AFGHANISTAN: Breaking bread in Kabul

Kathy Kellyby Kathy Kelly
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace

Here in Kabul, over breakfast with Afghan Peace Volunteers, or APVs, we easily recalled key elements of the conflict resolution and peer mediation “train the trainers” workshops that Ellis Brooks, with Voices for Creative Nonviolence-UK, had facilitated a week ago.

Children at the Afghan Peace Volunteer’s Borderfree Street Kid’s School learn from Ellis Brooks and Dr. Hakim about resolving conflicts peacefully. (By Dr. Hakim)

Children at the Afghan Peace Volunteer’s Borderfree Street Kid’s School learn from Brooks & Dr. Hakim about resolving conflicts peacefully. (By Dr. Hakim)

Peer mediators make “promises” before beginning a session: We won’t tell you what to do, we won’t take sides, and we won’t talk about this session with anyone outside of our room. While pouring tea and breaking bread, we recalled the hand signals Ellis gave us to help remember each promise.

Children at the Borderfree Street Kids School were also taught the peer mediation skills. I’m guessing that the street kids who work to supplement their family income can easily recall what Ellis taught them. They played games to show the importance of listening, and they learned to avoid blaming, exaggerating and “mind-reading” when mediating a dispute.

I watched the little children work in small groups to assemble cartoonized images of two donkeys, tied together, pulling against each other while heading for two heaps of food located in opposite directions. Each group succeeded, working together, in arranging the images so that the classic yet timely story ended with the two donkeys having figured out that they could both approach each pile, both be satisfied and both feed themselves, first at one pile and then the other. To reinforce the story, Ellis called on Ali and Abdulhai, two of the APV teachers, to role play being the donkeys, using Ellis’s scarf as the tie to bind them. Hilarity filled the room as the children advised their beloved “donkeys” about how to achieve a win-win solution.

We laughed this morning, recalling the scene. But I can’t help but worry that most of our younger friends are not very likely to be chatting about the workshop while enjoying fresh, warm bread and a second round of tea in a relatively secure setting. Many of them live in refugee camps. Their families don’t have money to buy wood for fuel, and they often share meals of stale bread and tea without sugar…

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