Project HAND UP: Delivering Content with a Smile

How Puppets Can Drive Behaviour Change Communication
November 19, 2022

Over three years since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, there is widespread behavioural and pandemic fatigue. And yet the dissemination of hygiene and vaccination messaging remains critically important to ensuring that people continue to protect themselves from infectious diseases - not only from Covid-19, but also other diseases including Ebola and Cholera, outbreaks of which East Africa is currently facing.

As part of HBCC 2, Amref-NBCC has been working with a number of digital partners, each of whom push hygiene and vaccination messaging in their own unique ways. Agility to adapt one's messaging and deliver it in innovative ways has become a critical tool for tackling behavioural and pandemic fatigue. One organisation that drives hygiene and behaviour change messaging in a very unique way is Amref-NBCC's partner Project HAND UP.

Employing puppets as their main characters, Project HAND UP delivers messages that creatively engage the minds of children, teens and even 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 HBCC II platform, Project HAND UP is able to work on issues that require behaviour change or those that may knock against cultural norms to drive important health and safety outcomes".
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. Project HAND UP’s work is thus able to engage multiple groups of society - there are jokes built in to make teenagers laugh, it explores themes that only  adultS could relate to, and is silly enough to hold the attention of young primary school children. While the Project HAND UP team tries to make it look like it is aimed directly at children, things are said with a wink and a nod to adults.

By reaching kids with messages that encourage them to take precautions and in turn help influence adult's decisions, Project HAND UP is able to minimise pushback from adults due to behavioural and pandemic fatigue.

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

According to Darren, to bring all of this to life is a delicate art of scripting, acting, and puppeteering to convey messages. To amplify Project HAND UP’s messages, they have partnered with Akili Kids TV where their videos are being shared with Akili's large audience of kids and adults daily. The content is currently in English and Swahili but can be translated into other languages around the world.

As Amref-NBCC, we are thrilled to have been working with Project HAND UP as part of HBCC 2. Their energy, innovation and agility has successfully driven key hygiene and vaccination messaging to protect people from Covid-19. A big thank you to Project HAND UP. For more on their work, check out their website.

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