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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Behind the Lens

There are so many people who have supported our journey from Burlington, Vermont to Sonsonate, El Salvador. The BREAKAWAY message has traveled around the world and is now expanding its reach to remote communities in El Salvador. We are able to share our experience with you thanks to Adam Walker, Senior Technical Project Manager at the Emergent Media Center. 

If you are following our Facebook Page (BREAKAWAYGame) you have seen the excitement of our Facilitators during their training and now the two groups of students who are participating in the BREAKAWAY Children's Camps! We are very thankful to Adam's dedication. Adam is the man behind the camera (often multiple cameras!). Adam is
capturing this experience for all of us and for the future of the BREAKAWAY Game project. In ten years, thinking back on BREAKAWAY El Salvador, children who will become adults will smile and find renewed motivation to continue their work with preventing violence against women and girls from their memories with us through Adam's photos and video! Muchas Gracias Adam!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Breaking Ice, Creating Unity

How do you facilitate engagement of forty young adults and professionals to create a bond between youth from varying backgrounds? The answer is breaking the ice! Today, during the second part of our three–day BREAKAWAY Facilitator training at the University of Sonsonate, El Salvador, we created momentum and feelings of ownership between BREAKAWAY Facilitators and the fast approaching BREAKAWAY Children’s Camps that they will be running. I attribute the success of today’s training to the two group activities/icebreakers. 
Nicole (blog article author) and Kevin setting-up the computer lab for the day's session.
Our first icebreaker activity, facilitated by Mariana Herrera was the ‘Telephone Game” where one person decides on a message to send around the circle, until it reached the final person who revealed what they believe to be the correct original message. The first message passed around our group of 40+ was in Spanish and related to a character in the BREAKAWAY Game. Considering my basic language skills, I tried my best to repeat the message that was passed on to me. However, I have a feeling that the message changed drastically once I whispered the message to the girl next to me. She burst into laugher and caused a wave of laughter to ripple around our circle. Needless to say, in the end the message was lost in translation, which I take some responsibility. What I gained from this experience is that the power of this game resides in the concepts of a group challenge; it demands that strangers (of any gender, age, personal background or language) work together to communicate clearly to one another. 
Rumors game.
If you were to ask college students for their opinions on icebreaker activities you would probably be met with a long groan of displeasure. Icebreakers? Again? Really? Do you think we are still in middle school? Even I have a habit of thinking this way. I am too old for this. However, the power of creating unity through icebreaking activities was reintroduced to me today and I will forever be a supporter of them! 
Creating BREAKAWAY raps.
The creativity of our Salvadorian BREAKAWAY Facilitators during the second group exercise of the day (Football Rap) generated thunderous applause! Facilitators in training were instructed to work together to create lyrics to a song that incorporated the words; football, pitch, kick, play, girl and fair. In small teams the Facilitators created works of art. Hidden talents of composition, poetry, singing and beatboxing were uncovered!
Creating Breakaway raps.
We wish that you could be here to experience the generosity and enthusiasm of all we have met in El Salvador. We are excited to bring our experience to you through sharing the Football Rap of one of our BREAKAWAY Facilitator groups!
You can see smiling provoking videos of the facilitators' final performances on our Facebook page at

Climbing the Mountain A Step at a Time: Championing BREAKAWAY in El Salvador

A volcano in San Salvador, El Salvador
We are breathing fresh air into this blog these next two weeks. It has been quiet not because important work spreading BREAKAWAY wasn't being done, but that our resources have been going towards building out the BREAKAWAY Toolkit. We've built out the game, created a Facilitators' guide book, created a youth camp model, and conducted our first camps in Hebron, Palestine. At those camps, we saw the power of BREAKAWAY. As one participant, 12 year old Haroun, observed
 “I told my friends about how great this game is and I shared with them that violence against women is negative and how to make right decisions.”.
So once again Champlain College's Emergent Media Center is on the road. This time to Sonsonate, El Salvador where we are in the second day of conducting 3 days of Facilitators' training after which we will conduct two 6-day youth camps.
Mariana Herrara leading a Facilitators' session.
You may wonder "how did we get here?". Though the BREAKAWAY story has many complex elements, this answer is simple, though the effort has been far from. Our Champlain College students have become champions for our effort to spread BREAKAWAY — its message and its methods.
Behind the scenes: vital partnerships with the UNDP, the University of Sonsonate, and the Municipalities of Sonsonate were set up; the Champlain College President's cabinet approved funding for the project; and the EMC staff worked tirelessly above and beyond under a tight timeline to put in place all the processes. But the major driver that finds us here in El Salvador has been the belief and hard work of MFA candidate Kelly de Castro, communications major Mahmoud Jabari, and design major Mariana Herrara. They have recruited international business student Kevin Flanagan and international business alumna Nicole Baker in this effort.
The Champlain College Emergent Media Center on-the-ground El Salvador team.
Perhaps most vitally for the BREAKAWAY initiative is that in El Salvador, we are partnering with Dr. Hua Wang from the University of Buffalo to assess the efficacy of the game and camp model. Dr. Wang's associate Carliene Quist joins us this week as we train the facilitators to ensure we conduct the assessment fluidly and effectively. We hope in this way that the BREAKAWAY initiative will be more readily adopted by other communities.
Dr. Wang with the BREAKAWAY team planning for the research study.
Over the next two weeks we are assessing to see if the goals of the BREAKAWAY game and initiative achieve the following four shifts in players (determined on an individual level):
  1. awareness of the issue
  2. recognition of individual responsibility
  3. change in negative attitudes and behaviors in regards to gender inequity
  4. transition to becoming an advocate for an end to violence against women
Follow along these next few weeks as our team has a chance to observe and reflect on their experience.
The Facilitators come from many groups working with women and youth to create change, as well as students from the University of Sonsonate working with women and youth.

Monday, March 7, 2011

How is progress made?

Newsweek has an article today about Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's focus on the empowerment of women and girls worldwide. As a system thinker on a global scale, she can see the impact of violence against women on cultures...
Because where women are disempowered and dehumanized, you are more likely to see not just antidemocratic forces, but extremism that leads to security challenges for us. the same time, because of her travel, she also has seen personally the very real human impact...
"One thing I would urge, if you do get a chance, is to visit a shelter, a site where trafficking victims have been rescued and are being rehabilitated,” she said to a room that had suddenly gone silent. “I recently was in Cambodia, and it is just so overwhelmingly heartbreaking and inspiring to see these young girls."
"One girl lost her eyes—to punish her, the owner of the brothel had stabbed her in the eye with a nail,” Clinton continued. “She was the most optimistic, cheerful young woman, just a tremendous spirit. What she wants to do when she grows up is help other victims of trafficking, so there is just an enormous amount of work to be done.
Changing cultures.
When it comes to violence against women, I've found that too many of us look at it as a personal or cultural matter that we have no right to address. When we first began the project to create a game to address violence against women, I myself was conflicted. But then again I had been conditioned by such a situation - and narrowly escaped. I remember distinctly being told that it was my fault. The culture of abuse is a culture of control, of taking away women's rights through fear. No wonder perhaps that the innocent are most in danger. For example in 2002, 150 million GIRLS suffered from sexual abuse of some type.

When we first began the project, we traveled to South Africa to see through another cultural lens. There a South African writer, an educated artist, confronted us and asked,
"How dare you tell me how I can or cannot punish my partner."
I do not think I will ever forget that meeting - or the young girls we met. Today they must just be reaching puberty. I often think of them...and all our young women, who were much like myself, young and full of a desire to love and be loved.
The greatest gift we can bring to the word is peace. And what I know for sure, is until all girls and women are assured of equality and the right to be free from abuse, we will never be free from war and violence. The good news on BREAKAWAY is that it is appealing to a global culture. The platform on which it is delivered is open and free— . Our challenge is to get it into the hands of more boys and young men. Recent statistics on the website show, visitors from 161 countries:
Top 10 countries:
1. United States
2. Pakistan
3. Canada
4. Indonesia
5. India
6. United Kingdom
7. Australia
8. South Africa
9. Malaysia
10. France
And the game is being played in 121 countries:
Top 10 countries:
1. United States
2. United Kingdom
3. Canada
4. Albania & France (tied)
5. Algeria & Brazil (tied)
6. America Samoa
7. Japan
8. Australia & India (tied)
Focus for the next year is on getting it into more hands. To this end we will be concentrating on:

  1. online marketing to reach youth directly
  2. connecting to groups that work with youth worldwide
  3. a facilitator's guide
Other areas that we are seeking funding or volunteers for are:
  1. more translations - if you would like to donate translation services we can get it into more countries.
  2. CD duplication and distribution to groups where the internet is weak
  3. impact assessment
  4. a mobile version to reach most broadly
The final chapter of BREAKAWAY, in English, Spanish and French, will be released this March. Its the month of my birthday and it feels like a gift—a gift to my much younger self, to all those girls around the world, and from us to world peace.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Senator Leahy Introduces BREAKAWAY Panel

Senator Patrick Leahy introduces the BREAKAWAY panel at Vermont 3.0 Tech Jam on Friday, October 15. Following his speech, students from the Emergent Media Center discussed the development of the game, from research and pitching at UN headquarters to crunch, launch, and beyond.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A bit quiet but much good in the silence

We’ve been a bit quiet on the home front but that is not due lack of energy and success with our game to address violence against women. It's more like we've been overwhelmingly busy! I'm sure many of you can relate.
We hosted a launch party this August and two chapters of an eventual 5 total have been released. As I’ve been updating the UN and others in the last few days on the successes of BREAKAWAY I realized that we needed to share with all of you as many of you have helped us reach the point we are at today!!! So first off THANK YOU!!!!

The team is full steam ahead on our third chapter release due in 13 days! Now over 90 Champlain students, the United Nations Population Fund, Population Media Center, numerous volunteers, and Champlain College faculty and staff have been putting forth amazing creative and productive efforts!

2 out of 5 chapters of BREAKAWAY have been released online since July. The remaining 3 chapters will be released monthly completing in December 2010.

Inter-Milan soccer star Samuel Eto’o is the spokesperson for and a character in the game. We interviewed and videotaped him this Spring. From this footage, corresponding video promos will be released on his thoughts about the nature of being a champion, being an advocate for others, and respect for women and girls.

Likewise, we've been busy getting the word out on the game to get it into the hands of young people. We have been helped immensely by press that has been drawn to the project. TV coverage by ChannelOne out of NYC aired on August 31 (see below) and scores of youth across the US became part of the game playing audience. It was cool to watch the US light up in Google Analytics in the ChannelOne broadcasting region!

To announce the game, we’ve been participating in summits and conferences. Sponsored by Liaison International , a student team, Lauren Nishikawa & myself just returned from presenting at "Images and Voice of Hope". We presented the project to an audience of media professional who are working to produce “media as an agent of world benefit”

This Friday, a panel of students will be presenting twice at Vermont 3.0 in Burlington . The panel title is:
From Zero to Hero: the process of game development,
10:30am – 11:15am and 1:00pm – 1:45pm.
And here is some very big news, Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy will be giving the opening remarks for the 10:30 panel!

Other currently planned, upcoming presentations on BREAKAWAY include:
Presently, we can analyze hard data from our database and website analytics:
  • Since launching June 22, 2010 during the FIFA World Cup, the game has over 1070 registered online users from 90 different countries around the world.BREAKAWAY website for links)
  • Statistics regarding age and gender tell us we are reaching the target audience of young men – twice as many males as females are playing the game and over 50% of the user base is age 18 or under and they are coming back to play multiple times, a key component of the Sabido methodology on which this game is based.

  • In addition, 92% of players are making positive choices as opposed to negative choices within the game.
  • Potential influence and awareness is evident in website statistics which boast over 3800 visits from 133 different countries.
As you can well imagine with final online release in December, we won’t be finished yet with trying to change attitudes and behaviors around violence against women and girls.

After working on this project for over two years, we sometimes think our project and this message is old news, but with 1 out of 3 women abused in her lifetime there is much work to be done. We've traveled to and connected with the townships of South Africa to the schools of the Caribbean to the youth of Vermont, we want to reach youth around the world so they can discover, play, and all can benefit from this ground-breaking project!

Our future plans include finding funding to support: a global PR & marketing outreach, creating a facilitator/educator syllabus to distribute to schools, youth groups and soccer-affiliated groups, CD/DVD’s distribution for internet-poor areas (for distribution under the UNiTE campaign’s Men Engage), and a cell phone version to reach the poorest communities.

So we're asking each of you, to remember that it has been the little things that have added up in BIG terms on this project. Let's break through the silence. You can help! Please consider volunteering on the project, spreading the word, and consider donating as little as $5.00 towards our future goals. You can do so by visiting our project web site

Monday, September 13, 2010

"There's more to the game than just playing soccer..."

We are excited to share with you a news clip about BREAKAWAY, produced by Channel One News.  Channel One is the leading television news network for teens nationwide. Their mission is to "inform, educate and inspire by making news relevant and engaging for young people and sparking discussion around the important issues impacting youth today."

Chapter 2 of BREAKAWAY is now live!  Don't worry, if you haven't played Chapter 1 yet, you'll play that first so you don't miss any of the story.  Head on over and see what all the buzz is about!

(This post also cross-posted at the Emergent Media Center blog.)