Coming soon: WCC puppet show helps children everywhere learn about their rights

Children from the Greek schools in Geneva and Lausanne watch a puppet show together with the Ecumenical Patriarch on 2018 World Children’s Day. Photo: Albin Hillert/WCC

Puppet characters Theo and Popette are helping children worldwide understand what the World Council of Churches (WCC) is, and how it works for children’s rights.

The likable, moppy-headed duo, along with their human adult mentor Madam Florence, are starring in a new production “All Aboard – Children First!” Divided into 10-minute chapters, the 40-minute recorded video defines the WCC, notes that church is not just for adults, and talks about human rights from a child’s perspective.

When Madam Florence mysteriously leaves a boat on stage, Theo and Popette wonder what the letters written on the boat – WCC – might mean. They conclude, very humorously, that of course the letters must stand for “Whale Captain of the Calves.”

Madam Florence gently sets them straight: “On the WCC’s boat, we try to find what is different and what is alike with the churches. We get to know each other.”

Theo and Popette, like millions of children everywhere, are curious to understand the world, love having fun, and often find the adult world hard to understand, said Frederique Seidel, WCC senior advisor on children’s rights who helped oversee the production.

“They therefore ask many questions to a person of confidence who does not intimidate them – Madam Florence,” explained Seidel. “Madam Florence is a person who takes children and their concerns very seriously, and does her best to answer their questions in the most child-friendly way possible.”

While the show was crafted primarily for children ages 4-9, people of all ages, particularly parents and caregivers, will appreciate the puppets’ questions – and Madam Florence’s answers – as a constructive, fun way to talk to children.

Child rights from a child’s eye

In an excerpt from the script, Theo and Popette share their understanding of what the concept of child rights might mean.

Theo: We know that in the world, there are children in wars…
 …so they need more peace. There are children who are hungry…
Theo: …so they need more food.

Madam Florence gently steers the puppets to a conclusion:

“We could even say that on this boat, we want more rights for children. The right to have a place to be safe, the right to be treated when we are ill, the right to be protected if we are disabled, the right to have enough to eat, the right to be in a family, the right to play, the right to go to school…”

And, as Theo always offers some humor: “I’m not so sure about the last one, Madam Florence…”

Coming soon in English

The show will be available in English at the end of May, and a 40-minute French recording is currently available. Short, 10-minute chapters will be made available for use in church-run schools and Sunday schools.

“Short episodes are easier to use in pedagogical contexts,” said Seidel. “We hope that, through this, children will discover that there is a big WCC family out there, diverse people of goodwill united through their faith. They will learn that churches are working on being as helpful as possible to children, and that churches want to listen more to children to hear their views.”

Seidel concluded: “Theo and Popette can help all of us encourage children to express themselves, share their ideas, and ask for help when they need it.”

World Council of Churches,