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Discovering Breakaway in peru: Cultural Treasures, Community Spirit, and BREAKAWAY’s Impact on Pisac Schools

Cody Peluso Jun 13, 2024

Nestled within the majestic Andes mountains, Cusco and Pisac are treasures of natural beauty, rich culture, and warm, welcoming people. The ancient city of Cusco, once the heart of the Incan Empire, enchants visitors with its cobblestone streets, vibrant markets, and awe-inspiring archaeological sites. Meanwhile, Pisac, a charming town known for its stunning terraced hillsides and bustling artisan markets, offers a glimpse into a way of life that harmonizes perfectly with the serene landscape. 

The people of this region, descendants of a proud and historical culture, embody a spirit of harmony and peace, cultivated over centuries. Their traditions and stories are woven into the very fabric of the mountains, creating a sense of timelessness and unity. Visitors are often struck by the profound sense of community and the deep respect for nature that permeates every aspect of life here. It is a place where history lives and breathes, inviting all who come to experience the enduring legacy of the Incas. 

Game On: Engaging Lessons Through Futbol 

Population Media Center is excited to introduce BREAKAWAY, an innovative video game and mobile application, to the schools of the Incan Valley. Ready, Set, Play. BREAKAWAY addresses critical issues such as violence against women, bullying, and gender equality through an engaging futbol (soccer) game. Players navigate the game by making decisions off the field that impact their performance in matches, teaching valuable life lessons. Since 2010, BREAKAWAY has reached youth around the world, and now, it brings its empowering message to the young minds of Cusco and Pisac, fostering a new generation of leaders in harmony with their heritage and values. 

The Stark Reality of Violence Against Women in Peru 

Violence against women and girls is a pervasive and pressing issue in Peru. According to the United Nations, one in three women in Peru will likely suffer physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner in their lifetimes. This form of violence is the most widespread in the country, affecting women across all regions, income levels, education levels, and age groups. The consequences are severe, leading to physical and psychological harm, and in some cases, even death. The ripple effects of such violence extend beyond individual suffering, impacting families and communities at large. 

The social and economic costs of violence against women in Peru often acts as a significant barrier preventing women and girls from fully participating in their communities’ social and economic activities. The World Bank highlights that these costs include lost productivity, with estimates reaching as high as 3.7 percent of the country’s GDP. This loss not only hampers the victims’ potential but also impedes overall national development. Addressing this issue is crucial for fostering a safe, equitable, and prosperous society where all individuals can thrive without fear of violence. 

Level Up in Pisac: Transformative Gaming Experience 

In the town of Pisac, located in the Incan Valley mountains, schoolchildren excitedly gathered to play a new soccer-themed video game. This game, however, was unlike any other; it was designed to teach lessons about gender equality, bullying, and gender-based violence. As the children delved into the game, they discussed the importance of treating everyone with respect, regardless of gender, and the harmful impacts of bullying and violence. The air was filled with a sense of discovery and learning, as their eyes widened with understanding and empathy. 

The participation of adults added another layer of richness to the experience. Teachers and community members participated alongside the children, guiding them through the game’s challenges and fostering meaningful discussions about the themes presented. The children engaged not only with the game but with each other, building a supportive community where everyone felt heard and valued.  

After immersing themselves in the video game’s lessons, the children took their newfound knowledge to the stage, practicing skits and performing plays that highlighted the importance of gender equity. They sang songs about listening to and respecting women. Through this experience, they internalized the message that girls and women deserve equity and a life free from violence. Their performances were heartfelt and powerful, showcasing their understanding and commitment to a more just world. Watching them learn and grow through the video game affirmed my belief in the power of education and community engagement to drive positive change. 

The Power of Storytelling 

Bearing witness to the love and hugs that accompanied every entrance of my Peruvian colleagues, Fati and Vero, was a profound experience. The children’s faces lit up with smiles, joy, and laughter as they greeted the facilitators, a testament to the deep bonds formed. The students’ enthusiasm extended beyond the game; they gleefully taught me Quechua, their indigenous language, by pointing to my various animal tattoos. They excitedly shared their love for turtles, snakes, fish, and birds, filling the room with an infectious sense of wonder and curiosity. In those moments, I witnessed change taking place—not just in the hearts and minds of the students and teachers, but in my own as well. It was a testament to the power of stories, illustrating how narratives can bridge cultures and foster deep understanding. Through the stories shared in the game and by the children, we all learned to see the world through each other’s eyes, creating a shared vision of equity and respect. 

“Being part of BREAKAWAY has been challenging, but at the same time gratifying because of the reception from the children. Seeing them get excited to know what else happened in the next chapter comforts the effort that was made. The enthusiasm and eagerness in their eyes made every challenge worthwhile. One particular moment stands out: a student from Calca, with a beaming smile, exclaimed, “What a wonderful game!” 

Population Media Center Peru Manager, Fatima Tito Chavez 

This simple yet powerful statement encapsulated the impact of our work. It affirmed that the game’s lessons on gender equality, respect, and non-violence were resonating deeply with the children, igniting their curiosity and encouraging their growth. 

BREAKAWAY has a rich history of being implemented and played by children across the world, making a profound impact in various communities. Originally developed to address issues of gender equity and gender-based violence, the game uses the universal appeal of soccer to engage young minds. From rural villages in Africa to bustling cities, BREAKAWAY has been a tool for change, educating children about respect, empathy, and equality. The game’s chapters unfold compelling narratives that challenge traditional gender roles and promote positive behavior, making it a favorite among educators and students alike. Each success story from different corners of the globe reinforces the power of this interactive medium to inspire and transform. 

I am thrilled to be working towards launching BREAKAWAY in the United States, starting in New Mexico. Women and girls everywhere deserve equity, they deserve equality, and a life free from violence. Bringing BREAKAWAY to New Mexico is a significant step in creating awareness and fostering a culture of respect and equality. As we prepare for this launch, I am inspired by the potential to make a difference in the lives of young people, empowering them to challenge stereotypes and build a more just and equitable society.