Puppet with purpose

CanadaNews

REGINA – There’s no shortage of anti-bullying presentations in our province, but Kids on the Block is staging a new genre of student empowerment.“Ready for my close-up,” said “Eddy”, through the experienced arm of Brit Kessel, his puppeteer.Along with “Clare”, they’re the main characters of all Kids on the Block (KOTB) presentations that teach the importance of personal safety and self-respect.Numerous invested volunteers dedicate their time to anti-violence puppet education.

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“A lot of kids love them,” Kessel said. “I think they respond much better to puppets than they do an adult sitting there trying to give them a lecture. I think they like it because they see them as other children, and they open up to them and are more willing to speak to them.”KOTB is breaking barriers around topics of bullying, and sexual abuse. During a KOTB show, students learn about the many forms of violence, and how to trust their instincts when things just aren’t feeling quite right. Story continues below

“We talk about the feelings in your body that you might have,” Christina Phipps Kante, the education coordinator for STOPS to Violence,explained.“If someone was following you and you were really scared what would your heart be doing? It’d be beating really fast. What would your breathing be doing? Then we talk about what it feels like if we’re feeling strong and brave and confident, and get them to show that in their bodies. On a physical level, they can kind of feel the difference between what it feels like to be scared and what it feels like to be safe and brave.”They have to figure out creative ways to encourage light discussion around heavy topics.“There can be a lot of secretiveness and embarrassment or shame around abuse, and kids will be discouraged from talking about it,” Lisa Miller, KOTB community education coordinator, said. “So these scripts are I think very important to get the message out that it happens to other people, and they need to talk to safe adults so they can be safe and grow up healthy.”After the show, children come up to Eddy and tell him their stories.“Every performance there will be disclosures,” Kessel said “Like, ‘hey this happened to me’ or, ‘I know someone who this happened to.’ You want to encourage them talking about it and not keeping it and hiding it.”That could be a big piece of the violence puzzle that exists in our province. Saskatchewan has the highest youth violence rate in the country and the highest domestic violence rates. The statistics have motivated many in our province to find tangible ways to knock the numbers down.“Unfortunately, in my environment I didn’t have supportive adults,” Kessel said.“I didn’t have the resources that maybe this program would provide, with educating them on what they can do, and that’s one of the reasons I wanted to volunteer.”“The earlier it can start, that kids understand that their body belongs to them, they deserve to feel safe, and they have some tools in place to deal with those things when they’re not feeling safe, I think the better hope we have of a violence-free future or violence-free community,” Phipps Kante said. The program has exploded. They have a ton of requests to travel throughout the province so thousands more kids can learn from Eddy’s experience and Clare’s advice.