Build Your Own Buddy (BoB)

Lead Organization: Help a Child
Partners: Help a Child South Sudan, TNO, ARQ
Duration: December 1, 2019 – November 30, 2021
Goal: To support children age 5 to 7 years and their parents to deal with stress. It uses storytelling as a tool, with Bob the hare as the main character.
Highlight: Bob is a hare who experienced all kinds of adventures. He is happy when he plays with his friends, but he also has to face his fears when he is in a dark forest, his anger when he cannot climb a wall and his feelings of loneliness when he is alone in the desert. Through the image of a volcano, children will experience what it is to be at different levels of that volcano and they will experience strategies on how to get down from the top of the volcano. At the same time, parents/caregivers learn how to support their children.

Due to conflict and other harsh circumstances, people suffer, both physically and psychologically. On top of daily stressors, they have to deal with types of stress and traumatic events. This is not easy for adults, leave alone for children. For young children, it is hard to understand what happened/happens, why adults are fighting and why their parents are scared too.

Therefore, Help Child, TNO and ARQ started a project for children age 5 to 7 years and their parents/caretakers in South Sudan, in Wau and surrounding places, where the active fighting has come to a halt, but people still suffer from the consequences of the prolonged conflict. Build your Own Buddy is a Mental Health and psychosocial support (MH-PSS) group program with elements of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT). Based on recent scientific insights, the program offers physical and mental strategies to recognise emotions, recognise and communicate about levels of stress and actively bring stress levels down.

During 11 sessions children hear about Bob, the hare. In the colourful storybook, Bob experiences all kinds of adventures. The volcano in the story is a metaphor for how children feel: very relaxed at the bottom, and very angry when they feel they are on top of the volcano. Through several exercises, children learn about different strategies to go down again to the relaxing fields at the bottom of the volcano. They get help from their buddy, who can help them to process all things that happen around them and it helps them to seek the support of adults.

Parallel to the sessions of the children, the parents/caretakers are taken through parenting sessions. With the use of psycho-education, they learn about their own stress and behaviour and they also read the story of Bob. In that way, they are able to help their children dealing with the stresses around them in a positive way.

Update: Community Counsellors have been trained by ARQ in Basic Mental Health skills and TNO in conducting the BoB sessions for children and parents. Two rounds of sessions have been finalised in 3 locations: Abunybuny, Agok and Mapel. Learning takes place through pre-and post-assessment questionnaires for the parents, session reports, focus group discussions with parents and FGDs with the community counsellors themselves.

Analysis of the results is being done at the moment, but so far it seems both children and parents like the program very much and learn a lot. For instance, a woman of one of the groups shared that she never realised that what she experienced during the conflict influenced the way she was treating her children, but in fact, she was holding a lot of anger in her. When sharing this in the parents’ group, she felt relieved. She now feels more love for her children and the possibility to care for them.

Learning Questions:

Viability and feasibility

  • Are preschool children able to create a successful and durable buddy from local materials?
  • Are Community Counsellors able to apply (quality) elements of KIDNET after training by the programme team  – or what should we do different, what do they need?
  • What issues do we encounter applying BOB in groups and what can we do to solve this?


  • Do children experience a difference in levels of stress after the series of sessions?
  • Do children perceive more support from their parents and interaction with other children, compared to a baseline measure?
  • Are children, parents and CC satisfied and positive about BOB? How do they rate BOB (and each session?) on an appreciation scale?
  • Are there any adverse effects observed?

For further implementation or up scaling

  • What are impeding and stimulating factors for execution and implementation of BOB?




Contact lead organization Help a Child
Liesbeth Speelman