The African Research and Educational Puppetry Programme Trust (AREPP): Theatre for Life recently won the international Stars Impact Award for their generous contributions to education in Africa and the Middle East. The organisation that currently engages over 120,000 youths between the ages of five and 18 years old, underwent a rigorous application process for the prestigious award, which included 976 applicants across 60 countries.
AREPP: Theatre for Life stood out amid other candidates for their unique use of applied theatre, which aims at empowering young people on complex personal and social issues, challenging mindsets and encouraging peer facilitated discussion. Their performances travel across South Africa and cover extremely important issues that South African youth face such as peer-pressure, relationship issues, gender issues, sexuality and substance abuse.
“With AREPP:Theatre for Life, all the world and its issues are presented on a stage, and the children in the audience are not passive players,” says Samia Zoued, the Programme Officer for the Stars Foundation in Africa and the Middle East. “There is no doubt that their shows transcend a mere theatre experience to become a milestone life experience for the young audiences affected. External impact assessments clearly demonstrate that children leave AREPP’s theatre shows better equipped to walk the fragile path to adulthood.”
In terms of measuring impact, AREPP: Theatre for Life visits approximately 350 schools annually and in 2001, educators in the organisation noted an 81% increase in their audiences’ knowledge, skills and ability to engage and deal with problems that were relevant to them. It was also reported that the percentage of physical and sexual abuse cases at schools that they visited dropped from 9% to a remarkable 1%. Other notable stats showed that 80% of audience members indicated a change in their feelings of self-worth, after participating in the theatre performances, as well as a drop in the suicide rate.
Director of AREPP: Theatre for Life, Brigid Schultz, was delighted with the announcement that they had won the award. “The Stars Impact Award recognises AREPP:Theatre for Life’s 25 year contribution to the promotion of Human Rights in South Africa and highlights the vital importance of assisting young people and children to understand, engage with, and contextualise the notions and practical applications of their rights,” she said.
The company plans on using the additional funding made available by the award to put together another 200 presentations, which can see it directly benefit about 30,000 additional learners. They will also receive mentoring and support from the Stars Foundation as they continue to carry out their exceptional work across the country.
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