Meet the Giant Puppet Roaming the Streets of N.Y.C. to Raise Awareness About Refugee Children

The 12-foot puppet known as "Little Amal" walks through Times Square as onlookers watch on September 16, 2022 in New York City. Little Amal, who has been touring around the world, symbolizes a 10-year-old Syrian girl who is a refugee. The puppet has captured the hearts of people throughout the world while spreading the message of solidarity for displaced people. Little Amal is on a 17-day tour of New York City and will visit a variety of boroughs and neighborhoods while raising awareness about immigration and refugees.
The 12-foot puppet known as "Little Amal" walks through Times Square as onlookers watch on September 16, 2022 in New York City. Little Amal, who has been touring around the world, symbolizes a 10-year-old Syrian girl who is a refugee. The puppet has captured the hearts of people throughout the world while spreading the message of solidarity for displaced people. Little Amal is on a 17-day tour of New York City and will visit a variety of boroughs and neighborhoods while raising awareness about immigration and refugees.

Arturo Holmes/Getty

Meet Little Amal.

Since July 2021, a 12-foot-tall puppet of a 10-year-old Syrian refugee named Little Amal (which means "hope" in Arabic) has been making her way across the globe to raise awareness for refugee children. "Little Amal's urgent message to the world is 'Don't forget about us,' " reads a statement on the puppet's official website.

She's already traveled over 5,000 miles across 12 countries — and this week, she's visiting the busy streets of New York City. Her visit is a co-production between The Walk and St. Ann's Warehouse.

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The 12-foot puppet known as "Little Amal" walks through Times Square as onlookers watch on September 16, 2022 in New York City. Little Amal, who has been touring around the world, symbolizes a 10-year-old Syrian girl who is a refugee. The puppet has captured the hearts of people throughout the world while spreading the message of solidarity for displaced people. Little Amal is on a 17-day tour of New York City and will visit a variety of boroughs and neighborhoods while raising awareness about immigration and refugees
The 12-foot puppet known as "Little Amal" walks through Times Square as onlookers watch on September 16, 2022 in New York City. Little Amal, who has been touring around the world, symbolizes a 10-year-old Syrian girl who is a refugee. The puppet has captured the hearts of people throughout the world while spreading the message of solidarity for displaced people. Little Amal is on a 17-day tour of New York City and will visit a variety of boroughs and neighborhoods while raising awareness about immigration and refugees

Spencer Platt/Getty

Little Amal will be in N.Y.C. from Sept. 14 to Oct. 2, and will walk through all five boroughs, per her website.

On Wednesday, her day began at the Tenement Museum, which celebrates immigrant stories. "As she makes her way through the Lower East Side into Chinatown, Amal gets entangled in lines of laundry that are hanging from the buildings," the event description stated.

"She discovers two parallel NYC traditions that have flourished in the Lower East Side as words in Yiddish and in Mandarin float through the air above the narrow streets," the description continued.

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Later that afternoon, Amal will make her way to the Clemente Soto Vélez Center on the Lower East Side — where she will meet other puppets — and she'll end her night walking through the East Village.

"Amal finds that she isn't the only little girl lost in the big city. With her new friend she walks through the street of the East Village looking for shelter," the event description detailed. "On their journey they will try to answer the biggest of all questions: how to make the world a better place?"

'Little Amal', a giant puppet depicting a Syrian refugee girl, walks outside St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York on September 18, 2022.
'Little Amal', a giant puppet depicting a Syrian refugee girl, walks outside St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York on September 18, 2022.

ED JONES/AFP via Getty

New York City Mayor Eric Adams even recorded a statement, which was published on social media to celebrate her arrival.

"New York City's a city of immigrants," Adams stated. "Every one of us comes from somewhere else. That is the magic of this city – people of all backgrounds living together in one place. It doesn't matter if your ancestors came on the Mayflower or fled war-torn conflict or arrived this morning on a bus from Texas."

"We owe each other compassion, understanding and a helping hand," he added.

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Little Amal, a 3.5-meter-tall puppet of a young Syrian refugee girl is being displayed at New York Public Library on September 15, 2022. Her journey from the Syrian-Turkish border started in July 2021, and she has become a symbol of the struggles of refugees.
Little Amal, a 3.5-meter-tall puppet of a young Syrian refugee girl is being displayed at New York Public Library on September 15, 2022. Her journey from the Syrian-Turkish border started in July 2021, and she has become a symbol of the struggles of refugees.

Lokman Vural Elibol/Anadolu Agency via Getty

Prior to coming to the Big Apple, Little Amal has had a range of experiences, from meeting the Pope at the Vatican to posing in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

Amir Nizar Zuabi, the artistic director of the project, told CNN he hopes the crowds recognize the puppet's overarching purpose.

"By showing her their welcome, maybe they can extend their welcome to real people that are coming to this city as we speak and need support and need empathy and need their help," he told the outlet.

Little Amal appears onstage during Global Citizen Festival 2022: New York at Central Park on September 24, 2022 in New York City.
Little Amal appears onstage during Global Citizen Festival 2022: New York at Central Park on September 24, 2022 in New York City.

Kevin Mazur/Getty

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Little Amal was designed and built by Handspring Puppet Company.

To build a puppet capable of taking on so many events, the company made her from robust and lightweight materials such as cane and carbon fibre.

It takes four puppeteers to bring Little Amal to life: one on each arm, one supporting her back and one inside walking on stilts. This fourth puppeteer also controls 'the harp', a complex tapestry of strings that animate Little Amal's face, head and eyes.