Table of Contents

News February 25 2013

25 Feb 2013

Nadine Hoover

Coordinator of Friends Peace Teams in Asia West Pacific

 

Peace Team to Indonesia. Harriet Nettles, Margaret White, Bette Hoover, Martha Baer, and Barbara Thomas has a whirlwind trip. They caught a flu on the way and passed it around, but held up well in spite of it. As planned several months ago, Margaret White joined a team with Nadine, Mira dan Retno to offer an Alternatives to Violence Advanced workshop on trauma healing. Hannah El-Silimy came also from Thailand just for this workshop. The team appreciated the accommodations at Peace Place, enjoyed the people and were impressed with the range of activities at Peace Place. They were able to go out one day to visit Pak Sun and Ibu Zum in Tondomulyo and to see the playgroup. We left early one morning from Pati, Central Java and got in very late to Langsa, Aceh. Mislan and Ifau picked us up at the airport, but by the time we exchanged money and went to eat, arrival was late. Friends suggested a quaint layover in Medan that night and even a day outing to see the orangutans would have been nice at that juncture. But off we went to Langsa where we heard that our workshop in North Aceh was cancelled, but were eventually able to visit there. We spent the night at Dahlan’s home, then went to the grave site of Salem Malik, the first reign of Islam in Southeast Asia. Returning to Langsa, we conducted a training for facilitators for the AVP basic workshop. Several team members said that this training helped them to understand AVP better and were excited about taking this new learning home. The activities are the same, but when we understand the salience of each activity and their sequence, it’s a much more powerful experience. We drove from there to Barak Induk in the mountains. The cool air was welcome and leaving the strains of a post-war traumatized society was a relief. We observed the preschool in the morning, met with the teachers in the afternoon and visited in the evening. Team members were able to do some consultation with teacher and parents on specific children’s needs and provide some medical information. Learning about the culture, living conditions and history was new for team members. Living conditions got progressively rustic and several wished they’d brought camp mats. But seeing the dramatically different settings of Central Java, Aceh and North Sumatra left them feeling like they’d gotten a broad perspective. Three team members had gone to a Subud community in Kalimantan before joining the team and they all went to Bali afterwards for some debriefing and refreshment. This team’s insights, reflections and commitment are significant at this juncture of Friends Peace Teams in Asia West Pacific’s organizational commitment to establishing a reliable Friends program.

 

Although Nadine went early and Nanik and Petrus were well prepared to receive them, Nanik faced three tragedies in the week before their arrival–a visiting priest was killed when Nanik’s sister hit a pothole on a motorcycle, a couple days later a student drown in the river behind his house, and couple days later a close relative with small children died of a sea snake bite. Although Nanik, Petrus and I carried through with the team, it’s hard to estimate the effect of three funerals the week before arrival; the first of which Petrus and Nanik organized since there was no one else to do it.

 

Peace Place. The goal of Peace Place and their collaboration with Tondomulyo are significant. We are going slowly. Petrus is transitioning from his responsibilities with SHEEP and Nanik and Ninok are growing in their developmental capacities, understandings and skills. Although we have tended to leave the terminology of “developed” nations behind because they mask the extreme injustices that contribute to global imbalance, at the same time people with weak basic developmental capacities of multi-step instruction, object permanence, representational thought, classification and so forth require much time and great patience to achieve even apparently simple accomplishments. Petrus is reflecting frequently on how organization based on discernment is highly dependent on the strength of these developmental capacities as well.  We were able to help the preschool teachers begin to: 1) prepared adequate numbers of developmentally appropriate activities for themselves and their children; 2) integrate ground rules for the place and the play into day-to-day interactions; and 3) connect activities to developmental skills. They reminded themselves of the need to soften their voices and hearts to be compassionate and patient. The after-school lesson teachers took on integrating AVP activities into their lessons as well and established a weekly teachers’ meeting. Successfully conducting a trauma healing workshop and a developmental play workshop has greatly increased their confidence. Mira at Peace Place has translated the trauma heaing manual, but is not confident with the vocabulary and ideas, so we need to sit together to complete it. If we can secure the US$5,000 loan for Petrus, Peace Place will slowly but surely grow.

 

Wooden Blocks. We made agreements on responsibilities for the blocks. The woodworkers are responsible for replacing wormy blocks for three months and Peace Place is responsible for paying the transport for returned blocks. We will put a disclaimer with the publicity, the blocks and in the Block Book about how the wood is not chemically treated, so the blocks must be kept in the open air and used and cleaned regularly. A photo of a rejected block should be sent to Peace Place to request replacement and all replaced blocks should be shipped to Peace Place for inspection. With these final agreements, we plan now to expand into production of other developmental toys. Jepara will continue to produce the blocks and beads, but Kamto in Pati will develop puzzles, manipulatives, block accessories, and so forth. Since Kamto’s accident depleted his savings, he needs a loan of US$2,000 to purchase a planner, router and chop saw in order to obtain the precision these toys need.

 

Tondomulyo. The conservative village elder who supported militant Islam passed away since we were here last. The elementary school children come to the play group area to play on break, for special time and after school. They are supporting other schools in their area to try peaceful, locally-adapted, developmental education. Friends Peace Teams support expanded the play center out of a former cow stall, into a beautiful, open-air area. Ceramic tile roof covers half of the space, thatch on a quarter and a quarter open to the sky. Outer walls maintain focus, while inner courtyard openness creates lovely natural areas to play. The ceramic tile floor provides level space on which to work and build blocks. We distributed 50 glasses there and they matched all the glasses but three with someone in one evening!

 

East and North Aceh. Our visit confirmed that friends in East Aceh are at the height of post-war economic recovery. After work in the area has been obstructed for so many years by war, many of the activists who we started AVP with have since married, had children and are struggling hard to create lives for their families. This leaves little time and less attention to maintain something like AVP. They acknowledge that AVP helped them to heal enough to engage in the new economy and may very likely find that people around them fail repeatedly at efforts for lack of personal healing and recovery work. But for the next few years their efforts must go into security livelihoods for their families.

 

The power of visitation was reaffirmed on this trip. A five-day training in Seuneuddon, North Aceh was cancelled when two people in their community threatened the village head if he allowed foreigners to come into their area. After the tsunami, with all the funds pouring in, little attention was given to these people and resentment is high. Regressive, conservatism in the name of Islam is strong in the area. Just before the team arrived, an effort to make women ride sidesaddle on motorcycles was rejected by local people. The community wanted us there, but were scared of this conservative element, so they said we could not come. They themselves were so shocked, Pak Zaini was speechless for a couple days. We sent our condolences that people were still not free to travel in Aceh (during the war the number one consideration for “freedom” was whether or not people were free to travel, so this hit a chord), but that we were not so concerned with specific activities as with silaturami (visitation, which is an Islamic requirement to visit and treat visitors well). They were delighted with this language and immediately held a community meeting that gave us permission to come to visit. Former AVP trainers in the area have moved to other urban areas for economic opportunities and Mukhtaria is the only one left. They will not be strong enough to support continuing the AVP community, but have been instrumental in reinforcing our focus on the importance of travel and visitation.

 

We were able, however, to do an AVP training for facilitators to reinforce current active facilitators. The new generation are women, who were not able to come out during and just after the war, but are now out in force. Mukhtaria came down from Seuneuddon and joined three very strong women who lead women’s economic cooperatives in East Aceh and three other strong women from Langsa and Tamiang. These two teams hope to start regular workshops in their areas.

 

Barak Induk. The progress in Barak Induk was stunning. Just entering into the preschool, the increased developmental levels of the teachers was apparent. They have been working every day, Monday – Friday, offering organized free play for children from 6:30am even though the program begins at 8:00am! And staying after the children leave for an hour to do a teachers’ meeting. This dedication is paying off. Transition to first grade is an issue and we discussed at length beginning to support the elementary and junior high schools. Although interaction with them will be welcomed by us all, none of us felt they entire community would take on the commitment to nonviolence and development of Tunas Baru Preschool. Children from the preschool are routinely pinched, slapped, threatened and mistreated in the formals schools. Mislan would like to look into starting a small elementary school as a continuation of the preschool to support the children and their families. On the drive out, the teachers all spoke about what they were looking forward to:

Ani: Practicing new activities with the group before doing them with children, documenting each activity.

Egi: A plan for doing blocks with children and collecting photos to observe for each building stage.

Ida: Learn how to express what it is that they are doing to visitors.

Sri: Make cards for each activity.

Katmi: Practice her calmness, creating openings for thought and others.

Suci: Use a soft calm voice, and allow the children to work freely without her incessant intervention.

Our efforts towards visiting with the United Nations and embassies last year has paid off. Norway has revoked the large sums of money promised to the forestry department in Langkat (area of Barak Induk). I was visited by the military forest protection division this trip. For the first time they did not try to extort money or evict me, but rather spoke casually at length about how well they work with people of Barak Induk and are on the same side and help each other protect the forest, — as long as we don’t try to advocate for any other land. It was a form of truce. Local farmers in around Barak Induk are still fighting for use of the lands in the area, but their approach is self-serving and covert. Pak Darmo, the village head, clearly stated that Barak Induk was enjoying their current peace, obtaining identification cards for their people, registering to vote and hoping that electricity would come to the area soon. They are not engaged with the area farmers. There are literally millions of hectares like Barak Induk, where the government and businessmen are running local people off claiming it is protected forest and then deforesting the areas and planting palm for their own enrichment. It is sad to participate in the “containment” plan of the forestry department to accept Barak Induk as long as we don’t advocate for anyone else, but our capacities don’t lend to further advocacy. As we are able, getting the story out about Barak Induk would be our greatest service toward advocating for others.

 

Friends Peace Teams in Asia West Pacific organization. We are glad to welcome Petrus and Nanik to the position of Indonesia Team Coordinators. Development of the positions will move slowly as we all have many other responsibilities, but we are confident in the next steps. Barbara Thomas, member of this last peace team, has offered to join the next couple conference calls and assist with taking minutes. Nadine’s schedule does not allow for much preparation for March, but is freer for April. We’ll see how this goes. Sarah continues to develop and strengthen the office support and Australians are excited about meeting with Nadine in March to explore further participation with peace teams and their support. It would be a tremendous relief to the Coordinators if others took responsibility for announcing, running, troubleshooting and reporting the monthly call!!! We continue to gather more sustainers and team members hope to go home and encourage more sustainers.

 

Writing. Friends Peace Teams in Asia West Pacific can provide a great service by writing about and documenting not only our activities, but our thinking. Nadine hopes to keep reading and rereading the January minutes that point to critical ideas and areas of thought about organizing around discernment:

  1. Being of One Mind: Handshake vs. Contractual Budget
  2. Knowing What to Do: Questioning Integrity vs. Commanders with Answers
  3. Thought and Thoughtless: Understanding vs. Procedure
  4. Sharing What Happened: Storytelling vs. Reporting

And looks forward to working with Fenna and Friends on simplifying and specifying the meaning of the priorities:

  1. A Reliable Friends Program
  2. Documenting Grassroots Peace Work
  3. Supporting Traveling Peace Teams
  4. Share the News through Writing

 

Australia Yearly Meeting and their Quaker retreat center, Silver Wattle, are hosting Nadine Hoover March 2 – 26, 2013. Nadine will do the discernment workshop at Silver Wattle and in Sydney, and visit Friends’ Regional and Monthly Meetings. This is a very special opportunity to connect Friends communities globally! Australians will also be coming for the AVP-USA conference at the end of May, further strengthening our ties.

 

Nepal Team. John plans to travel to Nepal in April.

Afghanistan Team. Rosemary plans to continue her connections in Afghanistan.

Philippino Team. Valerie Joy hopes to begin traveling to do AVP in Bohol.

 

Thank you to everyone for all your attention, prayers and support that make this possible for us all!

In love and faith,

Nadine