Building Community Preparedness through Puppetry

IDEP, an NGO in Indonesia, set up and led by Re-Alliance member Petra Schneider, developed comic books, puppetry and films to raise awareness of the early signs of disaster and ways of responding to these. Working with an international theatre company they made films of different disaster scenarios and used them in schools and community meetings. Local people were taught to use the puppets to play out community dialogues, discussing how people might prepare themselves for these. As a result of this work, a large number of casualties have been avoided.


Teaching children about disasters and disaster preparedness can be challenging – and involves capturing their attention without alarming them unnecessarily. After a series of natural disasters within a short period, IDEP developed comic books, games and short films to alert children to early warning signs and explain how they should best react.

The children quickly spread these messages among their families and communities. A partnership between Trocaire, JRS, No Strings, Cordaid and IDEP, worked together to develop a series of short films on Flood, Volcanic Eruption, Earthquakes, Tsunami’s and Social Harmony. The films took care to develop characters and scenery that reflected local cultural and environmental contexts and generally included a heroine, often a child with a local name who helped warn or save the community.

Facilitators were trained in how to use puppets to stimulate discussion and reinforce the messages shared in the films often using games, songs and puzzles and working with children and adult groups.


The whole-system thinking of regenerative design includes pre-disaster as a space for intervention. Humanitarian response becomes pro-active and is a more effective use of resources than only intervening after disasters occur. Building up capacity within communities to respond to disaster before it hits reduces reliance on outside intervention, which can often be slow to reach remote areas when the need is greatest.  Communities can respond effectively to disasters using local resources and knowledge, reducing reliance on costly and sometimes inappropriate moving of equipment and expertise around the world. This project brought together the external skills of film-makers with community knowledge, local culture and facilitation. Through a collaborative community driven process, the lasting tools for self-help and resilience are shared to mitigate the effects of repeated disasters. Working through children to spread awareness of early warning signs and effective response strategies can build community and save lives.

IMPACT ON PLANET ​Climate change is leading to increased frequency of natural disasters and communities need to build their own plans for responding to these in ways that use local resources and minimise international travel and interference. These plays and films were used to encourage people to look after their environments and help to increase resilience and preparedness to  such disasters.

IMPACT ON PEOPLEThis approach was designed to empower people to build resilience. In doing so it encouraged children to take an active part in their communities and brought local communities together to discuss what disasters they might be facing. One film specifically looked at community relationships and social harmony.


How can creative arts like puppetry be used as mass educational tools to quickly inform communities about effective disaster risk reduction and response?