Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Hide and Seek, Libya Style

As some of you know, my job mostly involves giving Lego to kids.

The idea is to try and bring about behaviour change in the next generation, by influencing kids while they're still willing to change their ideas to adopt less violent behaviour. This responds to a widespread increase in violent and disruptive behaviour since the war, which teachers are struggling to manage.

My element of the programme works on armed violence reduction. We go into schools and give them talks about non-violent play, and about stopping playing with guns. Then we ask them to give up their toy guns and exchange them for Lego, which was kindly donated by the Lego Foundation (see: advantages of working for a Danish organisation). Another team works with the same schools on psycho-social support, providing schools with creative facilities to enable children to express themselves through creative activities, supporting schools to provide sporting opportunities, and other activities that support traumatised children to express themselves.

Quite how necessary this is was brought home to me by a recent trend in the weapons we're collecting. In the past, we've mostly got plastic guns, including a gorgeous gold model assault rifle. There was also a somewhat-concerning day when some kids brought in some twisted lumps of green metal and what turned out, after a rapid assessment by our demining guys, to be a smoke grenade. Lately though, kids have been bringing in knives which they play with. Apparently the standard game is a lot like hide and seek, except that when you're 'found' the 'seeker' waves a knife around and tells you you're dead. Seriously.

There have been a few kitchen knives, which one of my staff who is getting married soon requested for her new kitchen, and a bread knife which I swiped for the guesthouse. And there were these charming specimens, which read 'health' on the blade. The bottom one also says 'Free Libya' on the handle, and you can see the colouring of the Libyan flag on the blade.

'Are the kids still playing with knives?' is now pretty much my top project assessment question.

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