People often ask those of us who work for PPI – ME how we can be really sure that our work makes a difference. They wonder how we can measure the personal attitudes of the children with whom we work.
The truth is nothing is easier than seeing this change in person. Those of us who go out on the courts, working with the children and teaching them basketball, can see how they grow into the ideas we bring with us. Those ideas are openness to new people and ideas, zero tolerance to violence and a kind attitude towards the ‘other’ – whether the other is Arab or Jewish.
But for those of us who don’t have the pleasure of working with our children day after day and week after week, we know we need something more rigorous, something that cannot only speak to our current impact but also help us find ways to continue to improve. For this reason we have the questionnaires.
All children that play with PPI – ME answer questionnaires twice a year – once before twinning sessions begin and once at the end of the year, after months of meeting with the ‘other.’ They ask questions seeking the most telling answers of a child’s attitude about the ‘other’: “Would you want an Arab/Jewish friend with you in class?” “Would you like to have Arab/Jewish friends?” “Would you invite an Arab/Jewish kid to your birthday party?” These simple questions are designed to sneak under a child’s radar of what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ to say, and let them say what they truly think. The questionnaire also asks about children’s past experiences in meeting the ‘other.’ Often, we find a gap between the impressions of actually meeting the ‘other’ to the children’s ideas about the ‘other,’ implying that the children tend to think in the labels adults put on their surroundings. Our mission at PPI is to make the children see people as they are and not according to predetermined labels.
Analysis of the questionnaires from years past reveals a great change in the attitude of the children towards the ‘other.’ In fact, calling it the ‘other’ becomes irrelevant – now they are only friends. And if they’re friends, then they’re welcome to birthday parties, to sit next to in class, to meet after school, to play with – to live with.
In order to make theses changes last, we strive to have the kids work with us for long periods of time. We try to keep as many in the program as we can for several years, ideally eventually enrolling them in our Leadership Development Program, so that they can lead the way to peace themselves. With this in mind, we also examine the questionnaires of our PeacePlayers every year anew, and identify in them the long-term, pivotal shifts in the attitudes and behaviors of the children as they grow to be women and men.
Watch this video to see one of PPI-ME’s favorite twinning drills, “Scramble”:
Our statistical data helps us put the change we make into terms that our donors, sponsors, partners and stakeholders can understand, but still I maintain there is nothing like seeing the change on the court, in the interaction between children who only a little while ago thought they shouldn’t be friends. This could make the most skeptical individual a true believer in peace. The children of PPI – ME grow up knowing this better than any one.