North-South Centre - European Centre for Global Interdependence and Solidarity


Recognising excellence in partnership, networking and coordination
for increased and improved global education

with the kind support of




    Tales of Disasters, by No Strings International and Trócaire

    The programme has been created for children in South East Asia, with a series of puppet films presenting life-saving educational messages relating to natural disasters and peace-building.

    However, it has a dual purpose which creates the more global element of the programme, in that the films form the core content of a series of educational materials for Irish schools, where they provide a vivid and multi-discipline learning experience.


    Tales of Disasters is a series of five puppet films made by the co-creators of the original Muppet Show.

    The films, each about seven to 10 minutes long, have been made by No Strings, a non-government organisation which uses puppet films to teach life-saving messages to children in developing countries, and which combines the skills of highly professional puppeteers and an experienced aid sector.

    Four of the Tales of Disasters films are aimed at audiences threatened by natural disasters because of where they live. They are: Earthquake, Tsunami, Flood / Landslide, and Volcano. The films were originally made for children in Indonesia and East Timor, but are now being taken to the Philippines, with other countries in the South East Asian region to follow. An extra film, Cyclone, will be added early next year.

    The fifth film in the series, Two Gardens, takes a different theme - peace advocacy - and explores how easily people misunderstand each other when different communities come together because they have been displaced through conflict or natural disaster, or whatever reason.

    Issues addressed in other No Strings programmes include landmine awareness, in a puppet film called ChucheQhalin made for children in Afghanistan. We are now working on developing a series of films teaching children in sub-Saharan Africa vital lessons around the issues of stigma, gender equality and prevention relating to HIV / AIDS.

    All No Strings films are culturally sensitive and use characters and sets instantly recognisable within the regions they’re made for. They are filmed in English, but dubbed into local languages in-country so that numerous versions are made. Their key messages are informed by local experts on the ground, and once completed, they have all the feel of an indigenous production.

    Why puppets? Puppets are able to communicate directly in a way that is non-threatening. As they’re not real, they can recover from accidents or circumstances that may otherwise provoke great anxiety in audiences, and allow difficult situations a less traumatic context.

    Because all children relate easily to puppets, they can quickly make the imaginative leap between what life is like in one part of the world to their own, and start to appreciate one of the most important lessons of all, which is that wherever we live, we are all pretty much the same, with the same feelings, fears and sense of fun.

    From this perspective, our films have great educational value for schools in the West, where they allow classes with a vivid perspective on a number of key North-South issues and wider themes. Through our funding partner Trócaire and its Development Education team, the Tales of Disasters films have been integrated into unique teaching materials for Senior Primary in schools in the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland.

    This is a new part of the programme, but one that we will seek to expand as it grows, encompassing these and additional films. The themes of stigma and gender equality covered in the HIV / AIDS series are also highly universal. We are hopeful that once incorporated into appropriate teaching materials, they will allow children in Western countries greater insight into the problems brought about by disease and poverty that their counterparts face in Africa, while at the same time leading to greater discussion and understanding of related issues in their own lives.

    Because No Strings is a registered charity and NGO, our Creative Team is able to call upon the talents of a large team of top-level professional filmmakers and puppeteers who work at reduced rates or donate their services in order that the process is affordable.


    Working with Trócaire, who funded the Tales of Disasters series, No Strings is able to reach school children in Ireland with these same educational messages.

    Here, of course, the audience engages from a different perspective. Their world is rarely threatened by issues presented in the films. However, by watching films made for children who grow up with such dangers, they are offered a unique perspective on what life must be like for their counterparts in faraway parts of the world, and the realities that phenomena like earthquakes present.

    In our own experience trialling the idea in primary schools, the films have been a very powerful means of creating empathy for people in different parts of the world, and can lead to a great many discussion points, not only around the issues presented of safety, natural disaster, environmental responsibility and peace, but also wider considerations of the North-South global divide.

    Universal themes are also addressed, like the environment, safety, peace and conflict resolution, and gender equality.

    In the Flood / Landslide film, our old friend Badu throws away his rubbish into drains, which become blocked. He sells his hillside of trees to a logger who immediately fells them. When it rains, his house, and all his new possessions bought from the proceedings, are washed away.

    In Earthquake, we see how important it is not to touch broken electricity cables, etc.

    In Two Gardens, we watch through the eyes of the Little Girl and her friend the Squirrel as grown adults fall out through jealousy caused by ignorance and mistrust. When Badu’s boss offers his twin garden plot to Dani, a stranger from another island, Badu feels threatened. Insecurity turns to anger as the newcomer’s plot yields better and better crops – this man must be stealing from him! Rumours spread, and disaster is imminent when the villagers set the plot on fire. Fortunately, their houses are saved from the fire spreading by Dani himself, who has been working hard of late to fix the local well.

    Because we wanted to create a strong female role model, the real hero of all the disasters films is the Little Girl, a young schoolgirl who leads by example with a thorough knowledge of safety procedures and evacuation routes, etc.

    No Strings always creates a short Making Of documentary to accompany our films. We have found that a child’s understanding is instantly increased when they see real footage of the impact of disasters, and the reaction to the films of children living in these regions.

    Trócaire has created a series of worksheets which help focus a child’s attention on given issues brought up in the films.

    The education materials relate to all four disaster films, and to Earthquake, Tsunami and Volcano in particular, as well as the Two Gardens peace advocacy film. They contain information sheets, carefully worded questions relating to the films, case studies, and a series of curriculum activities. These take in various subject areas like discussion work, literacy, numeracy, geography, history, art, media education, drama, music, and class worksheets appropriate for two different age groups.



    Name: Trócaire

    Contact details: Trish Groves, Education Information Officer, Trócaire, Maynooth, Co Kildare, Ireland. +353 1 654 9116, tgroves@tró
    Type of Organisation: Trócaire is Ireland’s largest international development agency, and is currently funding 127 programmes in 39 countries around the world.

    Trócaire’s Development Education team works with schools in Ireland to inform young people about the root causes of poverty and injustice and mobilise them to bring about global change.

    The Tales of Disasters DVD and accompanying educational materials will be available to Irish schools from October 2008. It will be promoted through Conference workshops such as t he Human Rights Education Conference, St. Patrick’s College, Drumcondra on Sept 20th, through a mailing to all primary schools throughout the country, through various publications such as the INTO magazine In Touch and to strategic contacts within the Primary sector such as the National Committee for Curriculum and Assessment and the National Committee for Technology in Education.

    Teachers will use the materials in classroom teaching with Senior Primary children. While the four films on disasters relate most readily to the SESE (Geography) syllabus, it is envisaged that the activities provided in the resource will encourage a cross-curricular approach. The peace education section will relate to the area of Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) but again provides opportunities for a cross-curricular approach to be taken.

    An evaluation of the impact of the resource will be undertaken. It is envisaged that a core group of schools will be identified to undertake to use the resource. The teachers will be asked to evaluate the impact of the materials. As the children are at Senior Primary level, the children themselves will also be involved in the evaluation and will complete evaluation forms designed to evaluate what they have learned, the impact of the learning on their attitudes, and the skills they have employed in the process.

    b) PARTNER 2

    Name: IDEP
    Contact details: Crystal Johnston, External Relations Coordinator, Jl Hanoman No 42, Ubud, 80571, Bali, Indonesia. Tel / Fax: +62 361 981 504,
    Type of Organisation: The Yayasan IDEP Foundation is a local NGO based in Bali, Indonesia, which encourages programme-sharing and other grass roots projects through media and curriculum development.

    Focuses include sustainable living solutions, environmental education, and micro credit cooperative programmes.

    IDEP has also developed an important community-based crisis response programme to help Indonesian communities to be more prepared for and better manage disasters.
    Trócaire and Cordaid, a sister organisation, have funded IDEP’s initial dissemination of the Tales of Disasters films around Indonesia and East Timor within this programme.
    IDEP in turn have encouraged numerous other local partners to use the films in their DRR (disaster risk reduction) work. Please find attached their January – April 2008 report detailing the organisations involved, and numbers of beneficiaries reached.

    Working with IDEP and JRS (see below), No Strings created the Tales of Disasters films, basing them on key messages developed through their own educational materials, and on their advice. Points of contact were created between these two organisations and the No Strings Artistic Director working on the scripts, set and puppets, to ensure that the completed films were culturally sensitive and appropriate for use across this culturally diverse country. We were also mindful of the films being used for other countries in the region, like the Philippines.

    No Strings set up a five-day workshop in which the subject content was learnt by a series of local facilitators. Training in basic hand puppetry given by two of the No Strings creative team, so that puppets could be used to introduce the films and to further engage children in Q&A session activities afterwards.


    Name: Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Indonesia
    Contact details: Tanya Barnfield, Donor and Programme Support, Gg.Cabe DP III / no.9, Pringwulung, Yogyakarta, Indonesia, 55002
    +62 274 517 405.
    Type of Organisation: JRS Indonesia has been No Strings’ second major local partner in Indonesia responsible for the dissemination of the Tales of Disasters films. As part of JRS worldwide, it was founded to accompany, serve and advocate the cause of refugees and forcibly displaced people regardless of their beliefs.

    JRS commissioned the Two Gardens peace advocacy film to accompany the series. As with IDEP, they are responsible alongside their own local partners for disseminating all five films across Indonesia and East Timor.


    a) Overall aims – South East Asia

    To save lives and greatly reduce the anxiety levels of the Indonesian (and other South East Asian countries’) population by equipping them with a practical understanding of why natural disasters occur, how to spot early warning signs, how to be prepared for them and how to stay safe.

Overall aims – Irish Schools Project

    · To produce educational materials to support the adaptation of the Tales of Disaster DVD for use in Irish Primary schools.
    · To provide teachers will a resource to explore the issues related to disasters, for use with Senior Primary school children.
    · To evaluate the impact of the materials in a number of schools around the country with a view to feeding in the finding to future development education programmes for the Primary sector.

    b) Specific objectives – South East Asia

    · To create a series of puppet films using characters reflective of the country and sensitive to its culture, using a single generic setting which is familiar to all in the proposed audience. The films address natural disaster issues, covering earthquake, tsunami, volcano, flood / landslide, and peace education.
    · To channel the distribution of the films through local partners to as many areas of Indonesia as possible to educate communities about natural disasters and how to prepare for them.
    · To train the local partner in puppetry skills and establish distribution networks with them.

    Specific objectives – Irish Schools Project

    · To develop an understanding of natural disasters: earthquakes, tsunami, volcano and
    · landslide among Senior Primary children
    · To explore information: vocabulary, causes, dangers, safety measures
    · To explore the issues through activities which integrate with the Primary curriculum
    · To explore issues of peace education in the “stranger” or “newcomer”
    · To encourage the development of empathy with children living in disaster risk areas
    · To involve teachers and children in an evaluation of the materials

    c) Outcomes – South East Asia

    · There have been clear, observable changes to those children who have viewed the films and taken part in a session with a facilitator. This is highlighted in the monitoring and evaluation statistics and reports collected by our local partner IDEP – see attached.
    · It will be difficult to monitor how many lives will be saved in an actual disaster situation for obvious reasons. However, it can be assumed that children who have been through the programme will understand the basic concepts, and this is also borne out in the Jan – April 2008 IDEP report.
    · Unexpected outcomes include an incidence of local staff who have been hugely motivated by the training programme undertaken in the No Strings workshop, and are now developing new scripts and ways in which they can incorporate puppetry and other creative ideas into their work in general.
    · The project has substantial capacity-building elements. Local facilitators are now able to use new puppetry skills to deliver important safety messages for disaster relief. Many have found the introduction of creative concepts, like puppetry, highly motivational, and are coming up with ways to incorporate ideas of their own in their group work in general.

Outcomes – Irish Schools Project

      · Irish Primary will have a programme which focuses on the issue of Disasters which integrates with the Irish Primary curriculum.

      · Irish Primary teachers will have a resource on a range of themes and activities related to disasters, which they can draw on as events happen and as they are reported in the media.

      · Senior Primary children will explore issues which relate to disasters which happen globally, such as what causes disasters.

      · Using a range of skills they will have increased knowledge of the issues.

      · Their attitudes to how people respond in disaster situations may be challenged. In particular, attitudes to “outsiders” will be explored, challenged and engaged with..

      · The finding from the evaluation undertaken by the teachers and the children will feed into the development of future programmes and resources on development issues.

    d) Duration of the project – South East Asia

    The project has been designed as sustainably as possible. The films have a timeless appeal and can be used for many years. Early feedback from Indonesia and East Timor suggests that schools using the films would like to re-show them to children so that they are reminded of the important safety lessons at various stages as they grow up.

    Duration of the project – Irish Schools Project

    The dissemination and promotion will take place in the academic year 2008-9. The evaluation of the impact of the resource will take place during the same period. It is envisaged that the materials themselves will be a key resource for exploring disasters in Social, Environmental and Scientific Education (Geography) in particular, but across a range of areas of the curriculum, for the next three years.

    e) Participation of the target group(s)

    · in the design of the project – South East Asia

    As described above, the project was designed by No Strings, working closely with its funding partner Trócaire in Indonesia, and with a point person within each of our local partners IDEP and JRS. It was these latter two people who provided the key messages to be incorporated into the films, and guidance for cultural sensitivity and appropriateness. This information came about as the result of wide-ranging discussions and consultations with their local facilitators and staff.

    Scripts were written by the No Strings Artistic Director once the key messages were received. Early drafts, as with early drawings of the proposed puppet characters, props and sets, were sent to each organisation, who discussed them internally and then amended or approved them through the point person. This process was carried out on an ongoing basis until filming could begin.

    After the films were dubbed into three local languages, field-testing of the completed films took place in front of a range of classes of school children, who were closely monitored. Minor adjustments were then made (one of our partners had made a mistake over a character’s name, which had to be changed) before wider dissemination began.

    · in the design of the project – Irish Schools Project

    The support education materials were devised by a practicing teacher in conjunction with Trócaire’s education team. The DVD was viewed by Irish children across a range of ages to determine the target audience for exploration of the materials

    · in the implementation of the project – South East Asia

    No Strings worked closely with its local partners IDEP and JRS to devise a five-day workshop in which local facilitators from numerous affiliated partners learnt basic techniques in hand puppetry through two experts from the No Strings creative team, and how best to deliver the films to children.

    It was a core component of the programme that once completed, the films would very much belong to the local partners. Through showing them basic hand puppet skills, we aimed to empower facilitators so that they could introduce the films to the children in fun and creative ways. We have found that this part of the process worked extremely well, and our partners have gone on to devise numerous crossword puzzles, exercises and drills to accompany the films in the classroom.

    · in the implementation of the project – Irish Schools Project

    The project will be implemented by Trócaire staff in conjunction with primary teachers who will engage the children in their classrooms with the contents of the DVD and the accompanying resources.

    Primary teachers and Senior Primary children will be actively engaged in evaluating the impact of the DVD and resource materials on the children’s learning.

    f) Strategies for integrating learning from the project into the educational system (formal and non-formal).

    · The findings from the evaluation of the materials will be integrated into Trócaire’s primary education programme. Trócaire’s education programme is currently being re-focused and so the findings will be an opportune time to feed into new strategies which are being developed.

    g) Evaluation mechanisms (internal and/or external) – South East Asia

    · Monitoring and evaluation has been carried out by the main No Strings local partners IDEP and JRS, whose first report was due in April 2008.

    Please refer to the attached IDEP report for more information on this.

    evaluation mechanisms (internal and/or external) – Irish Schools Project

    · The findings from the evaluation of the materials will be integrated into Trócaire’s primary education programme. Trócaire’s education programme is currently being re-focused and so the findings will be an opportune time to feed into new strategies which are being developed.

    h) Budget – details of financial sources and summary of income and expenditure – South East Asia

    Production costs: (script writing, puppet and set design / build, team of 40+ puppeteers and film makers, hire of studio, equipment, special effects, edit, etc).
    Funding of the four natural disasters films came from Trócaire. Funding of the Two Gardens peace advocacy film came from JRS.
    Total production costs of the Tales of Disasters series as a whole: $164,100 USD.

    Total in-country costs for the series (staff consultancies, flights, internal travel, accommodation, admin, etc): $79,361 USD. This total also includes dubbing, etc.

    NB. Because of the nature of our work and the standing of our key creative designers, No Strings is able to attract a wide range of professional puppeteers and film-makers who are prepared to work at well below commercial rates. We estimate these sort of donations in kind to be worth well over $150,000 USD to this particular production budget.

    Budget – Irish Schools Project

    Typesetting and printing of 2,000 education booklets €5,470
    Duplication of 2,000 DVD €1,260
    2,000 DVD wallets € 200

    Total €6,930


    No Strings has developed a very effective working relationship with Trócaire in Ireland. Trócaire, along with JRS, not only funded production and in-country costs for this programme, but it also selected two highly effective local partners from within Indonesia and East Timor to lead the dissemination process, which it has also funded.

    Trócaire have also funded the costs of dubbing the films into Filipino languages and No Strings’ overseeing of its dissemination in the Philippines, which will begin in the next few months. They are also planning to fund an additional film for the region on cyclones.

    Continuing this very successful collaboration, No Strings has partnered with Trócaire again for a series of three HIV / AIDS-related films for children and communities in sub-Saharan Africa dealing with stigma, prevention and gender equality messages. This programme is now in its early stages of development.

    As previously explained, staff at Trócaire’s Development Education arm have incorporated the Tales of Disasters films into educational materials for use in schools in the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland.

    Please see above under 5 (e) for details on our working relationship with local partners in Indonesia and East Timor.


    The project provides an example of how materials produced for a Southern audience can be adapted and used in a Northern setting.

    The DVD and support education materials show how materials developed for children faced with specific realities can be adapted to develop empathy, skills of analysis and critical thinking among children who are aware of the issues only through the media.

    The support education materials show how resources can be adapted to meet the needs of a Northern curriculum and how they can integrate with specific subject areas.

    The peace education section explores a universal theme of how the outsider is treated by the host community. The accompanying materials set this in the context of the changing make-up of Irish society but could be used in other countries in a similar way to explore issues of diversity, interculturalism and racism.

    Trócaire has produced materials in the past which have been used in Australia, New Zealand, and have been translated and used in the Czech Republic and Portugal. NGOs similar to Trócaire such as CAFOD in England, SCIAF in Scotland, and AidGlobal in Portugal could make use of the resource in its current form, with the exception of Portugal, where translations would be required.

    The evaluation of the education materials will contribute to the overall learnings of the impact of a development education approach. The findings will contribute to the future focus and development of materials within Trócaire and will be available for wider use.