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Stories of Change Makers: International Play Conference in Bangalore

"The Play for Peace platform came into my life and my perspective on education changed.” - Mentor, Vijay Kumar

This month in India, Play for Peace Certified Trainer Archana Magar and Mentor Vijay Kumar organized a Play for Peace workshop for the International Play Conference held at Christ University. Over the course of two days, 20 participants experienced the joy of play. Opening the conference with keynote speaker Ulrike Reinhard, founder of Janwaar Castle, her presentation included an inspirational documentary based on work with children in Janwaar. Introducing the children of Janwaar Castle to skateboarding, the sport is helping to change the social fabric of the village. Over the course of five months, the documentary revealed how skateboarding helped youth address some of the deep rooted issues caused by communal violence in their village. Vijay reflects on the impact of this communal violence on his own life stating, “Coming from small communities in Delhi, I experienced lot of discrimination at school and left school. The Play for Peace platform came into my life and my perspective on education changed.” Over the last three years, VIjay has dedicated much of his time to participating in training programs to help youth in his community combat rising school drop-out rates. He is one of many Play for Peace volunteers working with some of India’s most excluded communities. Countering untouchability, social exclusion, and ethnic discrimination with cooperative play, the conference’s workshops included Practice Peace Sessions. Day 1 of the Conference began with an “Hakuna Mata” themed panel discussion that allowed panelists to discuss the work conducted in their local communities. This was followed by a series of workshops for panelists and participants that ranged from “Compassionate Clowning” to Play in Literacy & Language Development. On the following day, youth discussed their experiences in groups then concluded the conference in play using a “Line-Up” activity based on experimental education strategies. After two days filled with smiles, laughter and fun, Archana explained that the conference’s Practice Peace Sessions helped develop the children’s self-confidence and ability to express themselves in a group setting. Additionally, the discussion sessions were critical in allowing them to develop their own definitions of “self-realization” and inner strength.” By the conclusion of the conference, youth left feeling “special” with the ability to look at life with possibilities instead of problems. Expressing a deep interest in Peace Education models, many of them are looking to host Play for Peace training in their various communities. Although participants have returned home, they continue to spread messages of love and peace throughout India.