No strings attached: Life-size puppets to help teach acceptance

Amy Nazarewich, of the Family Counselling Centre, chats it up with Kids on the Block puppets Joanne, left, and Nam. Glenn Ogilvie

Marco Vigliotti

A local puppet troop is being dusted off to educate children and adults alike about multiculturalism and acceptance of people from different backgrounds.

The Family Counselling Centre is reviving its “Kids on the Block” program and will start with multiculturalism because it’s a topic ripe for discussion, said project co-ordinator Amy Nazarewich.

“There’s so much going in Sarnia’s community multiculturalism and diversity,” she said, noting a local YMCA newcomers program and the area’s Aboriginal population.

Kids on the Block is a popular U.S.-based education program that provides puppets, scripts and other learning materials to participating organizations to aid in addressing a wide number of subjects.

The materials can address a number of sensitive topics, such as disabilities, autism and childhood cancer.

Nazarewich said the program’s simple but accessible storytelling allows audience members to embrace a message without it coming off as preachy.

“I think storytelling is a very powerful medium when it comes to discussing topics of social awareness,” she said.

Nazarewich said she hopes to begin performing a story about cultural differences sometime in the upcoming Christmas season.

The Family Counselling Centre has used the Kids on the Block before but the program was placed on hold a few years ago. Nazarewich said she has already heard from one local organization interested in hosting a show. Schools and community centres are other potential venues.

The group is actively looking for volunteers to perform with the life-sized puppets. Prior acting or puppeteering experience is not required.

“This is something anyone can do; it’s a lot of fun,” she said. “You’re getting out in the community and giving back.”

All Kids on the Block productions, she added, will be free of charge.