Meet Some of the Team for our Next Basic AVP Workshop – Beginning Sept. 26, 2020!

AVP facilitators often speak of each other as family.   The team for the fall 2020 workshop is a wonderfully diverse and enthusiastic clan.

 

Tre is a high school teacher, with experience in yoga, legal studies, and the military who came to AVP several years ago.  “AVP has given me very specific and concrete tools to improve the way I facilitate small group discussions about challenging topics.  More fundamentally, AVP was a huge step in developing my compassion for self and others.  My most powerful AVP experience was my first prison workshop.  I walked in with prejudices about people in prison and the mentality that I was going in to “help” these men.  I walked out with profound gratitude for these men who had welcomed me, shown me true compassion, and been more “real” with me than I almost ever find on the outside.  That workshop radically changed my perspectives and my self-perception – for the better!  And every workshop has strengthened and deepened my commitment to that path.”

 

Having a heart for the least of God’s children led Sylvia into prison ministry.  Prison ministry led her into Madison Prison and her first   Alternatives to Violence Program (AVP)  workshop.  That was the beginning of Sylvia’s AVP relationship that has continued for many years to this present day.  Sylvia has brought AVP into the community and her prison ministry has grown in the intermediate and advanced courses of AVP.  Sylvia is excited about continuing with AVP in the era of COVID19 and to all the bright lights that will come into the Basic AVP workshop.

 

Latwan served 12 years and 3 months in IDOC.  During that time he struggled with the guilt, the shame, and all of the pain that he brought on himself, his family and his community.  During that time he participated in an AVP workshop.  “It wasn’t work. I started to see myself as a person.  My value was returning to me.  The support, encouragement, and connectivity gave me tools within myself to heal.  Who knew that would put me on a path to become a facilitator.  Recognizing that I am so much more than my mistake breathed new life into me.”  Today, Latwan’s passion is breaking barriers and building new relationships.  Whether as a caterer serving the construction crew he once worked with or as an AVP facilitator, Latwan enjoys learning new skills and is committed to nurturing love, connectivity/community, and down right enjoyment.

 

Jana, now a resident of Richmond, Indiana, helped introduce AVP in Ohio’s prisons and has facilitated workshops in Tennessee and Indiana communities.  She is excited to have time to be active in AVP again.  She always receives so much from workshop participants and is thrilled to be part of the effort to re-activate workshops at the Dayton facility where she participated in her first prison workshop.  She is an educator and advocate who serves on the Board of the American Friends Service Committee and until recently was the Director of Community Engagement at Earlham College.

 

Margaret raised her son in Richmond and has recently returned after 15 years living on the East coast.  During that time she became addicted to AVP, facilitating in New York prisons and Central America.  “People often praise me for volunteering, but I am really doing this for myself.  In every workshop, someone says something that is exactly what I need to hear.   That’s what I love about AVP: people who may be very different on the outside share their common humanity, each learning from the other.”

 

The fall 2020 workshop is designed to be Covid-Cautious, bringing together the best of both in-person and on-line workshops.  We will begin by meeting each other out-doors with masks for two sessions on one Saturday.  The pavilion at Quaker Hill has room to spread out and a large roof to protect us from the elements.  The 10 am to 5 pm time frame allows participants to travel from 100+ miles and still make it a one-day event.  We look forward to meeting everyone in person, but are prepared to move that first session onto Zoom if conditions dictate.  Subsequent sessions will be on Zoom, reducing the need to travel and recognizing that temperatures will be dropping as the fall progresses.

If you would like to try a sneak preview of a workshop or sign up for the Basic, please signup on our registration page.

What is Violence?

One of the exercises we do in a Basic AVP workshop is a brainstorm on the topic, “What is Violence?” Participants say whatever word or short phrase comes to mind when they think of violence and it is transcribed onto a sheet of poster paper. It is a word storm of ideas. No one’s idea is censored. When the storm passes and the ideas cease, we look at what we have written, noting the things that surprise us and the things that confuse us. Usually a good discussion follows on violence and how the group has experienced it in their lives.

Sometimes a word like “babies” ends up on the page. When that word was challenged once, I defended it, even though I had not been the one to add it. From personal experience, I came to realize after the birth of my first child, that there is a very fine line between self-control and child abuse. Working full-time in a demanding, stressful job, breast feeding at night, being constantly sleep deprived, I remember the moment I realized I could see that line clearly. The scary part was recognizing how easy it would be and how perfectly capable I was of crossing that line.

Occasionally, a participant is surprised to realize that something besides physical aggression could be considered violence. I have been fortunate never to have personally experienced physical violence. However on numerous occasions over the years, I have been the giver and receiver of verbal violence. Words carelessly or intentionally spoken can do tremendous violence to a person, creating wounds that fester for years, causing harm over and over again whenever they are remembered. I have carried such wounds with me for most of my life. Through AVP, I discovered their origin and was finally able to heal. What is violence in your life?

The Power of the Process

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

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Basic AVP Workshop – Plainfield Correctional Facility – January, 2017

An Invitation to Join Us

AVP USA

An invitation to join us (from the national AVP USA organization):

We are volunteers who use interpersonal tools for peace, working around the corner and around the world to prevent violence and promote healing. We don’t lecture, or show slides, or sing anthems. Instead, we work face-to-face with people to help them discover their connectedness, their empathy and their common bonds – even where there is bitter animosity or a history of conflict.

In 2013 we shared our journey with nearly 16,000 people across 29 states. We are more than 2,000 volunteer facilitators, working in prisons, gang intervention, drug
recovery, with veterans and refugees, in schools, churches, colleges, community organizations, and more. Our story is told in many languages, by people of all colors and beliefs, and it’s captured in this first-person witness of one participant in a prison in New York: “I finally found something that cracked the wall around my inner energy and allowed me to see that other person I always wanted to be. . .that person I am now.”

We need your help, to grow our community and reach more people with our workshops. We have launched the Campaign for AVP-40, to celebrate our 40th anniversary of service and engagement with people who need our help. There are waiting lists for workshops – we need to recruit and train more facilitators. There are people in remote locations who can’t afford to travel – we need to meet those costs. There are models of success – we need to share those models with each other.

At our National Gathering in Philadelphia in May, we started our own drive to reach 100 percent participation in the Campaign. Now we invite you to join the Campaign for AVP-40 with a contribution. Please give what you can to:

AVP/USA
1050 Selby Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55104

Our website is http:www.avpusa.org. You can donate there, too. It is all welcome, all appreciated, and all in the service of peacemaking and healing.

Thank you.
The men and women of Alternatives to Violence Project – USA