Nicaragua CARS Project

In the coastal communities of Nicaragua, young children are joining the fight to end human trafficking through an unlikely way: a puppet show. (Click here to view the video.)

The puppet theater performance is called “Chef Gustof, a Nice Deceiver,” and it seeks to illuminate the often taboo yet very present risk of child trafficking on the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua. The performance was designed and produced by a group of young student beneficiaries from the Community Action for Reading and Security (CARS) Activity funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) implemented by DevTech Systems, Inc.

The puppet theater performance raises awareness and dispels myths about the prevalence and tactics used by traffickers by expressing first-hand accounts of child trafficking in the coastal communities. These first-hand experiences not only draw attention to the issue, but also and arguably more importantly, empower kids in these neighborhoods to take action.

Prior to developing the training, the six primary school students received training on human trafficking, personal prevention strategies, and risks for children in order to deepen their understanding of the issue. Then they spent more than 20 hours developing the ideas, dialogues, scenography and production of the play, including audio recording, editing and choreography for a closing dance.

The story recreates a scene in a local park, where young children meet a stranger named Chef Gustof, who manages to entice the children with false promises until they are eventually kidnapped by him. The child’s family and the authorities react in time and manage to capture the network of traffickers, leading to a happy ending to the story.

“The stories of child trafficking do not always have a happy ending like this, in most cases the children who are victims of trafficking are not recovered and end up with very sad stories,” says Keysha, an eight-year-old member of the group who created the puppet play.

“We decided to create a story with puppets because that is what kids enjoy, but we are also interested in presenting how traffickers show love and build trust until they create victims,” explains Heyman, 9 years old and a member of the group of actors.

The puppets sing, dance, speak in rhyme, laugh, and cry to capture children’s attention, strengthen listening skills, and vocabulary development. They also warn children, parents, and community members about the dangers of trafficking and empower the audience to take action. The puppet show has been showcased at the American Chamber of Commerce in Nicaragua national business school fair, national and local TV channels, local fairs, and local radio and in a national newspaper.

The DevTech initiative emphasizes arts and culture through drama to connect with audiences on a far more emotional level than most other education efforts, potentially leading to greater learning and eventual behavioral change. In schools, this puppet theater performance will continue to engage children, parents and community members in Nicaragua in making the path to peacebuilding a personal one.