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Empowerment: The Most Sustainable Path Toward Peace

Even within the most vulnerable communities there are resources to create peace.

Haripriya Bathula, a facilitator from the Play for Peace club in Hyderabad, recently had a very special experience. She facilitated a training for students from the Andhra Pradesh Tribal Welfare School of Excellence (APTW) in Srisailam and was joined by students from the Tribal Welfare School in Chintala.

The students from the APTW School of Excellence belong to a scheduled tribe. Scheduled tribes are socioculturally or ethno linguistically-defined indigenous Indian groups that are historically disadvantaged and considered vulnerable communities. The school is a boarding school, where students are supported with education as well as food.

It was the first time Haripriya facilitated a training outside of her home in Hyderabad, and she will cherish the experience for the rest of her life. The goal of the training was to empower participants to lead their own Play for Peace sessions in their community in Srisailam. Twenty five APTW students, grades 8 through 12 participated in the training, as well as ten students from the school in Chintala who belong to the Chenchu tribal community, one of the most vulnerable communities in India. Although some schooling is available for these children, many of them face great challenges when trying to adapt.

The group from Srisailam was very eager to participate in the training and excited to teach what they’d learned to their peers who could not attend. They also did everything possible to welcome the students from Chintala and make them feel comfortable. However, integration and interaction did not come easy for the students from Chintala, and it took several discussions about diversity and inclusion for the whole group to find a way to cooperate. After some initial difficulties, the youth were able to communicate with and learn from each other, as well as participate in the games. They gained the confidence to then facilitate the games for each other, which is an important step in a Play for Peace training; it ensures the sustainability of the program. At the end, the participants were very enthusiastic about the new activities they’d learned and promised to conduct play sessions twice a week in Srisailam. They also agreed to travel to Chintala and support play sessions there as well.

Training this very diverse group of youth—who are constantly struggling for resources and against discrimination—was quite a challenge for Haripriya. However, in a very short time, she made incredible progress. Young people from different backgrounds learned to work together and agreed on common goals and future plans. Despite their own struggles, they agreed to use the skills they’d gained from the training to work with their own communities, committing to regular practice peace sessions and helping each other out.

Together they took an important step towards creating more peace in their communities.