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'Radio Dodo' Creates Bedtime Stories For Syrian Refugees


Turn on the radio between 7 and 8 p.m. on Sunday night in certain parts of Turkey or Syria and this is what you'll hear.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Speaking French).

SHAPIRO: First it's in French, and then the same thing in Arabic.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Speaking Arabic).

SHAPIRO: This is Radio Dodo, an hour-long children's program in both languages. Its founder is Brigitte Alepin, an accountant living in Montreal.

BRIGITTE ALEPIN: My family name is Alepin from Aleppo. My grandfather came from Syria at a young age about 100 years ago. And when I went back to Syria in 2004 with my father and my son, I saw my son play in Aleppo with other children. And when the war started in 2011, I could not believe that life is done in a way that my son is in Quebec, you know, living in peace, and these kids are stuck in a war. So I felt that I had to do something. And when I thought about the radio waves that can cross the borders, a neutral, nonpolitical, nonreligious radio show for the kids - I felt it was a good, simple way to help.

SHAPIRO: It's almost like this is a form of aid that you can provide without having to put yourself in danger the way so many aid workers do.

ALEPIN: Exactly.

SHAPIRO: Her team of volunteers works out of a studio in Quebec. Local radio stations broadcast the show on Sundays around bedtime in areas with a lot of refugees and people sheltering from war. Originally it was just for Syrian children. Now it's also on the radio in Mali. As for the name Radio Dodo...

ALEPIN: The word dodo is coming from the French word dormir, but it's generally only for children. So when a child goes to sleep, we will tell him, have beautiful dodo.

SHAPIRO: Like sleepytime. The show is full of bedtime stories and songs put together with the goal of inspiring that beautiful sleep.

ALEPIN: It's basically to help them go to sleep and forget about the problems they have. If they are stuck in a war zone, forget about the war. This is our objective.

SHAPIRO: Why did you decide on bedtime stories specifically?

ALEPIN: When I was younger, here in Canada, we used to listen to the radio on Sunday night. And for me to listen to the radio in my room, it was like a precious time for me, you know? And I felt that maybe the children will appreciate it as well.

SHAPIRO: Do you know how many children are listening to this?

ALEPIN: So at this point it's not really possible to know how many children we are reaching. But we went last year to Gaziantep, which is in Turkey.

SHAPIRO: Right on the border of Syria, yeah.

ALEPIN: Yes. I went personally to meet the children. And I was asking them questions to verify, are they really listening? Is it something that can really help them go to sleep? And, yes, we can see the children - that they really enjoy the radio.

SHAPIRO: Is there one story from Radio Dodo that a lot of the children talked about, that they all really loved?

ALEPIN: (Laughter) Yes. There's one with a dog that takes the bus. So many children wrote to us - they told us, do you have similar stories as the one of the dog who takes the bus? And...

SHAPIRO: Why do you think they loved that story so much?

ALEPIN: I think it makes them laugh. The dog is happy. I think it's a happy and fun story, most probably.

SHAPIRO: Will people listening to this radio show hear anything that would make them think, oh, this is for children who have come through war, or will it just sound like any other children's radio program?

ALEPIN: You could sense that it is not a normal radio show because we give so much love to them. We tell them, you know, we love you; we are there for you. We never speak about the war or about their problems directly, but we give them so much love that maybe this is a bit different than other radio show.

SHAPIRO: Brigitte Alepin, the director of Radio Dodo or Sleepytime Radio, thank you so much for talking with us.

ALEPIN: Thank you so much. Thank you.


UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: (Singing in foreign language).

UNIDENTIFIED CHILDREN: (Singing in foreign language).

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: (Singing in foreign language).

UNIDENTIFIED CHILDREN: (Singing in foreign language). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.