Here is a reflection from one of the Spring 2016 Nonviolence Intensive participants, AmeriCorps member Maeve Willis:
The Gandhi Institute training was an awesome experience for all AmeriCorps members involved. The space allowed for the chairs to sit in a circle with a large space in the middle of the room, leading the group dynamics to feel less like a training or lecture and more like a group collaboration of knowledge. There was a constant flow of new partners, groups, and therefore, ideas that required openness and honesty, and trust. We addressed the importance of being constantly curious, both in conversations and relationships with peers, as well as when addressing the feelings and needs of those students that we work with. On Wednesday of the training, members role played conflicting situations and practiced using all accumulated knowledge of Restorative Questions and Nonviolent Communication. Facilitators, with their own experiences leading nonviolent groups in the city’s high schools, intervened to model potential changes in our approach that proved very helpful. All in all, the intensive training with the Gandhi Institute gave us all very concrete tools to have in our back pocket in the face of their needs, but also proved to be a great release of stress.
From Melissa O’Brien, Rochester Americorp:
I participated in the training on Feb. 20 & 21 with Jonathan Lewis. I work in a very violent, very impoverished part of the city, and many of my students have been directly affected by violence…I came to the workshop looking to learn some ways to help students work through their feelings about the violence they see, and to show them that there are effective ways to achieve their goals without using violence.
What I got from the workshop was that and so much more.
I did learn some practical techniques to help diffuse potentially violent situations in the classroom and other settings, and I learned how to identify the root of a conflict and why that is important for resolving a conflict and not just delaying an inevitable violent outbreak. What was so much more important for me was the environment that Jonathan created. The group was very open, and there was a quality of conversation that I had never experienced from a group in such a short time. The conversations helped illuminate very important things about my students that I had never considered…I cannot overstate how much of a benefit this training has been to me already. I left this workshop feeling inspired for the first time in a very long time.
From a participant at the March 2016 workshop Contact Improv as Nonviolence in Action which explored how dance can teach us about living nonviolently:
I so enjoyed your dance improv workshop yesterday- I left inspired and energized, self connected and connected….with appreciation for the opportunity to reflect on nonviolence from a vantage point I wouldn’t have thought of myself!
We asked our 7-12 grade students in our 2014-15 Social Justice Classes and Nonviolence Clubs, "Describe one important thing you've learned in this class or club." Here are their answers:
“What I learned in this class is that you got to believe in yourself.”
“I rate it an 8 [out of 10] because it is helping me to be more patient.”
“The meditation helps with stress as well as the check-ins. Days we talk about social inequality and discrimination give me more perspective, which is useful to cite when I’m discussing it outside of class.”
“I have learned one person’s actions can affect everyone else.”
“One skill would be empathy which is to try to put one’s self in the other person’s shoes and like try to guess what they are feeling.”
“When you get mad or angry don’t go off on that person and want to fight them.”
“To control your anger and to talk things out.”
From Kirsten Keefe of Empire Justice:
Thank you for a wonderful training at our staff retreat. Many of us really enjoyed and appreciated the conversations it provoked among us – both in content and also for the interaction with folks we don’t normally cross paths with within the organization.
This lovely card was given to us by students from the Freedom School, who spent time learning about plants and nonviolence in the Peace in the Garden program:
“Thank you, Gandhi Institute for teaching us about plants, seeds and helping them grow.”