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Launching our first Serious Game: A Milestone in Child Helpline Counsellor Training in Emergencies

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This afternoon, we’re thrilled to share with you our newest e-learning. After months of work and collaboration with our amazing partners at Haunted Planet Studios, with support from UNICEF ECARO and Terre des Hommes NL, we are launching a ground-breaking serious game designed to train child helpline counsellors in detecting and responding to children at risk of conflict-related human trafficking and child sexual exploitation. 

As we’ve talked about in our previous blogs, the full-scale invasion of Ukraine has brought about a heightened risk of child trafficking and sexual exploitation. With the ongoing humanitarian crisis, children are left vulnerable and at risk of becoming victims of trafficking. The demand for trained frontline workers, particularly child helpline counsellors, has never been greater. However, limited resources, geographical constraints, and unstable conditions have made it challenging to provide comprehensive in-person training to all those we wanted to reach.  

The development of this game presented us with a unique opportunity to create an interactive experience that combines learning with real-world implications. Serious games have been gaining recognition in the academic world for their ability to enhance education and develop important soft skills for counsellors. Our goal was to harness the experience of gaming to empower child helpline counsellors and equip them with the necessary tools to support and protect children in crisis. 

Together with our partners, we therefore embarked on a mission to develop a serious game that could replicate the interactive role-playing exercises typically used in face-to-face training. Our vision was to create a tool that could transcend borders, time constraints, and even power cuts that our Ukrainian members and elsewhere have been facing, ensuring that child helpline counsellors worldwide receive the training they need to save lives. 

Our game takes trainee counsellors on a journey through three realistic stories, each following a young person from Ukraine: Andriy, Olga, and Ilya. As the trainee, you step into the role of a counsellor and interact with these characters through a branching narrative. The game simulates a text chat, mirroring the familiar web or mobile chat interfaces used by child helpline counsellors worldwide. With each conversation, you must demonstrate key competencies such as building rapport, empathising with the child, identifying risks, and exploring constructive solutions. 

The narratives within the game tackle various forms of exploitation, including sex trafficking, labor trafficking, and online sexual exploitation. Through carefully designed scenarios, trainee counsellors will face dilemmas, make decisions, and experience the consequences of their choices in real time. The game challenges counsellors to communicate effectively, reframe negative thoughts, identify abuse, and provide support to the child. It is a dynamic and immersive experience that fosters learning and skill development in a safe and controlled environment. 

To ensure continuous improvement, the game provides valuable feedback and analysis through an in-game supervisor. This feedback offers a structured evaluation of counsellors’ performance, allowing them to refine their skills, explore different approaches, and learn from each interaction. By repeatedly practicing in this simulated environment, child helpline counsellors can enhance their abilities and gain confidence without the fear of harmful consequences for real children. 

We believe that this innovative training tool has the potential to revolutionise the way child helpline counsellors are trained and, ultimately, provide better child helpline services for children and young people around the world. 

Calling child helplines – stay tuned for the launch of these three games and one core eLearning module on our eLearning platform.