Champlain Students Travel to El Salvador to Tackle Gender-Based Violence

The Champlain College BREAKAWAY team San Salvador, El Salvador. L-R: Mahmoud Jabari '15, Nicole Baker '12, Kelly de Castro MFA '14, Kevin Flanagan '14, Mariana Herrera '15, EMC Project Manager Adam Walker, and Ann DeMarle, Associate Dean, Emergent Media.

In mid-November, a group of four students, faculty, staff and a Champlain College alumna are heading to El Salvador with BREAKAWAY, an episodic electronic football (soccer) game, to continue its mission of engaging global youth in meaningful dialogues about ending violence against women and girls.

The BREAKAWAY team will be participating in a newly formed partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) country offices, the University of Sonsonate, and the Network of Municipalities of Sonsonate to implement a BREAKAWAY facilitator training and children's camp in Sonsonate, El Salvador from Nov. 17-30, 2013.

The online game and companion facilitator's guide (a training framework) were created by Champlain College students under the sponsorship and guidance of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Population Media Center (PMC) and faculty at the Emergent Media Center (EMC). BREAKAWAY is part of the United Nations' UNiTE campaign and supports the United Nations' Millennium Goals to end poverty and violence.

Champlain College Graphic Design & Digital Media junior Mariana Herrera, a native of El Salvador, spearheaded the efforts of bringing BREAKAWAY to her homeland. Herrera states that she wanted "to bring BREAKAWAY camps to El Salvador because it is a project that takes video games, a medium that kids love but often portray violence, and instead use them to shape attitudes and actions to end violence, particularly violence against women and girls."

Herrera has worked at the EMC as a graphic designer for two years and helped with the creation of the facilitator's guide, among many other materials. At the EMC, Herrera is being supported by MFA in Emergent Media graduate student and BREAKAWAY Project Manager Kelly de Castro and BREAKAWAY Camp Director, Mahmoud Jabari, a junior studying Communications. Upon learning of Jabari's success of initiating the BREAKAWAY summer camp model in his home community of Hebron, Palestine in 2012, Herrera knew she wanted to bring BREAKAWAY camps to El Salvador. 

Jabari recounts, "We [the facilitators] were able to see the children have a better understanding of gender rights and why girls have the right to play and be equal as boys. We had never before seen this kind of discussion taking place among children and teenagers."

Much like the successful Hebron camp model where facilitators used the game to engage youth in deeper conversation around the issue of violence against women and girls, the cohort of undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, staff and alumni from Champlain College will assist Herrera in conducting facilitator trainings to 40+ volunteers and lead camps for 60 children in Sonsonate, a western region of El Salvador. 

Herrera expressed, "The BREAKAWAY camp makes addressing the sensitive issues that comprise gender-based violence approachable for young people. We combine technology with group activities and facilitated discussions in an exciting and creative manner attractive to young people. Many of the children we will be working with don't have easy access to computers or game consoles. This is an opportunity for them to be exposed to this fun technology in an environment that encourages positive behavior in a culture marked by gender inequality and violence."

Mahmoud Jabari '15 in facilitators' training in El SalvadorDuring the groups' trip, Nov. 25 marks the UN General Assembly's designated International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, on which they will take part in a community service activity coinciding with the summer camps. On Nov. 29, an official event promoting BREAKAWAY will take place at the UN office in El Salvador. The event is jointly organized by the UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF, WHO, ILO, and UN Women and will involve a presentation on BREAKAWAY, as well as a discussion with young people from social organizations, students, and small businesses starting to design video games in El Salvador. The discussion will be facilitated by Lito Ibarra, known in El Salvador as the "Father of the Internet" because of his influence bringing the Internet to the country.

Champlain College is working in conjunction with the University of Sonsonate, who is hosting the training and children's camps on their premises and providing all technology needs. In addition, many of the camp facilitators are University of Sonsonate students pursuing majors related to technology, similar to the Champlain students working with the EMC. The result of the facilitators' training is to enable Salvadorans to use their training to duplicate what they have learned and lead future BREAKAWAY camps or related activities in their home towns and in more remote areas of El Salvador.

In addition to training facilitators to teach the BREAKAWAY content and conduct children's camps at the University of Sonsonate, a major goal of this initiative is to design, perform and analyze an assessment of the game and camps' effectiveness. To do so, the EMC has partnered with Dr. Hua "Helen" Wang from the University at Buffalo - The State University of New York. Dr. Wang has published research on the use of entertainment-education strategy for health promotion and social change, including serious games and the Sabido Methodology - a theory based media design and production methodology upon which the BREAKAWAY game was designed. Dr. Wang's research team has helped create innovative assessment tools using participatory sketching, photovoice, and event-based time dairy to capture the impact of BREAKAWAY during the camps in El Salvador. Their findings will help provide evidence of the effectiveness of the game and camp model and can be incorporated in the future implementation of BREAKAWAY camps worldwide. Research consultant Carliene Quist, a Licensed Master Social Worker, will provide instruction on this process to camp facilitators during the facilitator orientation. As a professional social worker, Ms. Quist is trained in crisis intervention models and has training in psychosocial assessment and intervention.

Additional BREAKAWAY team members traveling to El Salvador include; Associate Dean & Director of the EMC Ann DeMarle, Senior Technical Project Manager of the EMC Adam Walker, International Business senior Kevin Flanagan, and International Business alumna ‘12 Nicole Baker.


BREAKAWAY is a free, narrative-driven online football (soccer) game endorsed by world-famous football star, Samuel Eto'o. Aimed at boys ages 8‐15, this project tackles violence against women and girls through a fun and interactive football game. BREAKAWAY supports the United Nation's Millennium Goals to end poverty and violence. Electronic games model behavior and encourage change by allowing boys to think critically about their actions and reasoning. Empowered by a preventative approach to end violence against women and girls, BREAKAWAY combines the educational capabilities of game-play with the intense passion for football shared by boys throughout the world. The BREAKAWAY game and Facilitator's Guide is available for play and download at in English, Spanish, French and Portuguese.

Since its launch during the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, BREAKAWAY has utilized the international popularity of football (soccer) and video games to expand its global reach. BREAKAWAY has been played online in over 180 countries, tested by children in St. Lucia, and was introduced as a theme for summer camp models in Hebron, Palestine in 2012. Through the success of the camp in Palestine, the BREAKAWAY team was dedicated to offering this camp model in additional locations throughout the world.

About the Emergent Media Center at Champlain College (EMC)

Champlain's Emergent Media Center, works directly with industry, public institutions and non-profit organizations to provide a laboratory/studio environment for discovering concepts, processes and applications in new media and electronic games. It allows students to experience learning and become leaders in the areas of technology and media in real-life work situations.

About United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

UNDP, the United Nations Development Programme, partners with people at all levels of society to help build nations that can withstand crisis, and drive and sustain the kind of growth that improves the quality of life for everyone, while encouraging the protection of human rights, capacity development and empowerment of women.

About the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is an international development agency that promotes the right of every woman, man and child to enjoy a life of health and equal opportunity. UNFPA supports countries in using population data for policies and programs to reduce poverty and to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, every young person is free of HIV/AIDS, and every girl and woman is treated with dignity and respect. UNFPA - because everyone counts.

About Population Media Center (PMC)

Population Media Center (PMC) is a nonprofit, international nongovernmental organization, which strives to improve the health and well-being of people around the world through the use of entertainment-education strategies, like serialized dramas on radio and television, in which characters evolve into role models for the audience for positive behavior change. Founded in 1998, PMC has over a decade of field experience using the Sabido methodology of behavior change communications. PMC has produced and broadcast programs in 25 countries around the world.

Founded in 1878, Champlain College is a small, not-for-profit, private college in Burlington, Vermont, with additional campuses in Montreal, Canada, and Dublin, Ireland. Champlain offers a traditional undergraduate experience from its beautiful campus overlooking Lake Champlain and over 90 residential undergraduate and online undergraduate and graduate degree programs and certificates. Champlain's distinctive career-driven approach to higher education embodies the notion that true learning occurs when information and experience come together to create knowledge. Champlain College is included in the Princeton Review's The Best 384 Colleges: 2019 Edition. For the fourth year in a row, Champlain was named a "Most Innovative School" in the North by U.S. News & World Report's 2019 "America's Best Colleges,” and a “Best Value School” and is ranked in the top 100 “Regional Universities of the North” and in the top 25 for “Best Undergraduate Teaching.” Champlain is also featured in the Fiske Guide to Colleges for 2019 as one of the "best and most interesting schools" in the United States, Canada and Great Britain and is a 2019 College of Distinction. For more information, visit