Giant refugee puppet joins 'huddled masses' in New York

Little Amal started her journey at the Syrian-Turkish border and will visit all the boroughs of New York

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A giant refugee girl puppet, known as “Little Amal”, walked around New York City's Times Square on Friday, raising awareness of the plight of displaced children seeking safety across borders.

The 3.6-metre-tall puppet, whose name means “hope” in Arabic, started her journey at the Syrian-Turkish border in July 2021, met Ukrainian refugees in Europe and will visit New York's five boroughs over the next two and a half weeks.

Amal represents a 10-year-old looking for her mother who set out in search of food and never returned, said Peter Avery, director of theatre for the New York City Department of Education and producer of Little Amal Walks New York.

“After the Middle East and Europe, the producers of Little Amal chose New York because they said America and Europe specifically are where the 'huddled masses' are welcome, the Emma Lazarus poem,” said Mr Avery, referring to the words inscribed on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.

Little Amal is in the US for the first time. Getty Images / AFP

Broadway performers and about 200 New York City pupils serenaded Amal to calm her in bustling Times Square.

“To see a little … Syrian refugee girl being welcomed like a rock star all over the world is just so moving,” said Eric Sirakian, who stars in The Kite Runner on Broadway.

Designed by the Handspring Puppet Company based in South Africa, Amal comes to life with the help of a puppeteer on stilts inside her bamboo frame, controlling strings that create the puppet's facial expressions. Each arm is operated by a puppeteer outside.

“Little Amal's message to the world is, 'Don't forget us,'” Mr Avery said.

Updated: September 19, 2022, 3:42 PM
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