Why does P2E choose to partner with KFOR (Kosovo Force) for facilitators?

After the Kosovo War in the late 90s and the subsequent deployment of the NATO peace-building mission, Kosovo Force (KFOR), which led to Kosovo’s independence, the Kosovar people have been ever grateful for the presence of multinational troops within Kosovo’s borders. They display this thankfulness in a multitude of ways with the biggest being their high levels of respect and generosity towards troops. This often manifests as people on the streets wanting to converse or take photos with the troops. P2E noticed these trends and decided to harness this esteem for a good cause.

In 2015, as a guest trainer for Rotary Club Prishtina International’s ‘A Violence Free Future’ (VFF) project, P2E enlisted American, Hungarian, and Armenian KFOR troops as game and dialogue facilitators. The Kosovar teenagers were quickly enamored with the idea of talking to and learning with KFOR soldiers. This led to the P2E witnessing remarkable focus, engagement, and enthusiasm from the youth participants. As evidenced by the discussions that took place, the youth found the environment established and maintained by the soldiers, one where they could freely engage in life skills topics that are often considered taboo or controversial (i.e. gender equality, stereotypes). Additionally, the soldier’s ability to quickly establish rapport combined with the P2E participant-directed dialogue approach, fostered critical thinking and analysis that is often neglected in local education settings. As a result, the seeds of critical thinking, individual opinion formation, and expressive empowerment were planted against the negative behaviors of extremism, conflict, and violence.

Based on these past successes, Play2EDUCATE firmly believes that it must continue to harness such positive perceptions of KFOR troops in order to 1) continue not only planting these seeds, but regularly reinforcing the ideals they hold and behaviors they aim to produce; and 2) rebuild the war-torn rapport and relationships between (young) Kosovars and uniformed authority figures and organizations. By utilizing KFOR as P2E facilitators, rapport levels between local youth and uniformed (international) authorities are easily established, maintained, and strengthened. This then allows for challenging life skills topics to be approached, prosocial behaviors to be promoted, and behavior related to extremism, conflict, and violence to be countered.

Apart from the witnessed benefits to the youth, P2E observed and was directly approached by participating soldiers and told of their positive experiences. Soldiers often mentioned how participating in the program gave them an otherwise impossible opportunity to directly engage with local communities and youth. This provided them with a more grassroots or local perspective on the situation in Kosovo, more insight into the culture and traditions that drive everyday life, and a better understanding of their deployment mission and its impact. Furthermore, soldiers mentioned how their regular involvement in P2E provided their deployment and individual work a humanized meaning. Soldiers were then able to apply these new perspectives, insights, and meaning directly to their work and improve their quality output.

As a result of this positive feedback directly from soldiers and personal observations, Play2EDUCATE is confident that the integration of the (international) military and grassroots efforts are critical in building resilience among the youth, especially in the Kosovo context. Therefore, P2E wishes to continue promoting this belief by serving as the bridge that connects and engages KFOR troops with the local community.

What is the need in Kosovo for P2E programs?

Due to its central and strategic location in the Balkans, Kosovo has regularly been in the midst of conflict. The last few decades have been no different, as they have seen Kosovo experience an ethnic / independence war and its accompanying atrocities. Although it has gotten better over the last several years, Kosovo still has deep ethnic divides that have potential to reignite with one foul step. With our alternative methods to teaching pro-social behaviors, tolerance, and inclusiveness, P2E has the ability to work directly with youth on reconciliation and reducing the risk of conflict reignition.

Additionally, in the past several years, Kosovo has seen a spike in radicalization and (violent) extremism largely targeting and affecting the youth. Our program model works to prevent religious, political, and ethnic extremism, conflict and violence by utilizing play based learning, life skills, and dialogue. Our unique position positively impacts youth because it does not aim to counter extremist groups or individuals, but rather provide youth with a prosocial, safe, alternative to these groups, individuals, and the aforementioned negative situations. P2E creates safe environments where youth develop critical thinking and analysis skills for the individual, communities, and choices, while exchanging, reinforcing, and/or challenging ideas to guide participants through self-expression, personal decision making, prosocial behavior development, and standing up for personal beliefs.

Does the P2E logo have any meaning behind it?

Yes, it does! The football / soccer ball in the middle represents our use of sport and play as a powerful vehicle for inspiring learning and positive change; the shaking hands represent our main values of coexistence, tolerance, understanding, and inclusiveness; and the olive branches are recognized symbols of peace and reconciliation.

The colors chosen for our logo / organization also have meaning. Orange is optimistic, enthusiastic, adventurous, has a positive outlook on life, and relates to intuition. It relates to social communication and promotes two-way communication, while encouraging self-respect and respect for others. Overall, orange is a positive color for youth. Blue is reliable, hates confrontation, and promotes security, trust, and integrity. It seeks to promote peace and relaxation through stress reduction. Blue is a helper and a giver that believes in strong, trusting relationships. Green is positive, moral, and a natural peacekeeper that l promotes observation, active listening, and contributions to society. It relates to nature, health, growth, safety, balance, and harmony.

Who can get involved with P2E?

Almost anybody and everybody can get involved with P2E in one way or another. Every new school year our main programs accept new participants. Otherwise, we are always in need of volunteers of all kinds, particularly those who are willing to help promote P2E in their community and/or help us raise funds and collect in-kind donations.

To get more information on our current volunteer needs, participation in our signature programs, or to help with fundraising / donations, please visit the ‘Get Involved’ page.

Why should I hire / accept alumni of your programs?

Young people that have participated in and successfully completed one of our programs come out with unique skill sets that are unmatched in Kosovo. Not only do we want our program participants and alumni to positively contribute to our organization during their time with us, but we also want them to be better prepared for future academic and employment endeavors.

Participants from our Local Youth Peacebuilders (LYP) program stay with us for at least one full school year. In that time, they go through intensive training and long-term skill application and development. They gain skills in leadership, networking, communication, conflict prevention and resolution, cross-cultural exchange, sport and play based learning, dialogue facilitation, and teamwork and co-facilitation among others. The LYPs are also immersed in a mixed language environment (i.e. English-Albanian) and fill a crucial role within an international team, which not only enhances the aforementioned skills, but also further develops their professionalism, organization, punctuality, adaptability, and responsibility.

Participants in our Empowerment Through Play (ETP) program for one full school year. In that time, they are regularly immersed in alternative learning situations (i.e. through sport and play), dialogue sessions where they must actively participate, and real life scenarios that team life skills. They leave our program having learned about and developed skills in critical thinking and analysis, active listening, personal voice, conflict prevention and resolution, communication, leadership, cross-cultural exchange, and various life skills areas. ETP participants also gain experience in a mixed language environment (i.e. English-Albanian) which allows them to practice their language skills with both native and non-native speakers. Furthermore, participants have the regular opportunity to interact with both local and international volunteers and thus develop a sense of adaptability.

Why should I volunteer with P2E?

  • You’ll have a great time and learn a lot! Seriously!
  • You will also gain experience working as part of an international team in a primarily English-speaking environment.
  • It will provide you with an honest, unique work experience that will look great on your CV!
  • You will have the opportunity to grow your professional network through our local and international contacts — a bigger network means more opportunities in the future (and more friends)!
  • You will have the opportunity to learn about the inner workings of an international NGO and contribute to its development and sustainability
  • Learn about alternative methods for preventing extremism conflict and violence; specifically, youth, sport, and dialogue based approaches.
  • You will be helping your country and community to achieve a safe and secure environment.

Does P2E also work with local authorities as facilitators?

Currently, no. However, Play2EDUCATE would like to eventually engage local Kosovar authorities (i.e. security forces, police) as facilitators in the Empowerment Through Play program as a means of continuing to build rapport and relationships between Kosovar youth and (local) uniformed authorities. After several successful rounds of ETP implementation with KFOR troops have been completed, P2E will work to include local authorities as partner facilitators to KFOR; thus, creating a multi-prong facilitator approach to each participant group (one KFOR soldier, one local uniformed authority figure, and one Local Youth Peacebuilder (LYP)). This incorporation timeframe and process will allow KFOR soldiers to first establish and strengthen rapport with Kosovar youth and then utilize it to integrate local uniformed authorities into participant groups with minimal resistance from participants’ preconceptions and mistrust of local uniformed authorities. Based on the results and feedback of the first several rounds of local authority facilitator integration, P2E will either: 1) continue implementing the ETP program with the multi-prong facilitator approach indefinitely or 2) continue with the multi-prong facilitator approach for additional rounds of program implementation and eventually phase out KFOR soldiers as facilitators, leaving ETP program facilitation to local authority and LYP pairs.

Additionally, P2E has chosen to phase in local uniformed authorities in the later stages of the program to have time to conduct further research and develop training methods that are specifically tailored to Kosovar authorities. As was witnessed during P2E’s participation in VFF events in 2015, Kosovo’s educational system is primarily teacher driven with minimal input from students. This combined with the patriarchal cultural traditions of Kosovo more often than not gives way for older adults, typically males, to silence youth and dictate ideas and beliefs to them. Naturally, this stifles youth development of critical thinking and analysis skills, as well as the ability to develop and voice personal opinions and ideas.

P2E believes this phase in approach of local uniformed authorities crucial for the development of youth trust in international authorities, the proper development of training for local authorities, and then the multi-pronged facilitator approach. In particular, these training methods will aid local uniformed authorities in overcoming the educational and patriarchal cultural traditions of Kosovo; thus, allowing them to properly and successfully implement the student-directed dialogue of the ETP program and build rapport and relationships with local youth.