SAT-7 KIDS’ innovative activity program for young people, Puzzle, is returning to the screen this week. It comes amid rising tensions between different groups in Lebanon, making the program’s core messages of friendship, Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB), and the understanding of differences, even more vital.
The show is filmed in Lebanon, which is home to people of many nationalities and religions. It brings together children from ages 10-15 from various backgrounds, including some refugees. They take part in a range of engaging challenges that encourage them to connect with each other across their traditional divides.
In one episode, a guest talked to the children about beekeeping and explained how we as humans are like bees, working together towards a common goal. The activity involved building a beehive from parts that the children were asked to find in the room. The teams also had to share the tools to finish the task.
At first the children were distant and wary. But as they took part in more episodes and joined in the games together, they got to know each other better, and barriers began to break down. For example, one girl mended a scarf belonging to a girl from a different background, and they said that they became friends “a little bit”! By the end, the group was functioning as one team.
Project manager Juliana Sfeir said, “The children say they are happy to have met new friends and played new games with them. Their excitement when they were reunited was remarkable. It was as if they had left a family member behind.”
Some of the activities encouraged the children to explore their hopes and dreams. Another episode was filmed at a craft center, where they were asked to draw something about peace in their home countries. One girl drew a beautiful city with police guarding it; for her, peace meant security. The program also gave the children an opportunity to showcase their different talents, and one child recited a poem about unity among different social groups.
The second season of Puzzle is presented by Elias Maalouf, a young Lebanese man who has previously been involved in many programs with children. He explained that he himself has been changed by his involvement in Puzzle, and he has enjoyed meeting children from such varied backgrounds and encountering the richness of the cultures they represent.
After the filming of the 13 episodes, many of the children attended a workshop on journalism. A young journalist explained the nature and values of the profession and the importance of a positive approach to storytelling, and an older reporter offered valuable tips based on his early experiences. Juliana also taught the children the basics of filming, and they took turns using the camera, capturing the energy and excitement of the event.
To mark the successful completion of the season, the team threw a pizza party for the children, with a large cake, and presented them with school bags, water bottles, and copies of a book of stories about overcoming differences, produced as part of the sister project Lebanon, Our Story.
“Young people are the future of Lebanon,” says Juliana. “Conditions here are currently precarious, with a paralyzed political system, collapsing economy, and huge refugee population. As sectarian tensions rise, Puzzle’s message of friendship, freedom of religion, and the acceptance of national and religious differences is urgently needed.”
The 13-episode series is part of a larger project run in collaboration with SAT-7’s partner Right to Play Lebanon. Its purpose is that young people in Lebanon learn to respect Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) and work towards unity.