By Michael Goldman/Bianca Roa

This past summer, the Emergent Media Center (EMC) was proud to receive a nomination for their game BREAKAWAY chosen as one of the top 20 international Information and Computing Technology (ICT) applications addressing violence against women and girls. This year on January 26th, the EMC was notified that they were one of four finalist for the Womanity award offered through the Womanity FoundationThe award is presented to a pair of collaborating organizations working toward the goal of gender-equality and eliminating violence against women and girls. BREAKAWAY’s nomination is in conjunction with Grassroot Soccer located in South Africa.

As the EMC embraces the excitement of the announcement, we are gearing up for another trip to South Africa for research to prepare our teams for the next phase of the Womanity Award grant proposal. We spoke with Hannah Marchitell, MFA student at Champlain College and project manager on BREAKAWAY, who will be one of the individuals going on the trip.

“It’s a really student driven team, of course we have guidance from the staff and faculty at the EMC, but a lot of the bigger initiatives that have been undertaken have been because of the students that influenced those initiatives.” Says Hannah, who has been working on BREAKAWAY for a year and a half now. Previously BREAKAWAY has been implemented in Hebron, Palestine and Sonsonate, El Salvador thanks, in no small part, to our past students Mahmoud Jabari and Mariana Herrera.

When we asked Hannah about the preparations for this excursion, Hannah told us: “Last semester we partnered with Grassroot Soccer who we are going to South Africa to work with as well as with Population Media Center. We collaborated on a grant to submit to the Womanity Foundation for the 2016 Womanity Award in order to scale-up the BREAKAWAY initiative and adapt it to work well with Grassroot Soccer’s current initiatives.”

Grassroot Soccer uses a soccer camp model, as does BREAKAWAY, to address violence against women and girls, but also touch on topics like HIV and AIDS. Their partnership with BREAKAWAY works well because “their implementation model is similar to BREAKAWAY’s; however, BREAKAWAY will bring the addition gaming and technology to Grassroot Soccer’s current model.” The collaboration that has formed from this new partnership will help to push the impact and goals of both organizations forward.

The EMC will work side by side with Grassroot Soccer while in South Africa. According to Marchitell, “while in South Africa, I will lead a camp model training of BREAKAWAY that we use alongside of the game. We’ve been ironing out the upcoming trips details during our weekly meetings with Grassroot Soccer and Population Media Center via Skype. Besides the trip we are also talking about the next stage of the grant proposal that we will submit in March of this year.”

Grassroot Soccer is based in Cape Town which is where the group from the Emergent Media Center will be traveling to. The team will also be visiting, Khayelitsha a township on the outskirts of Cape Town. The plan is to study first hand how Grassroot Soccer operates in order to understand how we can best adapt our current model to fit their needs. “For three days,” Hannah details, “we will get to observe, get trained, and interact with the people there (camp leaders and participants) so that we know how their model works.”

With this information, the team working on BREAKAWAY will adapt the game to be more flexible and fit the needs of more groups: “BREAKAWAY isn’t just a one size fits all, if you’re running a camp you should be adapting it for the community and doing what’s best for that community. One of our goals is to have BREAKAWAY be accessible via mobile technology, which is the primary form of electronic access that people have in Africa.”

Marchitell is quite excited about the about what this means for the games future because of this trip. “It’s a great opportunity to scale-up the BREAKAWAY initiative and to see how other groups are communicating with the community’s around them to address issues of violence against women and girls and other issues that affect everyone around the world that need to be addressed as part of the UN sustainable development goals.”

She says she looks forward to seeing “what they do and how we can adapt it to fit their needs and if we get the grant it’ll be a great opportunity for BREAKAWAY to be sustainably implemented in Sub-Saharan Africa, as it has been in El Salvador, which is what really needs to happen for BREAKAWAY to be successful long-term. It doesn’t make sense for us to be going to places and simply providing technology and leaving, we should be immersed in every step of the process and Grassroot Soccer has that capability. They can really be there to support the community that they’re working with.”

The trip is also not just an opportunity for BREAKAWAY, but also for the individuals who go on it as well. While there, Marchitell and others plan on doing a little travel in the local area. “There’s a mountain near Cape Town called Tabletop Mountain that we will possibly be going to the top of which has a beautiful view because Cape Town is right on the ocean. We might also visit Robben Island, one of the locations where Nelson Mandela was held in prison which has been turned into a museum.”

Marchitell goes on to say, “I’m most excited about learning about their community and seeing how BREAKAWAY will work in their community. Seeing how passionate the participants in El Salvador were, especially our facilitators, has given me motivation to keep working on BREAKAWAY.

If there is any way to sum up the pride the EMC feels when it looks at the success of BREAKAWAY, Hannah Marchitell does it well: “To be able to have this opportunity through the Emergent Media Center is just amazing. To be able to do things like this and have a real-world impact just through our small college is just really crazy. This is an opportunity that working at the EMC can lead to.”

For more information about the Womanity nomination, check out the official press release by Steve Mease here.

If you are interested in learning more about BREAKAWAY, there is more information here.