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John Michaelis, Australia (English)

I was born in London on Hiroshima day, just a few hours after the atomic bomb detonated. As a child I thought of all the children who had died and I knew I was alive because I was born in London, not Hiroshima that day. My elder brother was killed by a bomb in London before I was born, adding to my sense of privilege. I had to make something of my life.

John, Anthea and Family

When I was three years old, my family moved to Central Africa, my homeland growing up. At seventeen I hitchhiked 3,500 kilometers to the University in Cape Town to study medicine. After two years I left to start my own electronic manufacturing business which I ran for twenty plus years. At age 24 I fell in love and married Anthea and we have four children.

I began a close personal friendship with two prominent leaders of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa and was involved with early AVP-like small groups that were working to build bridges across the racial divide.  As our anger grew against the unjust laws and suffering that was so present under the apartheid system I wrote and produced with friends, an anti-apartheid musical called Beginnings that was performed extensively in both white Johannesburg and in black Soweto with a mixed black and white cast. This amazing experience raised support from some and enmity from many, particularly when some of my songs were broadcast on the radio and TV.

We feared our eldest son would be drafted to the South African military so with very little notice our family left for Boston, Massachusetts. Anthea and I were not yet forty with four children aged seven through twelve.

The call to fight apartheid in South Africa was ever present and consuming. In the USA we found no such compelling cause. I was surprised how much my identity was tied to the anti-apartheid concern and how empty I felt without lifetime friends and that life purpose.

I had the distraction of my work and quickly became involved inventing and developing inkjet technology that today is installed in millions of printers worldwide.

We moved to Chicago where Anthea heard about AVP. Before either of us could participate in a workshop, I accepted a new position in Sydney, Australia. That was where she and later I trained as facilitators. Six years later I transferred to Seattle to join Microsoft where for the first time we began facilitating workshops in prisons.

Trauma workshop in Kathmandu, December 2013

I was hooked – I saw people’s lives change after just one or two workshops. How could such transformation take place in so short a time? What mechanism could be at work? As well as workshops, I became deeply involved in developing a structure for AVP International and serving as President of the organization for six years.

I met Nadine Hoover, Initiative coordinator for Friends Peace Teams in Indonesia in 2011 and a couple of months later she asked me to join her in developing Friends Peace Teams in Asia West Pacific.

The work has expanded dramatically from one country to six and the workload has grown similarly. I have recently decided to lay down some of the major responsibilities including serving as President of AVP International. I hope this will provide more time for family and Friends Peace Teams Asia West Pacific.

My calling is always an ongoing challenge for me. For today my answer is to:

I am a convinced optimist – how could I not be when so frequently I have seen meaningful life changes in people. This gives me great hope and joy in my life.

 

In friendship:

 John

(Michaelis)

Last updated April 10th 2014