Anita is a 13-year-old girl from Kacanik, Kosovo. She never experienced the civil war that divided her country, but she has felt its effects every day.
“Even though Kosovo is small, we have experienced great wounds…I think that we are trying to cover the pain and the sadness that we have been through to be seen as happier… in order to continue living, no matter what has happened to us.”
The war ended 20 years ago, yet people still didn’t openly speak about it. The war was still dividing communities along ethnic and religious lines. And every generation was learning to fear and isolate themselves from others.
When we met Anita, she shared her experience growing up in Kacanik. And she wanted to know if another war was inevitable or if they could one day the people of Kosovo could be united again.
Anita knew there had to be a better way to live, but she did not know how to attain it.
When Hardwired visited Kacanik, we worked with local teachers to introduce the children to a special after-school program about pluralism. Anita joined us.
For three days, she joined children from the village as they participated in a simulation called Fruitopia. The simulation allows the children to take on the role of an imaginary fruit tribe that has become shipwrecked on an island where they must survive. The fruit must learn how to live with other tribes that they may not understand or like, including tribes that may have hurt them in their former homeland.
As Anita and the other children experienced life on Fruitopia, they learn how to live together in peace, regardless of their religious or ethnic differences. They learned how to overcome their fears of one another and overcome their history.
As the children gathered, they shared how the experience had impacted them personally.
Anita shared, “From the Fruitopia island map, we learned about the conflicts that the different fruit groups had with others, like Blueberries with Peaches. We had the opportunity to use our imaginations to think of how these fruits could go back and live together, in peace. And now, I realize that Fruitopia is very much like Kosovo.”
And for the first time, the children began to open up about their history, their fears, and their hopes. The lesson had helped them confront the challenges in front of them in a safe environment. And it showed them how to work toward a better way to live with one another in the future.
Anita continued, “Today we learned more about the history of our fruit groups and what they went through…some of their stories were very sad. Even though everything was spoken about through fruit, we can incorporate this into our real lives as people. The conversations and stories were very touching. The similar situations helped teach us about our own future for Kosovo, even with such different lives.”
For Anita, this was the first time she felt comfortable speaking openly about the history of Kosovo, the war, and the division among religious and ethnic groups within their country.
To see her classmates speaking about diversity, individual rights, freedom of belief, and pluralism while working together and taking pride in being Kosovar was exciting for everyone who participated.
And while the conversation may have started with fruit, by the end of the week each child understood something much more valuable about themselves. That while they may look different and have different beliefs, they are all human and must treat one another with dignity and respect. And most importantly – that there is room for everyone in their country.
Anita shared, “We should not oppress others for their religion, no matter what our differences are or what religion we identify with, a nation should not be divided because of its people’s differences of belief, but instead, joined together so that we can achieve more.”
When you support Hardwired, you are giving children like Anita the hope they need to see a different future, the resources to begin building it, and the confidence needed to for them to lead the way!