In Cambodia, a family of animated rabbits is helping kids – and their parents – stay safe from COVID-19 and deal with the struggles of virtual schooling during the pandemic.
More than six million people have watched the three-minute “Happy Family” videos on Cambodian television, the Ministry of Education’s Facebook page and even in the waiting room at pediatricians’ offices. Aimed at children ages five to 10, the colorful and entertaining six-part series follows 10-year-old Lika, her younger brothers Vannak and Sophea, and their parents as they navigate the uncertainties of COVID-19.
The series was developed by Save the Children, the lead implementer in Cambodia for the Breakthrough ACTION project, led by the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs. This is a USAID-funded endeavor which has developed COVID-19 prevention programs in 22 countries.
“A lot of COVID-19 work has been geared to adults, but we must remember that children are an important audience, too,” says Sokpheap Say, communications manager for the project work in Cambodia. “Children are an underrated resource when it comes to changing behaviors. They are energetic. They are connected to their communities. They care about the issues and want to play a part. Children hold all of us accountable.”
The episodes follow an adorable family of rabbits contending with COVID-19 issues such as handwashing, physical distancing, mental and physical wellbeing, distance learning and stigma. The series recently won two Asian Academy Creative Awards in the Best Preschool Programme and Best Animated Programme categories.
“The information is resonating with children and their caregivers,” says Carla Sanchez, a senior specialist in behavior change and community health for Save the Children U.S. “A family can continue to be a ‘Happy Family’ in spite of COVID-19 by just taking precautions.”
To further the reach of the series, a comic book for kids who don’t have access to the internet is being developed, as is an audio book for the visually impaired, Say says. Also in development: an online video game. These additional activities are being funded by USAID through its Family Care First | REACT project, of which Save the Children is the lead partner.