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A Taste of Empowerment

A Taste of Empowerment workshop was held on 9 -10 June, 2017 at Parkside Lutheran Church, 2 Wallace Ave, Buffalo, with 15 participants including Nepali-Bhutanese, English and a Congolese woman. The nine-hours covered the first half of the AVP basic workshop through an introduction to transforming power.

We learned new skills and deepened personal relationships in ways that make a huge difference in our community. This empowerment workshop focused on experiential exercises in small groups to build a sense of trust and community. We learned to affirm ourselves and others and practiced tools for communication and cooperation.

So when we discussed the Cooperative Agreements, the agreements included “Affirm yourself and others, no put downs or put ups,” and “Share your own stories, not others’ without permission.” One of the Bhutanese participants said, “This is first time in my life I’ve talked about this statement. It really touched me. In our community, people often enjoy putting down others and sharing others stories without permission, and laughing. It creates many conflicts. So this is very important in my life and I can share this to my family, community and society.”

How powerful! The AVP process leads us to basic realizations in our lives, then people can change, then start to practice good behavior with such positive results. One participant said, “The thing I liked about this workshop is that we actually did what you said was important, like actually learning each others’ names.”

The workshop was facilitated by Nadine Hoover and Fenna Mandolang from NY, and Jamuna Shrestha from Nepal. The facilitation with translation was quite challenging. On the second day I did simultaneous translation for two participants, which was new for me. The multi-languages, however, gave us a chance to learn new language and cultural understanding and to perceive things differently. A couple of the Bhutanese-Nepali said it was the first time they felt respect in the U.S.

They described how at their working place in U.S., their supervisor would give the signal to stop by drawing their hand across their neck, which in Nepali culture means to kill someone. This was terrifying since they came from an ethic cleansing where many men disappeared or were killed when they were driven out of Bhutan. How difficult this was for them. It might not mean much in the U.S. but for the Bhutanese it is scary, and creates a terrifying sense of violence at work.

So if people can treat each other with a bit of love and respect, we can create a nonviolence path together. Or help to get know each other. We build friendships, person to person, across a diversity of ages, cultures, religions, and backgrounds among the people committed to living peacefully, guided by our best mutual discernment and a set of common agreement.

Taste of Empowerment workshop at Buffalo on 9-10 June 2017. Group photo: (back L to R) Fenna Mandolang, Jamuna Shrestha, Lamin Tamang, Mary Frohna, Bhagi Neupane, Nadine Hoover, Dhurba Magar, (front L to R) Traci Fissler, Gilberta Ramazani, Molly Taylor and Bimal Gurung.

On the storytelling activity when we practice good companions in a big circle all of participants were telling stories with a very strong sense of safety, and we learned a lot from each other. Especially the Bhutanese participants said this is the first time I was telling my story and realized I felt very relieved and relaxed. They said how important and powerful for themselves, and hearing others’ stories helped to normalize their experiences.

I hope we are planting seeds in specific people and places that will grow into beautiful cultures of peace. We provide these peace workshops that others can continue to share and take forward.

Thank you, Jamuna 14 June 2017