Alternatives to Violence | Teen Ink

Alternatives to Violence

January 13, 2008
By Anonymous

For two years, I have been a member of the Alternatives to Violence Project, a Quaker-founded organization that teaches methods of nonviolent conflict resolution in schools, prisons, and other facilities. When asked to write about the impact this organization has had on my life, I didn’t know where to start. Even explaining the organization itself is a daunting task. However, I will do my best.
The main purpose of the AVP is to provide participants with the tools necessary to solve conflicts nonviolently. The word “teach” doesn’t accurately describe what we do because we believe that the answers lie within the participants themselves. Our job is simply to help them fish these answers out. One of my favorite AVP discussion questions is, “When was a time that you solved a conflict nonviolently?” We ask this question at nearly every seminar, and each time we get different responses. One member described a fight she had with her boyfriend, another related a conflict with her boss, and another talked about his encounter with road rage on the way home from work. Several told of situations in which they were threatened with murder. AVP discussions like this one are unique in that, no matter what participants have experienced, their stories contribute valuable insights to group discussions and inspire others to utilize the same conflict resolution techniques in their own lives.

One story told at an AVP workshop which greatly impacted me was related by a fellow facilitator, Anu Alexander. Anu took part in the Alternatives to Violence Project while imprisoned for drug dealing, and has been an active AVP member ever since. “I used to sell drugs from state to state,” he explained to me, “and now I’ve turned my life around. I still [use the skills I once used], but this time I’m selling cheesecakes instead of drugs.” Along with running “Anu’s Cheesecakes,” Anu works as a counselor at Wyndanch High School, drawing from his past experiences to help those who are also living in a violent community.

The force that inspires this degree of personal reformation is the intangible, encouraging quality that prevails throughout the AVP community. Although facilitators schedule discussions and activities and teach from a lesson plan, the heart of AVP is its unique, respectful, loving, and energetic environment.

Behind the planning, talking, and acting that go into workshops is an atmosphere that encourages participants to open their hearts and minds to new and sometimes challenging ideas. AVP facilitators inform participants from day one that their opinions matter, and that they are in a safe place to voice thoughts and emotions without anyone passing judgments. As discussions get deep, participants share aspects of their personalities and lives that they normally would not disclose. Because of this, the Alternatives to Violence Project provides an environment not only for education but also for friendship. After undergoing mentally and emotionally intensive workshops, participants form close connections with other participants and facilitators.

People of all ages, races, religions, and social classes have one thing in common: the ability to learn from each other. The answers to major life questions, such as “what is our role in the world?” and “how can we prevent violence?” lie not within one person or group of people, but within each individual. The AVP strives to extract these answers from each participant and, by doing so, to allow the participants to learn from one another. We may not reverse the world 180 degrees in one lifetime, but by teaching participants worldwide about alternatives to violence, we can leave a dent. By introducing new options and ideas and allowing people to explore their internal wisdom, we are affecting lives, one AVP workshop at a time.

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