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Anita reports on the 2017 Peace Training at Peace Place

I’m Anita, a preschool teacher in Banyuurip Village near Peace Place in Pati, Central Java Indonesia. I first heard about the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) in January 2016 when Nanik and I met at the Association of Preschool Teachers (HIMPAUDI). Nanik told me that Peace Place would offer an International Peace Training in January 2016. After that, I often came to Joglo Preschool at Peace Place to exchange ideas. I felt accepted, sincerely with open arms. I could tell from the way Nanik spoke. She stopped her activities and gave me her full attention when I was speaking. We spoke with  enthusiastism, without interruption or judgment, although sometimes I could not control my emotions. I encountered many very different ideas. The more I visited Joglo Preschool, the more I felt there were new things that I wanted to know.


Whisper Circle Activity Feb 2017 by Nanik

The first day of workshop I was confused. No chairs, no tables and no other workshop devices like most reasonable trainings. I met a participant from Philippines, and we started chatting. I was grateful because she understood my English mixed with Javanese. When we gathered for the first session, I saw another participant who obviously thought like I did. She brought formal dresses and shoes, but we were all sitting on the floor! She was a civil servant in the government. That is how I first met AVP.


Then when I participated in the AVP Basic Workshop, that feeling got stronger. In AVP I found the teachings of my parents. Respect others. Do not put down others whoever they are. My father taught me a Javanese proverb, “Ojo dumeh, ojo sesorah, ojo sopo sopo iro, dadio manungso koyo wit pari selod ono isi soyo merunduk. Gusti Allah iku ora sare.” It means, “Don’t be arrogant, don’t look at people from who they are, as a rice plant ducks when it is full. God never sleeps.”


The Broken Square experience was very memorable. When I saw my friend had what I needed but didn’t share, I felt really irritated! I gave what I had hoping she would give hers to me, but she returned mine back to me. Ugh!!


After the workshop I discussed with Nadine the results of our group discussions. We talked about how focusing on what needs to be done can be more useful in dealing an issue. We should not be frozen to the problems, but work to heal from trauma and then to notice the good things in ourselves, which can bring great change.


After that discussion, I began practicing AVP in my daily life. I focused on accompanying small children. I saw great results in my son, who is 5.5 years old. But for me, my friends’ pressure was so terrible. I felt she mistreatmented the children, forced them to read  small letters, and spell out words letter by letter without meaning. But parents moved their children to her class because I did not drill literacy and numeracy as they thought elementary teachers usually did. Until one day my class only had two students left, my son and my nephew.


The parents moved their children because everyday I taught drawing, singing, silence and storytelling in my class. That bolstered my courage to respond to them that my actions were right. I also told to my Director of the Foundation of my school that I would resign if I were made to do what the parents wanted. With that, he began to understand my conviction.


It was vindicated when all the students returned to my class. At the same time, I also overwhelmed with 25 students! It was not effective. I started to work very hard to find a solution. It is true that when we work from the heart, we put aside our personal interests in favor of the interests of the child, and feel the presence of God.


We recieved a new school facility that was very spacious, which was a great relief and allowed us to breath. I began to arrange the new classroom, and to implement the AVP Cooperative Agreements with the Agreements for Playing and for the Place. Children began to understand the rules, parents quit discrediting me. In fact, they even began to ask me for advice with their child.


In January 2017 I attended the second AVP International Peace Workshop with more participants. Some were western and some Asian teachers, a pastor, a owner foundation, an Islamic leader, and a self-employed person from a wide variety of religions, ethnicities and races. I felt that differences were beautiful. Differentces add to the color. I gained a lot of experiences. I could communicate with more people with very different experiences and characters.


At one point a participant expressed a problem that made a deep impression on me. He was slandered so harshly he shook as he recounted the story, and tears ran down his face. It turned out that the burdens of others are often much greater than my own. So gratitude appeared and gave me strength to continue walking on this conscientious path. And another participant from Sumatra spoke about how sad it was that people used religion for their own benefit or personal interest. My heart cried, why can the human heart do this?


Foto on International AVP Basic Training at Peace Place Pati February 2017

Doesn’t every religion teach peace? Is not faith the personal relationship between a person and God? Are not humans are free to choose our path in life? Only to realize that all choices have consequences. So in the workshop we agreed that the work may be spiritual or enlightening,  but is not a religion.


The third day, Tuesday afternoon, was the last day of the AVP Basic Workshop. I ended with a heavy heart. I could not continue with the Trauma Resiliency and Developmental Play Workshops, even though I had so some questions. But the team suggested I go to Peace Place to discuss how to continue with AVP in the classroom.


I could actually discuss AVP at Peace Place or through electronic media any time. Peaceful nonviolent living needs to be trained continuously, meeting and discussing with AVP people  speeds up the process. I apply AVP as my core self-management about how to behave, how to act and how to control emotions to solve problems. This is an amazing life change for me!