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AVP trains peace volunteers in Liberia

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The Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) is holding a three-day interactive workshop for volunteers and students in peace building network here.

AVP, which works in communities and prisons, is a network of volunteers committed to training people in resolving conflict without resorting to violence.

Participants include student representatives from the St. Peter’s Lutheran High School, various departments of the Lutheran Church in Liberia (LCL) and media representatives.

In an interview with reporters on Wednesday, March 20, in Monrovia, a visiting AVP volunteer based in the United States of America, Virginia P. Bainbridge discloses that since 2011 the project has trained 16 Liberians, who are now lead facilitators, building a network of volunteers in the country.

She says though there are plans to extend the exercise to other counties, these facilitators have also provided training opportunities for Montserrado, Margibi and Bong counties.

Ms Bainbridge says AVP is a training programme that enables participants deal with potentially violent situations in new and creative ways.

“Workshops are non-residential, and experiential (not based on lectures), run by our trained facilitators. Our workshops use the shared experience of participants, interactive exercises, games and role-plays to examine the ways in which we respond to situations where injustice, prejudice, frustration and anger can lead to aggressive behaviour and violence,” she explains.

She says the project seeks to gather and provide resources and services for the international AVP community to reach and sustain its full potential for peace and nonviolence worldwide.

Earlier, AVP-Liberia Coordinator Philip F. Quoqui, expresses that since people need to live with dignity and respect, the project has decided to erect a peace building community within the Lutheran Church for now, and will subsequently move into the larger society.

Quoqui, who also serves as a volunteer in Liberia, adds that AVP workshops are built on everyday experiences and it tries to help participants move away from violent or abusive behaviour by developing other ways of dealing with conflicts.

“They help us to increase the respect we have for ourselves and others.”

Commenting earlier on the thinking behind the project, another facilitator, Moses B. Cole, III says the organization understands that conflict is a natural and normal part of life, and it is possible to learn new ways of handling it.

“By holding workshops in which the participants consider the underlying causes of friction and violence, practical ways of dealing with situations of conflict are worked out,” Cole notes.

He says the project aspires for a nonviolent society in Liberia where everyone will live in peace and dignity.

Moses continues that an AVP workshop helps participants to manage strong feelings such as anger, fear, and deal more effectively with risk and danger.

He adds that the workshop also helps participants to build good relationships with other people; communicate well in difficult situations, and recognise existing skills, while learning new ones, and to be true to oneself while respecting other people, and understanding why conflict happens.

AVP is a volunteer-run conflict transformation program. Teams of trained AVP facilitators conduct experiential workshops to develop participants’ abilities to resolve conflicts without resorting to manipulation, coercion, or violence.

AVP groups and facilitators are active in communities and prisons across the United States and other parts of the world.

The dream gave birth in 1975 when inmates at Green Haven Prison in New York State asked local Quakers to help them teach incarcerated youth how to resolve conflicts nonviolently. Editing by Jonathan Browne

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