by Adriana Ermter
Fight, Flight, Unite! Sounds like a chant you'd hear fans shouting to their favourite team at a football match, right? Could be. For us, it's the name of a game we use to teach kids in Jordan, Kenya, Pakistan, Lebanon, Rwanda and more, about how to overcome conflict and build a peaceful community.
Fight, Flight, Unite is all about learning how to get along.
First, we create an arena for the children in our programs to meet. This is important because when kids have a safe place to play it creates common ground and equality. It breaks down social barriers, promotes teamwork and creates acceptance around differences like gender, race and religion. Most importantly, it provides the perfect environment to teach new and sustainable behaviours—all in a fun and engaging way.
Next, our Coaches explain how the game works by describing the three most common ways people deal with uncomfortable, conflicted and difficult situations: they fight back, they take flight or they reach out to one another and unite. Once the children understand the three different actions, they work together to make up sounds, like: a growl, a whistle or a ta-da and body movements, like: a karate kick, running away or a hand shake to symbolize each one. This helps the kids understand how each action can make them and others feel.
The children are then divided into two teams. Each group quietly picks one action they want to approach the other team with before standing across from one other in a straight line. On the command "go," the teams race towards each other and play out their chosen actions—the goal is for both teams to mirror each other's behaviour be it fight, flight or unite.
After playing several rounds, the Coaches gather the group together to reflect on how it felt to express each action with its sounds and body movements and to talk about their experience playing the game. Because most of the children in our programs have witnessed war or the effects of conflict, our Coaches have the children describe real-life examples of people fighting, taking flight and uniting. This is a powerful part of the game. Not only does it allows the children to share their insight into behaviours they have experienced, it also creates a sense of community by showing the children that they are not alone and that others kids have faced similar situations. Plus, they can now create parallels between the tools they learned in the game and how to apply them to their own lives. They've discovered the proactive benefits of unity, while recognizing the limitations of fighting and running away.
Together, the group determines what they can do to help themselves and others unite, especially under difficult circumstances. The children decide how they want to apply their newly learned knowledge and behaviour to everyday life and how they can teach others to do the same.
Through time, repetition and continuous engagement of our peace-building games, the children in our programs are creating new, positive, shared behaviours. Our games are empowering and they have a domino effect on the children's family, friends and community. It's one more way we have an impact and are creating sustainable change.