As October comes to a close, Play for Peace also marks the official end of our Level Up: Race for Humanity fundraising efforts. After seven years of in-person events, we are excited that our first-ever virtual race, which took place last month, raised more than $28.2K! Thanks to the effort and support of the Play for Peace global community, we can use these funds to continue recruiting, training, and mentoring young leaders in more than 50 areas of conflict worldwide.
Not only was our fundraising a huge accomplishment, but the Level Up: Race for Humanity was also a great success—and a worthwhile experience for all who participated. Throughout the month of September, 600 racers from around the world came together to train their hearts, minds, and bodies. Several of our mentors (some of whom we introduced last month) also took part in the race, taking on challenges on their own, with family members, and with their clubs. Every week they focused on a different theme: finding compassion, creating connection, and finally, building community, with each week guided by challenges, activities, and the help of inspirational content creators, who shared their wellness-focused classes, books, and workshops. The event culminated in a race week, where participants combined acts of kindness with physical activity based on their own individual goals.
During Compassion Week, participants discussed how to bring compassion to their communities and engaged in activities that encouraged them to view the world from different perspectives—which in turn creates compassion for those who are different from yourself. Groups also also engaged in acts of kindness, such as the Khula Asmaan Club in India, which delivered thank you cards to essential workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The children were eager to understand the various challenges faced by people during this period,” says mentor Nikita Bele. “They thanked all essential workers for their hard work and support.”
Connection Week helped participants to deepen their connections to themselves and the people in their communities. This connection enhances our sense of belonging, intimacy, and thoughtfulness. With the help of many talented content creators who contributed to the Race, participants engaged in yoga, meditation, and other classes that helped them reconnect with themselves and one another. According to Gaby, a Level Up participant, finding connection can change how people act in the face of difference.
“You have the power to transform the distrust of difference into openness and acceptance of the various ways around you,” she said.
The final themed week, Community Week, focused on actions that support our communities. From planting trees to contributing to food drives to cleaning up communities, Level Up racers around the world came together to make the world a better place. Reflecting on his experience during Community Week, Francisco, a mentor for Play for Peace Mexico, saw how changing your perspective can create more peaceful communities.
“It seems we’re trapped in a system where we never have the feeling of having enough,” he said. “It creates in us a feeling that as individuals, we are not enough. Let’s try to change the focus. Create your own telescope.”
The final week of Level Up was race week, where racers took part in physical activities while focusing on acts of kindness and compassion. Participants ran, walked, biked, hiked, jumped, and danced to the finish line, assuring that their hearts, minds, and bodies were healthy and happy. In India, mentor Farheen from the Peace Game club shared her childhood experience of jumping rope with community children during the “Jump of Hope” activity.
“I advised children to jump rope daily,” she said. “The kids had a lot of fun doing this activity. They were also looking after each other while jumping.”
In Vietnam, dancing was the activity of choice, combining traditional dance with the modern “Level Up Dance,” which was weaved throughout the entire Play for Peace event (check out our closing ceremony video for details!) One class of school children danced as a way to learn English.
"I loved dancing with my classmates in the class today,” one child remarked. “I love studying English in that way."
While the COVID-19 pandemic has kept us apart physically, we are grateful to have found a way to come together to focus on wellness, while creating compassion, connection, and community. We are grateful for the support of the entire Play for Peace community and thank all who participated, donated, and volunteered their time to make our first virtual race a success!