The sound of drums reverberated through Ann Arbor on Saturday as residents gathered on Central Campus to welcome Little Amal on her arrival to the University of Michigan. The audience erupted in applause as they caught sight of Little Amal, a 12-foot tall puppet of a 10-year-old Syrian refugee girl. Little Amal’s arrival in Ann Arbor was one of her stops on her travels across America to raise awareness of the plight of refugees around the world.
Little Amal has become an international symbol of the dire experiences refugee children face. Her name is a direct translation of the Arabic word for “hope.” One of her goals, as she treks the globe, is to raise awareness for the loss of formal education refugee children face when fleeing war.
Little Amal was created by Handstring Puppet Company, a renowned corporation known for their work in the play War Horse. She began her journey in July 2021 at the Syria-Turkey border and has since traveled more than 6,000 miles, to 15 countries.
In an interview with The Michigan Daily, U-M alum Emily Marlow explained the importance of Little Amal across different communities.
“I hope this (event) teaches not just this generation, but the older generations that might be getting ready to think about voting in 2024 and 2023,” Marlow said. “I hope that this helps people of all ages, shapes and sizes to get excited about welcoming people here.”
Marlow spoke about her experience as a parent, and the significance of introducing young children to people of different cultures and identities.
“This just fits right in with helping introduce the next generation (to) how we immigrants are essential to the society and completely making sure our laws are in place that support that,” Marlow said.
According to the Washtenaw Refugee Welcome Summer 2023 Newsletter, 300 families have relocated to Washtenaw County in 2023, with 140 more individuals set to arrive in the coming months. In an interview with The Daily, Music, Theatre & Dance junior Hadley Gorsline emphasized that Ann Arbor is somewhere people from around the world come from, so it is important to welcome one another with open arms.
“I hope that people feel the spirit of joy and fellowship in the way we were able to come together, but I hope that people can also reflect on the privilege that they’ve had and be inspired to reach out to their community members to support the Amal Initiative,” Gorsline said.
The student director of yesterday’s event, Music, Theatre & Dance senior Tiara Partsch told The Daily she encourages other students to get involved in their respective communities through grassroots organizations and donating money to their communities.
“If you go on the Amal website, you can find a donation link,” Partsch said.
Little Amal’s journey on campus came to a showstopping end at the University of Michigan Museum of Art, where an ensemble of 15 Black student artists held a performance highlighting the talent and creativity they bring to the University. The performance aimed to bring awareness to the statistic that Black students constitute only 4% of the student population. Black enrollment at the University has remained stagnant since the 1970s. Music, Theatre & Dance senior Donovan Rogers, a spoken word artist, brought a great burst of energy to the crowd, which caught the attention of many.
“The notion of understanding our meaning and magnificence beyond our marginalization is something I hoped empowered Amal and all audiences we had the honor of being in connection with yesterday,” Rogers said.
Readers interested in donating to Little Amal in support of her voyage across the country and the organization’s efforts can do so here. The Black Student Union’s More Than 4: The 4 Point Platform can be found here. You can also follow them on Instagram @umichbsu.
MiC Contributor Anchal Malh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.