Puppets Help Students Talk About Abuse
Sharing stories about the good nonprofits do is what Charitable Words does.
The best communication is not through grant proposals with tedious, insider jargon intended to impress funders.
Simple stories with real-people anecdotes and metrics that show the true impact of the work. And visuals. Pictures, videos — not of the board of the directors – but stories and images of happy kids, young people engaged with old, green pastures in an urban setting. That sells. Good stories, told well. If you want to raise money, show funders the magic. And, of course, tangible outcomes of your dreams.
Outcomes are easily spread-sheeted. Stories told well? Often a challenge when strong visual images are needed and especially if privacy is a concern with your cause.
So when I visited Family Nurturing Center’s offices recently, I did not know what to expect. I knew that my organization. Social Ventures Partners Cincinnati, had chosen FNC as a nonprofit worthy of our investment and time as engaged philantropists. Good call, SVP.
Family Nurturing Center does important and impactful work. It offers programs that helps child victims of abuse, and importantly, helps families find ways to heal and stay together.
But because FNC works with families in the court system, there was little chance to portray the faces of their work. I figured the photo opportunity would be a group of people sitting in a conference room with charts and white boards. An important discussion, certainly. But visually a challenge.
Then I spotted the puppets.
One of FNC’s programs is “Kids on The Block,” which brings education to schools about domestic voience, abuse and bullying. The stories are told by puppets, cuddly characters who put harsh realities in gentle terms children can relate to. This school year, Kids on The Block has brought its messages to 19,355 students and 1,356 adults with more than 14,000 hours of service, said coordinator Jessica Graff. Ninety-nine percent of teachers and counselors viewing the performances reported that the program was helpful to children. Eighty percent of children completing tests reported increased knowledge and awareness of child abuse. Thirteen children disclosed personal experiences of abuse.
Those numbers are impressive outcomes. But where’s the engaging story, the photo opportunity? The story to tell, well?
The proof is in the puppets.
I set up a meeting to witness Kids on The Block’s work at a the Intermediate School in Newport, Kentucky and watched as 50 third graders engaged in a discussion about profoundly difficult issues. They eagerly raised hands, had much to say. I doubt they’d be that willing to talk to grownup teacher figures about these things.
But they willing engaged with the puppets.
In the scenario, puppet “Stephen,” realized that his beatings and cuts were more serious than the discipline other parents used. And classmate “Nam,” didn’t realize that abuse happens every day, even in regular families. He was relieved to learn there are ways to get help Stephan and Nam talked, the kids listened. And they engaged, with many raised hands and questions. Not to the black-suited grownups behind, but to the puppets.
“Kids on the Block equips children with the tools they need to recognize, resist and report child abuse,” Graff said. “The children view the puppets as real children with distinct personalities and relatable stories.”
The Family Nurturing Center leads a community-wide effort to not only promote awareness of child abuse in the region, but to also educate the public on the role that every adult must take to prevent and confront all forms of abuse and neglect. For more than 30 years, Family Nurturing Center has been at the forefront providing child abuse education, prevention and treatment services to thousands of children and families. Their mission is to end the cycle of child abuse by promoting individual well-being and healthy family relationships.
Thanks and best wishes to the people of the Family Nurturing Center. You do good work and have a great story to tell.
And power to the puppets.
Charitable Words, TC