byAboubacar Coulibaly via web
Sixteen-year-old Salimatou arrived in the Malian capital, Bamako, a traumatized youth. Fleeing the violence that erupted in northern Mali in early 2012, this young woman arrived in the capital hesitant, aggressive and silent – a contradiction from the girl who now leads play activities for her peers.
Conflict and internal unrest over the past three years has forced thousands of Malians to flee their homes in search of safety. In response to the large number of internally displaced families that sought refuge in the relatively peaceful capital, Right To Play expanded program activities to accommodate affected children and provide them with the psycho-social support that living through conflict requires.
Activities were organized in the center of Niamakoro, where Coach Alassane met the troubled Salimatou. Severely affected by the conflict she had witnessed, she was guarded, easily agitated and distrusting of strangers.
Participation in peace-building activities helped her begin to trust those around her who wanted to help. Play has helped her learn to express herself again. Through play, Saliamatou has rebuild her confidence and trust, to the point where she can now open up about her experience to her Coach and others, which is helping her begin to heal. "Thanks to my attending the center and to my participation to the games and sport activities, I recovered my state of mind; I made friends," she says.
Salimatou’s positive behaviour change is visible in the leadership role she now takes among other displaced children. As a leader, she wants to make a sustainable change. Once she can return to her hometown of Timbuktu, Salimatou plans to help other children recover from the conflict using Right To Play’s peace-building activities.