Delivering Content with a smile

How puppets are driving behavior change communication
November 19, 2022

The Covid-19 message has been delivered in many different ways each with its own outcome. Being able to adapt one's message has become a strategic tool for many who are fighting the pandemic and among those that have taken a different route is Project HAND UP . Employing puppets as their main characters, Project HAND UP which is part of HBCC2 has delivered messages that creatively entice the minds beyond children to reach teens and adults.

According to CEO Darren Collins Project HAND UP is an educational non-profit dedicated to teaching kids and families about the most challenging health and safety topics. This is done live, in schools, and on television and mainly uses puppetry as a communication tool.  Through the HBCC2 platform, Project HAND UP is able to work on issues that require behavior change or those that may knock against cultural norms to have the health and safety outcomes that are necessary.

John Kariuki Gichuiri prepares Bali The Monkey for his descent into a bucket of hand sanitizer

Camouflaged behind the puppet, there’s the dual advantage of attracting the attention of all ages and the special permission to say things that humans wouldn't say. In this regard, Project HAND UP’s work weaves in all facets of society as there are jokes built in to make teenagers laugh, explore themes that only an adult could relate to, and is silly enough to hold the attention of an early primary child.  While the team tries to make it look like it is aimed directly at a child, things are being said with a wink and a nod to the adults.

This thus allows to avoid the direct pushback when interacting with adults by reaching kids with messages that encourage them to take precautions and help influence the adult’s decisions.

A stunt double of Bali The Monkey is prepared to be dropped from the ceiling by puppeteer and prop builder, John Kariuki Gichuiri

According to Darren, to bring all this to life is a delicate art of scripting, acting, and puppeteering all brought together through a synchrony of talent to convey messages. To amplify Project HAND UP’s messages, they have partnered with Akili Kids TV where their videos are being shared and reach over 1.4 million kids daily and a further 1.2 million adults – a weekly reach of 9 million viewers. The content is currently in English and Swahili but can be translated into other languages around the world.


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