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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

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.

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