The last decade marks significant change in a way people communicate and express themselves. Development of social media allows us to exchange enormous amounts of information and opinions with large numbers of people, but, unfortunately, lots of communication lacks emotional sincerity. Social and communication skills are crucial skills that are experiencing both negative and positive effects from social media. This factor affects all the people and is an extra obstacle for those who lack communication skills and ability to recognize and express feelings because of other – social, cultural or psychological reasons. Therefore, requirements for professionals working in the social field have increased as well. Professionals need to be creative and flexible to reach people and to support them in their needs of self-realization, development of useful skills and changing destructive behaviour.

These are just a few issues that Nordplus network Empowering puppetry (NPHE-2019/10244) is addressing. Partners from Estonia (Tartu Health Care College), Finland (HAME University of Applied Sciences), Latvia (P. Stradins Medical College of the University of Latvia) and the coordinator from Lithuania (Kaunas University of Applied Sciences) joined creative forces of the different study fields and created network dedicated to puppetry as a tool for therapic activities. The network believes that therapeutic puppetry is one of approaches that should be used wider and more often.  The diverse way in which puppets can be used in empowering activities is quite unique and it is one of the main advantages.

The first year of the network was challenging – new experience in planning intensive multidisciplinary course on empowering puppetry was expanded by covid-19 pandemics. Almost all the plans had to be reviewed and a new concept of intensive course was developed. Finally first online intensive course Empowering Puppetry was organized from 23rd of October to 4th of November – almost half a year later  than planned at first.

The national groups were preparing homework assignments – presentations and interviews with puppetry professionals as introductory part of the intensive course. The students and lecturers representing occupational therapy, social work, nursing and pre-primary education attended online workshops by Finnish puppeteer Hannu Raisa and social worker, applied puppetry professional Asa Viklund. Practical work creating puppets combined with the theoretical knowledge on use of puppetry empowered the students to create their final projects – stories told by the children were brought to life by the puppets that students created.

Challenging, fun, creative, creating bonds – these are just a few words used by the students to describe intensive course while giving feedback. The partnership hopes to have opportunity to organize face to face an intensive course in addition to the online version. The first steps are taken in long and exciting journey – this thought carries the network activities further and makes us believe that we can grow together.