plain reading, vocalization, characterization and role play. Among the children, the narrator was found to be shy but with little encouragement and support he dared to speak up few words and little more exercise was yet to be done to overcome his embarrassment making him bolder.  

Day 11: While other materials were being prepared filming, interviewing, paintings, and rigorous logistic arrangement were being done our puppet maker was busy accomplishing the sewing of Chunkey the monkey for which we made the sketches of the character. During the entire operation, two crew stayed with the seamstress so that it does not go wrong. The children were supposed to come for the final rehearsal. with the puppets in the stage prepared hence the puppet was done by the time school children were for the final rehearsal. The children rehearsed with puppets, with the mikes in their hands and then in the stage. On the end of the day, every things were packed to carry to the community for the final show.

Day 12 (The Show Day): When we arrived at the program venue the rumors were all over that 4 puppets will perform the show. The 5 children who played the puppets were ready to welcome their puppet friends and all the other friends from theirs in the community and school were curious to see how the new guests look like. The entire participants either helped with clearing the grounds or preparing the stage of arranging the sound system not forgetting the logistic arrangements. The curious school children had their terminal exam and they were determined to see how the puppet show looks after giving their exams. While the children were giving exams many guardians fled to the program venue and participated in the discussion boards, listened to the song prepared by the training group, and they even participated in music and dance programs. The puppet show began after the school children were done with their exams the school children came to see the puppet theater. As the stage of the puppet unveiled the narrator boldly announced the show with confidence (which was a huge improvement that the rehearsal period two days earlier) and the puppet popped up to act; the audience gleefully watched the show, the little girl puppet was much loved the school children seemingly nodded when she acted like wise and the curious eyes of the boys and girls were staring the notoriety of Chunkey the monkey. Likewise, the mothers and guardians of the children were watching with astonishment when a cow began a conversation with humans and wild animals alike. The message for conservation was very easily taken in by the children and adults alike in the 11 minute show and was applauded with loud cheers when all the puppets shouted the slogan of zero tillage. In the end, the children who played the entire show proudly bowed infront of their guardians and friends and the guardians and the friend of the actors were seen with the sense of pride and determination.

Learnings and Observations

Puppets are effective means of spreading out the messages for social marketing as they are very perceptive to children and their families/guardians; this was evident in the puppet show staged in Dohote of Arghakhachi Nepal where NDRC is implementing its project. The children can overcome their fear in very short time if they are fed in with courage and confidence; which was learnt for the experience of the little puppeteers in C4C in Nepal. Crafting a puppet show is a huge operation though it looks only a few puppets hanging with few people speaking their dialogues. Having no puppet makers (the ones who prepared were doll makers with no idea about puppets at all) in the district made made the participants more challenged and taught the new skill by learning by doing the process. We got to learn that team effort is really important for making a campaign success. Kate Mannle Ann-Kathrin Neureuther Konrad Hauptfleisch Grumpy Konrad Soma Rana Alok Shrestha  Chetana Shahi  Sangam Sherpa  . 

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