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Our Stories: A New Beginning for Play for Peace Sri Lanka

After a recent and tragic terrorist attack in Batticaloa, Sri lanka, certified trainers Swati and Agyat conducted a series of Play for Peace trainings in the cities of Batticaloa, Hatton, and Kandy. These areas have been very affected by the recent violence, which has devastated and altered perceptions of the people there. There is a great need to build trust among the communities and create opportunities to promote diversity. 

In Batticaloa, the trainers began with basic training for youth ages 12-18 in school who do not have access to outdoor trainings. Partnering with the Center for Peace Building and Reconciliation and their Youth for Love and Life initiative, they hope to open 10 youth-led clubs that promote ethnic and religious diversity in Sri Lanka. Each club will have four villages/religious communities as target areas. Their trainings will include  30-40 youths/teens from each village so they can start a Play for Peace club. Each youth club will be led by an adult mentor and a youth coordinator. 

In Hatton, Play for Peace recently finished a two-day-long training for a diverse group of young people that included Hindu, Buddhist, Christian and Muslim participants. Like the groups in Batticaloa, they will soon conduct trainings in four local villages. They have decided to name their Play for Peace club "Flower in the Fire," to represent how Sri Lanka is on fire, experiencing devastation and conflict, and the group is like a flower in the center, spreading laughter and joy.

This week in Kandy, trainings began for young people who have been closely affected by the conflict that occurred in March 2018, when riots started. The uneasiness continues today. According to Maulavi, one of the adult participants there, the effects can still be felt today—so much so that she still avoids going outside some days. However, many participants of Play for Peace often say that in spite of the present situation, they can still play together, sit together, and laugh.

Most of the teens are staying away from home for the first time for Play for Peace workshop!! It's a great opportunity for bonding since they come from four different religions. The mentors who are participating are finding it very meaningful in the present context.

Between 300 and 400 young people in Sri Lanka will go through Play for Peace training this year. They will come from all regions and locations, north, east, south, and west, including Jaffna, Mullaitivu, Puttalam, Anuradhapura, Kalmunai, Kattankudy, Batticaloa, Kandy, Hatton, and Galle. Some will focus on promoting ethnic and religious diversity. In some more sensitive areas, the club will cater to the needs of that particular community. In such cases, programs will be designed to expose two clubs catering to two diverse communities to one another. In most of these locations, youth are also doing interfaith work with religious leaders and leveraging that for their work with Play for Peace. This makes their peace building work more holistic.

Trainers Swati and Agyat will return to Sri Lanka in August 2019 to continue working and mentoring the communities there that have been affected by conflict. Please help us spread the word by sharing their incredible work!