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Refugee puppet who has become a "symbol of hope" visits Birmingham to make new friends

In 2021, a 3.5 metre tall puppet of a ten year-old Syrian refugee embarked on a remarkable journey, starting from the Syrian/Turkish border and travelling across Europe in the hope of finding a new home.

Little Amal meeting the people of Birmingham.
Little Amal meeting the people of Birmingham.

Little Amal has travelled more than 8,000km, through more than 70 cities in 12 countries, spreading her message to over 875,000 people in person - and millions online.

The puppet has become a beacon of hope, representing the plight of refugees across the world.

And on Thursday, she paid her first visit to Birmingham, with the help of Birmingham Rep.

After visiting a refugee hotel on Wednesday evening and Erdington's Abbey Catholic Primary School on Thursday morning, Amal welcomed the hundreds of people eagerly waiting to meet her in Victoria Square.

Little Amal, who was operated by three puppeteers - a stilt walker inside the puppet and one puppeteer operating each arm - affectionately greeted members of the crowd, hugging several individuals including police officers.

Like any child arriving in a new city, she was very inquisitive about her surroundings - wrapping her arms around a statue to embrace it, and even peered over to look at work ongoing at a construction site between Victoria and Centenary Squares.

On her way, she also met West Midlands Community Groups who posed with her for photos and told her about their pro-refugee work, with groups including Journey Asylum Seekers Group, Women & Theatre, City of Sanctuary schools, Stories of Hope and Home, Saathi House, RESTORE, and Refugee Action.

Little Amal won over the crowds instantaneously, with throngs of people jostling to get the best view of her, laughing as she played pranks on people when the puppeteers would suddenly advance on unsuspecting members of the public - and cooing when she hugged people in the crowds.

Her trip to Birmingham comes as part of her New Steps, New Friends tour of England, to mark World Refugee Week.

Rachael Thomas, executive director at The Rep said: "We are extremely honoured to be producing Little Amal’s first-ever visit to Birmingham’s city centre, marking World Refugee Week.

"Little Amal is not only an arresting and beautiful moment for the public to be a part of, but a rousing symbol of human rights that is so relevant in our world right now."

Alice Chambers, resident assistant director at The Rep, said: "We were given the opportunity to create a walk to introduce Amal to the city, so it was about finding a way to represent the communities of Birmingham and for Amal to make some new friends and make a new family, as well as going to some key places.

"She's now seen as an international symbol of human rights, but what I've noticed the most from watching videos of her and seeing her in Birmingham over the last few days, is that children see themselves in her.

"Especially for a migrant family that's something really rare and really special.

"So it's nice to see Amal as this symbol of hope but also as this 10-year-old girl discovering new things, feeling really excited but also really nervous."

The organisers of the tour have collaborated with Choose Love to create The Amal Fund, to help the hundreds of thousands of children who have fled war and persecution.

To donate or find out more, go to walkwithamal.org/the-amal-fund/.

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