A global social enterprise has tapped into the ancient power of storytelling—and the high-tech reach and capabilities of YouTube—to help children adjust to the COVID-19 crisis.
Papinee, which describes itself as a “progressive children’s storytelling company,” recently launched Papinee Club, which provides parents with a comprehensive toolkit and engaging content to help young children—between three and eight years old—cope with the psychological and emotional stresses created by the coronavirus pandemic. At the core of the initiative is a new weekly YouTube series, also titled Papinee Club. Watch the first episode here.
Dev Suj, founder of Papinee, noted that parents around the world are struggling to find meaningful and positive ways to help their children cope with the coronavirus crisis and the bewildering restrictions it places on their lives. “This is a very stressful time for families,” Suj said. “Isolated at home, parents need to juggle working remotely [and] helping their kids with distance learning, not to mention keeping everyone healthy and positive. Kids are unable to go to school, see their friends, play outside, [while they’re] waiting for things to go back to normal.”
The project was inspired by Suj’s childhood—or, more specifically, his mother. “[The coronavirus crisis] took me back to my childhood when my mother was sick and we couldn’t leave the house, much less travel,” Suj recalled. “But through her incredible imagination, she told us many fantastic stories of animals that ruled the planet. We visited exotic countries around the world, and it gave me hope.”
Suj’s mom also took him to visit local children’s homes and orphanages every Sunday. There, she would tell share her wildly imaginative stories to empower and inspire the kids. She also invented a word, “papinee,” which meant “unconditional love,” and told each child she encountered that they were her “papinee.”
Today Suj and his team use storytelling through technology to accomplish similar goals, aiming to engage, educate and inspire children around the planet. Each YouTube episode of Papinee Club runs 15-20 minutes and showcases a carefully planned range of activities from yoga, mindfulness and nutrition to art, music and dance expression—many of which parents and children can do together. It’s accompanied by the Papinee Passport, a downloadable collection of activities that provide an educational, interactive and communal way to keep children engaged throughout the week.
Addressing diverse themes such as gratitude, courage, resilience and acceptance, each episode takes families on a journey around the world, ignites their imagination through creative storytelling and encourages family bonding through joint activities. Ultimately, Suj said, Papinee Club emphasizes a message of universal love and respect and seeks to reassure children of brighter days ahead while encouraging dialogue and sharing and suggesting ways to cope with the stresses of the pandemic.
Each episode’s segments are animated by real families and volunteers from different parts of the world who find themselves in very similar circumstances. Sharing their unique talents and experiences, they provide a window into different cultures and reinforce the concept of a global community coming together in support of each other.
“With the world essentially shut down, we had to be extremely innovative, creative and resourceful in how we created this show,” Suj said. Conceived and created in less than 14 days due to the urgency of the crisis, the entire production—from developing the original script, creating bespoke toolkits and step-by-step instructions for participating families, to editing and animation—was managed remotely and volunteer-led. “We had to find the entire creative and production team, enlist all our friends to help, and it is mind-boggling how everyone and everything just came together. We were all unified in our desire to get kids to understand that everything is OK and that we are going to make the world better together.”
The pilot features five families and characters from all walks of life and different corners of the globe—Telluride, Colo. and Los Angeles in the U.S. as well as Portugal, Turkey and Thailand. “This is a show for families by families, and beyond providing a set of fun, educational and interactive activities, it shows kids and parents alike that they are not alone and that we are stronger together,” Suj said. “Our main goal is to inspire them to learn, laugh, and love unconditionally because that is what Papinee is about—unconditional love.”
Papinee was founded as a social enterprise to educate and inspire children to become respectful, responsible and compassionate global citizens of tomorrow. Its proprietary WHIGZ curriculum (World, History, Imagination, Geography, Zoology) draws inspiration from Montessori and STEAM as well as the centuries-old craft of storytelling. The company says its mission is to awaken a sense of curiosity, encourage respect for the planet and promote the values of universal love and human connection through the eyes of its animal characters from across the world.
Papinee is already known for its heirloom-inspired toys, interactive storytelling kits with a strong emphasis on education and pop-up amusement parks throughout Asia and Europe. As a social enterprise, Papinee also gives a free “Inspire” storytelling kit to a child in need for every kit that is purchased. The company’s Papinee Club series also brings its signature animal characters to life, animated on screen and online for the first time. Additionally, the show represents the brand’s first introduction to the U.S.
“This project has grown organically and has been sustained by the passion and tireless dedication of our network of volunteers,” Suj said. “We are working at light speed to complete it as the need is so urgent and the current situation so extraordinary and universal. We are incredibly humbled by the reception of the concept and the generosity of volunteers from around the world who helped to create the pilot. This is what motivates us to work even harder and faster, and, hopefully, when this crisis is over, the lessons we have taught will continue to inspire.”
Six additional episodes are currently in development with new episodes released every Saturday on Papinee’s Youtube channel. Full episodes, individual segments and the Papinee Passport are also available on Papinee.com.