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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.