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13 October 2020 - Story

“Happy Family series taught me about COVID-19 prevention”

While watching TV at the health center, Kong Vechaboth, a five years old boy, told us that he likes watching the youngest bunny on the TV programme. “His name is Sophea. He is clever, funny, and always curious, and he teaches us how to prevent COVID-19”, explained Vechaboth seriously.

Vechaboth is living with his parents in Kampong Siem District, Kampong Cham province, around 116 kilometers from Phnom Penh. He is a pre-school student, currently studying in the morning through an online platform from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport. He watches the Happy Family every Sunday on the PNN TV station [one of the TV channels broadcasting the Happy Family series, and a major media company in Cambodia]. “I watched the program Sunday between 7:30-8:00 pm on PNN,” said Vechaboth with a smile.

Funded by USAID’s Breakthrough Action project, Save the Children has produced a series of six child-friendly animated videos to provide children and caretakers with knowledge and skills on how to protect themselves from the COVID-19 virus, how to stop it from spreading, as well as how to cope with the pandemic aftermath.

Vechaboth goes to the local health center near his house to watch the Happy Family program every morning, because the health center has a television that plays the program, and is a clean and comfortable environment for children to sit and watch the videos. Khien Cheng Lep, a health center worker, explained, “We play the Happy Family program every day, so adults and children who come for a checkup can watch and learn how to protect themselves from COVID-19. We downloaded the videos from [Save the Children’s] YouTube, and Vechaboth comes every day to watch.”

The “edutainment” series has a target audience of 5- to 10-year-olds, and revolves around a colourful family of bunnies. The storyline and messaging spans topics such as handwashing, social distancing, learning from home, mental and physical well-being, and stigma and discrimination. Each episode is unique and appealing for parents and other caregivers, who will also learn, alongside their children, how to apply suggested prevention techniques for COVID-19.

The key messages are communicated through situations and explanations that are child friendly, fun and engaging. This increases the chance that children can apply key actions demonstrated to help prevent the spread of the virus.

When we asked him what he learned from the Happy Family program, Vechaboth told us immediately that he has learned how to wash his hands properly. “There are several steps for washing our hands properly. I follow what we were taught in the video,” explained Vechaboth. “I wash my hands before and after eating, going to toilet and when my hands are dirty.

Another piece of knowledge he learned from the program is about “social distancing”, and keeping at least two meters between each other to prevent COVID-19. Vechaboth does not keep only the knowledge to himself, but he also shares the lessons with his friends, and asks them to watch the Happy Family program together. “My friends now watch the videos, and when we meet, we act like the characters in the video,” said Vechaboth with a smile. “I act like Sophea, and ask many questions to my friends and my parents about COVID-19,