A Walk with Amal: A Puppet Shedding Light on the Refugee Crisis


Courtesy of walkwithamal.org

Little Amal: The 11.5 foot puppet.

Luna Valayannopoulos-Akrivou, Around School Editor

A nine year old refugee girl begins her four month long journey (from April to July) traveling alone from the borders of Syria, crossing Turkey and Greece, and continuing her voyage through Europe. There, she hopes to find her mother, get back to school, and start a new life. This is the story of the Little Amal, the larger than life puppet. 

The 11.5 foot tall puppet, curated by the Good Chance Theatre in collaboration with the Handspring Puppet Company, calls attention to the international refugee crisis. Carried by a team of volunteers, Amal will travel over a 8, 000 kilometer (approximately 5,000 miles) distance, stopping in over 70 cities and villages. She is said to illuminate the stories of thousands of young refugees globally, telling a story of shared humanity. 

The idea emerged from the Calais refugee camp in Northern France, which drew global attention in 2015 during the peak of the European Migrant Crisis. There, six years ago, two British volunteers, Joe Murphy and Joe Robertson, founded Good Chance, a campaign of organized educational workshops and theater for refugees. The “Theater of Hope” acted as a public art space for people living in the camps. After the camp was demolished in 2016, Murphy and Robertsonco-wrote The Jungle, a play based on the experiences of the refugees they met at the camp. Murphy’s purpose of the play was to  “reframe the idea of movement.” The Jungle served to give a human face to the headlines of the refugee crisis and initiate a global conversation around immigration. Among others, The Jungle tells the story of Little Amal, an unaccompanied girl from Syria. The Walk was born out of the idea to tell Amal’s story to its fullest extent, focusing on the needs of millions of refugee children like her. 

She is said to illuminate the stories of thousands of young refugees globally.

Murphy and Robertson reached out to a well-known team of puppet makers in South Africa, the Handspring Puppet Company, to create Amal. They explained that they wanted Amal to be unexpectedly large, “representing a big story and huge hope.” Working alongside a team of international non-profits and grassroots organizations, they crafted Amal’s journey and trajectory throughout Europe. The route selected follows a similar path to one that thousands of refugees take daily. Hundreds of ‘Events of Welcome’ will greet Little Amal as she makes her way to the UK.

On April 1st, 2021 a video of a 10 year old unaccompanied refugee boy pleading a Border Patrol official for help surfaced on the internet. Allegedly from Nicaragua, the boy was found walking alone in La Grulla, Texas. The video shows the boy sobbing, telling the officer that he had lost his group of migrants, and had to make his way north alone and disoriented. This past March, the US federal custody recorded an all-time high number of unaccompanied children crossing the border fleeing from South and Central America. “Yes, refugees need food and blankets, but they also need dignity and a voice,” commented Amir Nizar Zuabi, the artistic Director of The Walk, on their social media platforms. 

In an interview with  My Modern Met, Murphy and Robertson explain that “The Walk” is,  “a celebration of migration and cultural diversity that will tell the story of the contributions made by refugees and immigrants. It represents the refugee story as one of potential, success, respect, hospitality and kindness.” News reports tend to reduce refugees to one dimensional characters of tragic stories. The Walk aspires to bring a new light to refugees, elevating their stories from one of pity and fear to one of resilience and hope. Director Amir Nizar Zuabi goes on to say that “by telling the stories of people who are often marginalised, feared or pitied we can help transform their lives and our own.” It is critical to ensure the world does not forget about the millions of displaced children, who are more vulnerable than ever in the face of the pandemic. No child walks 80,000 kilometers away from home, unless home is not a safe place. Little Amal will walk the 80,000 kilometers so that no future refugee child will have to, carrying a simple message: “Don’t forget about us.”