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A project using drama that engages with village communities in Cambodia, led by Professor Phaik Yeong Cheah of the Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit and Nuffield Department of Medicine, has won a Project award in this year’s Vice-Chancellor’s Public Engagement with Research Awards. The project also won the Vice-Chancellor’s Choice Award for Public Engagement with Research.

Children dancing on stage

The announcement was made at an awards ceremony at Keble College, Oxford, on 10th July hosted by Vice-Chancellor Professor Louise Richardson.

The project is aimed at supporting malaria elimination and raising awareness of malaria research in rural villages.

“Such communities often record lower literacy rates compared with urban areas, so leaflets and posters are unlikely to succeed.” says Professor Phaik Yeong Cheah “This research engagement project used Cambodian drama which involves comedy and music to share the stories and key messages.” 

Drama was as an effective way to engage Cambodian villages, selected due to their high malaria incidence. Each village had a two-day workshop led by the drama team with a free public performance on the third evening. During the workshops local children were given singing and drama training, drawing workshops and education about malaria. Villagers contributed real local stories about malaria which were then integrated into the performance.

This project enabled a further strengthening of relationships with the National Malaria Control Programme and provincial health departments for malaria research and also the local school teachers, shop owners and village malaria workers. They also help to build trust between the research team and the local stakeholders.

The participants benefited from learning about malaria, its prevention and treatment, and the children had the opportunity to learn art and theatre and to perform in public.

"We will remember this our whole lives!" said a participating 14-year-old-girl from Battambang in north western Cambodia.

Professor Alison Woollard, University Academic Champion for Public Engagement with Research says:

“These awards highlight the many ways that Oxford’s researchers engage with the public. This includes informing and empowering people by sharing research findings; working in partnership with communities to shape research and enabling citizens to take part in the research by collecting and analysing data through Citizen Science. These winning projects also demonstrate that excellence in engagement results in a ‘win-win’ for both researchers and publics alike.”

About the awards

The Vice-Chancellor's Public Engagement with Research Awards recognise and reward those at the University who undertake high-quality engagement activities and have contributed to building capacity in this area. The awards are in three categories – Early Career Researcher, Building Capacity and Projects. Entrants can be at any level in their career and activities of any scale are welcome.

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