Pakistan

Where: Jalozai Camp for internally displaced persons, a tent community near the Khyber Pass of more than 100,000 people.

Why we went there: This was our first project, driven by the desire the alleviate trauma in children who had been uprooted, losing their childhood because of politics they didn’t understand.

What we did: CPI created a mini-children’s Olympics, including athletic and creative activities. We selected 240 children identified by a social worker as most traumatized, and made them the focus of athletics (cricket, net sports, football, jump rope, and others) and painting, resulting in a huge quilt incorporating the children’s painted panels. We gave prizes for non-competitive participation (cheap watches, sunglasses).

Outcomes: The selected traumatized students, once outcasts, became valued (by others and themselves) and became more talkative and their self-esteem rose. The mentors / coaches vowed to replicate these activities, at Jalozai or wherever they went. Videos of the events, shown in small communities in a laptop, resulted in spontaneous child-let replication in the form of cricket competitions. The communal quilt became a photo backdrop, a source of pride in Jalozai. We left behind a cricket field.

Surprises: Although music and dancing are forbidden by cultural norms, banging on a bucket prompted spontaneous dancing. When girls saw the boys playing cricket, they wanted to play. Children who were not selected as the piloted traumatized group began imitating / replicating the activities. Giving the children minimal sports outfits had a big effect on self-esteem.