As a life-long avoider of conflict and an acknowledged introvert, I find it ironic that I spend so much time facilitating Alternatives to Violence Project workshops. It seems so out of character to willingly go into a minimum or medium security prison and spend essentially 18-20 hours over a weekend, once a month, with a bunch of guys dealing with conflict and talking about feelings. It is difficult for me on so many levels. And yet, I keep going back.
For me, it was the power of the process that kept pulling me back. An AVP workshop is packed with interactive, immersion type experiences. It very successfully builds a sense of community and level of trust I have never experienced anywhere else before. It was the power of this community that drew me. I kept learning things about myself and changing, and even though it was challenging, everyone else was being challenged at some level at the same time. I was not alone.
I used to be afraid of doing anything that put me in a position of making mistakes in front of others. The first community workshop I helped facilitate was a baptism in fire. I made all kinds of mistakes, but the process worked so well that in spite of my mistakes, all of the participants grasped what we hoped they would. As one person said at the end of the workshop, “I realize now that non-violent resolution of conflict is inside everyone of us and what we need to do is reach down inside ourselves and pull it out.” I learned to trust the process, because it works. — Magical Miriam
Basic AVP Workshop – Plainfield Correctional Facility – January, 2017
This past weekend (March 28-29th), AVP Indiana conducted an Advanced Workshop at the Indianapolis Re-entry and Education Facility. This workshop was facilitated by two inside facilitators, Fly Ty and Stellar Steve, and two outside facilitators, Courageous Kirsten (myself), and Magical Miriam. The workshop was exciting and all but one participant signed up to take the Training for Facilitators workshop when it becomes available.
Working with inside facilitators on a workshop is an incredible experience, and one that really breaks down barriers to stereotypes that a person may unconsciously have developed about people who are in prison. I enjoyed my experience and the lessons that I learned from my co-facilitators about humility, bravery, and dedication. Both Fly Ty and Stellar Steve put their full selves into the workshop, taking risks to facilitate activities that they had not participated in before, and taking risks to make the workshop inclusive and engaging for all of our participants.
One of the struggles of crafting a workshop with inside facilitators is that preparation time is very limited. During times when Magical Miriam and I were able to talk and plan, our fellow co-facilitators had to return to the dorms for mandatory “counts.” This happened twice a day, and took away from valuable planning time that we could have used. Fly Ty and Stellar Steve showed such flexibility and calm in the face of this lack of preparation time and really immersed themselves in the unknown in order to make the advanced workshop meet the needs and desires of our participants.
Our focus for the workshop was around poor communication and issues of power/powerlessness, with a bit of anger and stereotyping mixed throughout. Speaking with participants at the end, it was clear that people got a lot out of the workshop and only hoped that they would have a chance to pursue these topics more in depth with each other in the coming weeks. The participants and our inside co-facilitators decided that creating an AVP support group that could meet weekly or bi-weekly would be a great way for people to stay in touch, practice skills, and have deep conversations about the skills and ideas that we covered in the workshop. Magical Miriam and I fully support this idea and hope that participants are able to make it a success so that they can work with each other through the many confusing and concerning issues that we all deal with when encountering conflict.
Thanks for reading! Till next time,