IN a bid to raise children's awareness of disabilities, the Society for the Relief of Disabled Children and the Hong Kong Society for Rehabilitation have jointly organised the Kids on the Block (KOB) project in the territory. The project, which was first set up in the United States in 1977, aims to raise awareness of the plight of children with special needs among their able-bodied counterparts. 'By means of puppetry, children get to know about and accept their disabled and chronically ill peers, understand their medical and education needs and learn to care about society,' Joseph Wong, Secretary for Education and Manpower, said at the project's launching ceremony. He said KOB aims to bring about positive changes in attitudes and behaviour towards the disadvantaged children. KOB has been well accepted as an effective means of education and is being used in every state in the United States and in other countries. Dr Marion Fang, vice chairman of the Hong Kong Society for Rehabilitation, said the two societies first put together a proposal to launch the project in the territory a year ago. 'A lot of planning and organising has been done to make this possible today. I am extremely pleased with the response from the community,' she said. Dr Fang said they have trained a strong team of 70 volunteers who are ready to try out their new talents and work with local children. The KOB style of puppetry is based on a Japanese style of puppetry called Bunraku. The puppeteer, dressed in black, appears as a shadow behind the puppet while the colourful puppet stands out. Mabel Chau, executive director of the Hong Kong Society of Rehabilitation, said this type of puppetry was extremely effective in creating an atmosphere under which children feel comfortable asking the puppets questions. She said the project includes a series of topics related to children with disabilities or chronic illnesses and their medical, social and family conditions. 'There are now over 20 scripts of puppetry on various topics like mental disability, epilepsy, asthma, and alternatives to violence and gang membership for youths.' The puppet shows will be staged in schools and youth centres throughout the territory from January next year.