Puppets instill life skills

By Samantha Barnes

PORT Elizabeth women have shared their motivation for teaching children from disadvantaged communities the life skills needed to help them to make better choices.

Angie Waugh, is married with two children and lives in Port Elizabeth.

 “I established Fairy Garden Edupuppets to teach life skills to disadvantaged children from five to 14. My team and I use marionettes, all manufactured and designed by us, to tell a story depicting day-to-day characters. Our unique concept and educational show is very well received by the children.”

There is an underlying message. Angie said: “We are educating children with life skills that could save their lives.”

“As a woman running my own nursery school in Alberton in Gauteng many years ago, I first became aware of child abuse. An 11-year-old girl from a middle class home confided in me that she had been abused by her parents’ best friend. This had been going on for two years and she had not told her parents, although she knew it was wrong.

“I called in Childline and we brought this to her parents’ attention. They were furious their best friend had betrayed their trust in this awful way. The signs were there for the parents to pick up on if they had been more observant. Is it abnormal behaviour for a grown man to buy sexy nighties for a young girl?

“To protect children I teach them what my mother taught me.

“When I was growing up my mother had to work very hard and worked long hours, after my dad died when I was two. To protect us from harm she taught my sister and me a secret password.

“If someone came to us and said that they had been asked to fetch us by our mothers, we were to ask them for the secret password. If they couldn’t give it to us, we knew it was unsafe. If a password was used once it was then changed to a new ‘stranger danger’ password.”

Angie has learned that the African culture has a different outlook from white perceptions regarding certain situations. For instance, her initial script for the puppet show spoke about the dangers of speaking to strangers.

A teacher soon corrected her! In African culture to be unfriendly to strangers is perceived as being rude, so Angie had to educate the children using a different message.

The team that makes up Fairy Garden Edupuppets will go wherever there is a need. Angie has seven Xhosa speaking volunteers who are very excited about giving children in their communities much needed life skills. Angie is training them to become trainers. They will eventually run their own puppet show. This team of African women are experienced counsellors, having done HIV/Aids and teen pregnancy counselling.

Angie’s sister joined her recently from Gauteng. She has also employed a PRO, Lilian Slabbert, who has worked for many years with troubled teens.

“I have brilliant staff! My biggest challenge now is securing funding.”

Tel (041) 581 6528 or enquiries@fairygardentheatre.co.za

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