As one of our education initiatives, the Sickle Cell Team and Creating Possibilities staff held ‘forum theatres’ in the community – educational plays held outdoors to convey key information about sickle cell disease (SCD).
After hours of arduous rehearsals in the sweltering heat, our team and the CP staff felt stage ready for what would be the performance of a lifetime. Keegan finally had his red carpet debut, as the lead role in the play.
The forum theater told the story of a family of five going through the screening, diagnosis and treatment process of SCD in Nepal. It incorporated facts about SCD, some comedy, and a light-hearted tone to keep the crowd engaged. CP staff members played parents both with sickle cell trait, while Keegan, Lisa, and Iulia played the children, with sickle cell disease, normal, and sickle cell trait, respectively. We learned a few key Tharu phrases for the play, with a fan favourite being Keegan’s high pitched delivery of “Aiya! Bataita!” (which means “Ouch! Pain!”) when getting blood drawn for the screening and diagnosis.
Traditionally, music and dancing precede these forum theatres to gather an audience. These forum theaters are set up in open public spaces, such as in front of convenience stores or local municipalities, with portable speakers, microphones, props, and lawn furniture. Our dancing drew laughs, cheers, and a lot of strange looks as our Canadian rhythm (or lack thereof!) did not compare to the skill of Nepalese dancers. The music was a mixture of popular Nepali tunes, such as “Salko Paat” and some North American songs like “the Macarena”.
For our second production, we wisely recruited CP’s “Hero Girls,” who had much better dance moves than any of us. The Hero Girls training course aims at building confidence and self-esteem through focusing on three aspects: self-development, entrepreneurship, and leadership. It was clear how empowered and confident these girls felt, as they danced and sang freely to Nepali music, and told us about themselves and their aspirations. Through our interaction with them, their level of education was evident and they were some of the best English speakers in Dang. We were all inspired by these clever and confident young women, who undoubtedly will become leaders among their peers and in their communities.
Our team and the CP staff all had a lot of fun holding these forum theatres, and we were amazed at the number of people that came out to watch. The music and dancing that preceded the theatres immediately gathered an audience, with people on scooters even pulling over to see what was going on. We were happy to see that the crowd stuck through the entire play, and the audience’s smiles and laughter throughout reassured us that they were engaged. We hope that these plays increased awareness and understanding of SCD in these communities. Moreover, we are optimistic that those who attended the theatres will share their new knowledge of SCD with their friends and family members and that this will ultimately lead to more people getting screened.
– Nepal Sickle Cell Team 2019