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Children in northern Thailand use theatre to shine a light on disasters

August 2013: “I was watching a soap opera and all of a sudden an earthquake took place,” says Natcharin, a 13-year old girl who lives in Chiang Saen, northern Thailand. “My mum and I hid under the table and bed. If there is a disaster, people in our community will be in trouble.

Natcharin recently attended a 2-day workshop with 29 other children from 4 villages to create characters and stories to use for a shadow puppet show all about disasters.”

“In our story, we want to talk about how it isn’t good to ignore flood warnings. I’ll use my knowledge to perform for adults and children so that they know how dangerous disasters can be”.

Shadow puppetry is an effective way for vulnerable children and communities to learn about disaster risk reduction using easy, fun and engaging media. In partnership with Plan Thailand, the organisation Wondering Moon uses shadow theatre to tell stories of disasters.

Participants in the workshop design and draw the story’s characters. They then choose colours that are suitable because you can only see the shadows in the performance when light is projected on the paper.

Children leading the way

This is part of Plan’s Child Centred Climate Change Adaptation (4CA), a 3-year project supported by AusAID taking place in 10 countries across the Asia-Pacific Region. It aims to build the awareness of children and young people about climate change and empower them to be agents of change in their communities.

It is an innovative approach that fosters the agency of children and young people. Communities such as Chiang Saen design and implement unique projects that explore how and why things are changing and gets adults talking to and learning from children on finding the best roles for children to play.

Saving lives

Although it seems all like fun and games, the real world application of what they have learned is potentially lifesaving.

“I’ve learnt how to make puppets here, and now I can perform shows for my friends and family so that they know and learn about disasters and are able to prepare for and handle these things,” says Armonthep, a 16-year boy.

Areas of northern Thailand are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change and disasters. Rainfall across all regions of the country has the potential to increase by 10-20%, increasing the risk of events such as severe flooding and landslides in the mountainous north.

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