By Ann DeMarle

As we turn to the holiday season, I’ve been reflecting on all of the travel we’ve done during holidays past due to our United Nations sponsored BREAKAWAY, the game initiative addressing violence against women and girls. It may be the EMC project mostly likely to be nominated as the soul of the Emergent Media Center.

BREAKAWAY Holiday 2015 - 6BREAKAWAY Holiday 2015 - 33group shot

BREAKAWAY Holiday 2015 - 20In 2014 and 2013, just prior to Christmas, we hosted BREAKAWAY Facilitator trainings and youth camps in Sonsosnate, El Salvador forming lifelong friendships. In 2010, we conducted preliminary testing of the game in impoverished schools in St. Lucia. I can still see clearly “Merry Christmas” joyfully written on the worn out green chalkboards and Joel and Alex problem solving lines of code under palm trees strung with holiday lights. The trip ended with our entire team stranded overnight forced to sleep on the floor of the international terminal at JFK due to storms closing down the northeast and New York City itself. Students worried that they would not get home for the holiday!

BREAKAWAY Holiday 2015 - 29Amazingly we have been working with BREAKAWAY either creating it, fine-tuning it, translating it, or conducting youth camps for the past eight years. Over 150 students to date have left their impact on this life-changing project.

The question in this season could be whose life has been changed, who has given and who has received? Originally BREAKAWAY was designed for male youth to teach alternatives to violence by offering through a roleplaying video game that teamwork and respect are actually the better routes to problem solving and a successful life. Yet I believe the
project has changed us as well. In becoming peace builders we have learned lessons of listening, of empathy, and of directed action. We have been welcomed into and become part of communities in Cape Town, Sinethemba, and Langa, South Africa, and in Dennery and Vieux Fort, Saint Lucia, and in Milano,BREAKAWAY Holiday 2015 - 34 Italy, and in the West Bank City of Hebron, and in Sonsonate, El Salvador. You can read about our past journeys through our former blog Games Take on Violence Against Women. Likewise we are celebrating the efforts of our team throughout this project on our Facebook page:

In 2016 we will bring that peace home as in just a few weeks we will begin Facilitator training in Vermont with HOPE Works due to funding raised during the Laura K. Winterbottom March this past year. And just this weekend, we were informed by Mayra Saenz of CENTI El Salvador that:

“In the annual operating plan of the municipal committee for the prevention of violence of Sonsonate it was planned, that they will replicate the methodology of BREAKAWAY in 3 schools with a population of 120 boys and girls, along with the University of Sonsonate, and the commission on gender of domestic violence in the next year.”

To all of those who have created BREAKAWAY and who have become part of our BREAKAWAY community, I want to thank each and every one of you for reaching out, for fighting fear and believing in peace, and for making a difference in a world. May our individual and collective actions bring forward a New Year of hope and peace for all. If you wish to support our future efforts please learn more at our BREAKAWAY: Small Actions Big Change site.