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The Spirit of Play for Peace Cebu During COVID-19: Disrupted Not Dampened

Located in the Philippines, Play for Peace Cebu was founded in 2013 with five original members, including youth trainer, Mitzi Figueroa. An educator in the financial management industry, she helps others to become finance leaders and provides them with the training to achieve success.

“I support leaders from the life insurance industry and recruit and develop more financial professionals who will reach out and touch more lives through financial education,” explained Mitzi. 

However, in spite of the demands of her profession, she remains committed to reaching out to and inspiring youth in her community— continuing the mission the club started more than seven years ago. When asked about her most significant Play for Peace experience, she recalled a play session in 2014, when the club partnered with Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, Inc. (RAFI) in Alaska, Mambaling Cebu City. They conducted regular play sessions with the Badjaos, a group known as “Sea Gypsies” or marginalized and poor tribes of Mindanao. This ethnic group is regarded lowly in society. 

According to Mitzi, “Badjaos are part of the tribal group that inhabits the waters of the Sulu archipelago. Some of them migrated to Cebu in search of better opportunities.” 

Play for Peace-inspired activities, such as teaching math, English and values education were introduced, and club members also hosted a feeding program for the tribe. 

Mitzi joined Play for Peace because she wanted to grow as a person. As a Play for Peace facilitator, she wants to help youth overcome their fears through play sessions.  She identifies with most children who are afraid to be judged and rejected because her own childhood experiences gave her the same fears.  

“I was inspired to overcome my fears of being judged and rejected. In one of the activities I took part of, I realized that my fears were stemming from within based on my childhood experiences,” she said. “With the help of my Play for Peace mentors and friends, we were able to reach out to a few more college students and volunteers to join the club.”

Play for Peace Cebu continues to be active in spite of the pandemic. Late in December 2020, the club extended the joy of the holidays by giving gifts to the street dwellers of Lapu-Lapu City. The homeless families who were around lined up on a street corner, waiting for Mitzi and her team to give out food. With a car and packed meals, they handed out their gifts in a drive-thru fashion since they had to observe social distancing.

“No matter the state, race, religion, or age, the Play for Peace Cebu club wanted to share and make them feel that they are valued and loved,” Mitzi shared. “It was so heartwarming to see the smiles on their faces.”

Aside from giving food to the homeless, the club also conducted a virtual play session in December 2020, which highlighted activities on self awareness, teamwork, and of course, fun! These sessions were incredibly successful and participants wanted them to be scheduled regularly.  The group now plans to conduct virtual play sessions quarterly, giving them a wonderful opportunity to strengthen their bond and share uplifting messages with one another.

“The pandemic has disrupted the way we conduct our activities,” explained Mitzi. “There have been opportunities presented to us, one of which is being able to convene youth from all over the country or globe without having to spend and travel for miles. Thus, we shall be doing the online Play for Peace sessions regularly.”

This year, the club hopes to educate youth in their community by teaching the value of inclusivity and care for one another. They want to stand up together as one family, no matter the odds or challenges. Mitzi wishes to improve their goals for this year and  help the youth voice their dreams through therapeutic play sessions.

While the pandemic may have disrupted live play sessions in 2020, the spirit of Play for Peace Cebu’s members was not dampened, and they continued their work to make a difference in the lives of those in need. The threat of the virus did not stop them from  giving and spreading love and joy during the holidays. And, they will continue their commitment to Play for Peace and serve their beloved city in 2021.