Puppetry used to tackle abuse

Ubuntu Puppets uses puppetry and storytelling to address social issues affecting children who do not have easy access to professional support and counselling.

Ubuntu Puppets uses puppetry and storytelling to address social issues affecting children who do not have easy access to professional support and counselling.

Ray Maota

Puppetry is being used as a therapy, to help empower victims and as a violence prevention intervention, all of which help young people to deal better with situations that affect them negatively.

Lawrence “Lonny” Mongalo, the man behind Ubuntu Puppets, was a volunteer telephone counsellor with Childline Free State, screening calls and providing counselling on its 24-hour crisis line.

This experience drove him to start bereavement and grief support groups as well as therapy sessions for orphaned and vulnerable children using adventure-based therapy.

Later, he started a drug abuse support group to help young people faced with issues such as teen sexuality, HIV/Aids, cyber safety, sexual exploitation, peer pressure, substance abuse and bullying.

In 2014, Mongalo set up Ubuntu Puppets, which uses puppetry and storytelling to address social issues that affect children. He started in his hometown of Mangaung, Bloemfontein in the Free State.

He said: “The problem is that most children don’t even know they are experiencing abuse, because the same person abusing them could be the person they trust.”

Making and selling puppets

Mongalo uses his work to advocate for children’s rights and the values of ubuntu, which means having compassion and empathy for all humans.

He not only makes a living by performing at schools, but he also sells the puppets to the schools and trains the teachers how to use them.

When he came second last year in the Engine Pitch and Polish competition, a national workshop and competition programme that teaches entrepreneurs how to pitch their business ideas, he injected the money back into the business so he could create more puppets.

“I used that money to buy the machinery to make the puppets, and it made it easier for me to make diverse puppets for different lessons and in turn make my shows more interesting,” said Mongalo.

In need of funding

Mongalo’s goal is to take his puppetry to schools in rural and marginalised areas where many children do not have easy access to professional support and counselling.

But to do this, he wants to raise R100 000 towards buying a small vehicle and sound equipment to use when he speaks at community gatherings.

He has started a Thundafund crowdfunding campaign to get people to donate money towards this dream. Each donor will be rewarded for their contribution.

For the first donation over R5 000, Mongalo will make a puppet named after the donor and use this in his upcoming shows. For the second, he will hold a special performance at a school of their choosing in the Free State and provide a letter signed by the children thanking them for their contribution.

Others contributing over R5 000 will get a replica of his Mongalo’s Uhuru puppet.

Those donating between R1 000 and R4 999 will get a set of mini-puppets and a special mention in his shows this year as a thank you. Donors giving less than R1 000 will get a small puppet and a thank you letter with illustrations of all the show characters.