Training With Play for Peace: An Inspirational Experience in India

By Shiekh Nadiya Habib, Child Protection Social Activist

It started the day I was nominated for the group of eight master trainers who would be training for Play for Peace. As a passionate child social worker, I firmly believe that children can positively benefit from fun and recreation. Fun and recreation can lead to a happy and stable life and contributes to the mental and social well being of a child.

It was February 28, 2018, when I started my Play for Peace journey and met trainers Agyat, Swati, and Abha. Since then, we’ve shared so many warm and exciting moments of playfulness with people from different age groups and spheres of life. The journey has taught me that playfulness and mindfulness can co-exist, and in fact, it is the mindfulness aspect of  Play for Peace that often plays a key role in creating participants' positive and often transformative experiences. I like to call this mindfulness the "spirit of Play for Peace." If the Play for Peace session is a sea full of playful waves and exuberant energy, what the sea holds in its depths is the spirit of Play for Peace. It is this depth in Play for Peace facilitators and participants that make each session highly impactful. While there is a lot of movement—physically, intellectually, and emotionally—during a session, the impact of it all can be an anchoring feeling, one of groundedness and peace with one’s self and with others.

Since then I have been working as a trainer, providing trainings to children, youth, adults, and teachers who need them. So far I have trained teachers from 112 schools, both private and government in the south Kashmir. South Kashmir is itself a challenge, but when you go with a mandate of peace, people regard you as an agent of change, and a person trying to deviate children and youth from conflict and the prevailing situation. Despite such challenges, I have always managed to reach out to children and train them in Play for Peace’s method of learning and fun.

During these sessions, I work with one of my colleagues not only to make children and youth happy, but also to help them with their learning and education, using Play for Peace activities in preschools and primary schools as a teaching method. I have also worked as a trainer for the Childline India Foundation in Kashmir, training children about child sexual abuse and its prevention. We have also modified Play for Peace sessions and activities to teach life and leadership skills at various institutions.

As a trainer and facilitator, I always aim to be mindful of the core values of Play for Peace while playing and sharing moments of laughter and joy with the participants. The awareness, understanding, and practice of these core values (cooperation, inclusion, safety, role modeling, and fun) are what creates an authentic Play for Peace experience. It makes the spirit of Play for Peace come alive and often leads to participants feeling cared for and included while having fun together and experiencing a deep sense of play! More and more I’ve seen myself carrying and living this spirit of Play for Peace, even when I’m not facilitating a cooperative play session.

The response from teachers, school authorities, and children has been overwhelming—they all truly enjoy what Play for Peace has given them. I have also seen changes in myself. I was once a person living in distress and with depression, and needed medication. However, after immersing myself in Play for Peace, I have never felt depressed or stressed—it is therapy for me. It is healing to visit the child friendly centers run by ActionAid and UNICEF in Kashmir and to spend time there with children. By profession I am a social worker, having pursued a master’s in social work and working for child protection and child rights in Kashmir. Now, people know me as a Play for Peace trainer who makes children laugh and happy.

I would love to be a Play for Peace certified trainer in the Kashmir region. I am grateful to Agyat, Swati, and Abha for their support and expertise, as well as to the ActionAid organization, which has given me an opportunity to train with Play for Peace.

Blog originally posted on hereweplay.blogspot.com and re-published here with permission.