Lawrence “Lonny” Mongalo (28) says it was while working as a telephone consultant for childline in the Free State that he realised the need for alternative ways to educate children on how to report abuse.
What the puppets teach the kids
Lonny was trained as a puppeteer while working at childline, and he realised how easily kids remember what he teaches them with songs and storytelling. So in 2014 he started Ubuntu puppets, to teach children in his community of Mangaung in Bloemfontein what abuse is and how to prevent it or get help. During the shows, which are performed in different languages, Lonny gives practical information like helpline numbers, and what to look out for as a child being abused.
“The problem is that most children don’t even know they are experiencing abuse, because the same person abusing them could be the person they trust,” says Lonny. Often schools authorities tell him that children come forward to report abuse after seeing his shows. In such cases Lonny refers the child to one of the different child abuse organisations he has worked with for help.
Making ends meet with puppetry
Lonny doesn’t only make a living by performing at the schools, but he also sells the puppets to the schools and trains the teachers how to use them. When he came second place last year in the Engine Pitch and Polish competition — a national workshop and competition programme that teaches entrepreneurs how to pitch their business idea, he injected the money back into the business so he could create more puppets.
“I used that money to buy the machinery to make the puppets, and it made it easier for me to make diverse puppets for different lessons and in turn make my shows more interesting,” he says. Lonny would like to travel the country and get to as many children as possible and expose abuse.