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One Small City Tries a Big Strategy for Change: Guest Blog Series

Play for Peace is not just about play. It is a powerful strategy for changing the paradigm of race and class relationships through cooperative play. - Maurine Pyle

One thing I learned when I visited Play for Peace in Guatemala in 2007 was that size was not an impediment for creating change. My partner, Bill Lofquist, and I were invited to participate in the International Day of Peace in Pacul, a very tiny town in a rural area. We discovered some wonderful youth who were learning how to be leaders using the Play for Peace games. Bill and I were impressed with the leadership resources in a small town. In writing about our experience I made the following observation:
In one of the workshops using Bill’s methodology for community development, we asked the question, "What is happening now in your community?" Then the students divided into small groups to discuss their insights, both positive and negative. When we asked them to share their thoughts, they said that they were concerned about hygiene, health, and education. They spoke of the need for participation, communication, and responsibility in their community. They were a lively, committed group of young leaders with a passionate love for their community and country. When Bill asked them, "Is there any reason why you could not lead your community right now?" One young woman smiled and said, "I really like that question. Yes, we are leading right now."
Fast forward. In 2009 I moved from Chicago to a small town in Southern Illinois called Carbondale. I did not expect to find many opportunities to do my usual peace action agenda, but I was wrong. The small city of 26,000 people is brimming over with activism. Each year for the past four years there has been a citywide project called “Eleven Days for Compassion,” which features dozens of activities by local groups extending from films, lectures, play days, civic engagement and so on. The project was awarded a prize of $5000 from the American Library Association for its uniqueness. Like Pacul, we may not have a lot of money but we have a lot of chutzpa (i.e. that’s Yiddish for nerve). Our next project will be fostering a group of community organizations including the university, civic leaders, librarians, social services, religious communities, et al that are taking on the issue of poverty in our community. We have called together 98 community members into the Sparrow Coalition to begin addressing the needs of “people who live on the margins.” We have become aware of myriad problems stemming from under-served populations especially returning prisoners and homeless who cannot be served by our shelters because of legal restrictions. We have been so excited to find that there are many people who are answering the call to try a new strategy. Stay tuned for more news from our small town. maurine Maurine Pyle is a Partner for Peace who has supported Play for Peace is many ways over the years. She is currently writing a book called Children of Light: Quaker Youth Speak Their Truth to the World and is involved in the Sparrow Coalition. She is a peace-builder in any community she lives in.