Thursday, June 2, 2011

AVP National Gathering 2011

The New Zealand AVP song
I spent most of the last weekend in Belmont CA, more specifically at the Notre Dame de Namur University campus attending the National Gathering of the Alternatives to Violence Project
AVP has been an important part of my life since 2005, when I had my first workshop. I have been facilitating for a couple of years now, and am seriously considering becoming what it used to be a "lead" but now is named "team coordinator." For me, it is the next logical step. AVP has many flavors: it originated in prisons in order to decrease violence and provide inmates with tools to explore the roots of violence and how to handle it; it has been used in community settings to help people deal with conflict resolution and relationships, and it has been used for trauma healing and reconciliation in war-savaged countries such as Rwanda. 
I have facilitated community workshops, but my main focus lately has been prison workshops in Spanish. In California, the number of Spanish language programs has been cut drastically with all the budget cuts. And AVP, as a volunteer program, does not cost to the prison system. 
Doing AVP takes time, but it is so incredibly enriching...and besides everything else is a great reality check. There is nothing like stepping out of a prison building to feel the afternoon sun and be able to leave through the gates.  Makes one appreciate freedom and life. 
Being in a gathering like this is like being with a close-knit family. As an all-volunteer organization, there is no financial incentive doing AVP: AVPers do it because they believe in it. It entails sacrifice in time and resources, so no wonder the majority of AVPers, at least in the US, are well-to-do retired people. One of the major current challenges for AVP is its lack of diversity, and there were many discussions addressing it. 
My two agenda items for the meeting were the situation of Spanish language workshops and promoting social media within AVP. For the first I was part of a breakout session that brought together a group of Spanish-speaking facilitators, most of them working in Latin America, and a minority here in the States. I had met some of them and communicated with others through email and skype, and it was great to meet all of them in person. The fact that the next International Gathering takes place in Guatemala highlights the growing influence of Hispanic countries in AVP.
The next item did not feel as successful. I had a strong deja vu of my conversations with educators about the possibilities of online teaching and the use of social media...not a lot of interest. Or skepticism. I guess I was too optimistic expecting enthusiasm.  I should try to make a list about the information one can find on Twitter similar to the one in a recent post by Scott McLeod, but directed to the non-violence/restorative justice/peace crowd. 
Posada de Belen, site of the International Gathering in
Guatemala, October 2-8 2011
Other than that, it was a great event. Being an educator and an AVP facilitator overlaps in many aspects, one of them the possibility of making a difference and changing lives. During the Summer break I already have two workshops planned, and if my Fall schedule does not get populated soon I am seriously thinking on spending some time in Latin America around the International Gathering...

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