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News June 26 2013

26 June 2013

Blaze Nowara from New York, USA, has been able to take a large amount of video, both of workshop activities and interviews. He’s grasped the simplicity and complexity of Friends Peace Teams’ work. His interviews have given us all welcomed time to reflect, given him an overview for a short film on Friends Peace Teams in Asia West Pacific and given him footage and ideas for potentially longer films in the future. He’s trying to make photos available, which is easiest to do through Facebook.

Ludwig Bon Quirog from Bohol, Philippines, is flooded with new insights, understandings and experiences. He’s working overtime to process and integrate what he is learning. He’s excited about sharing what he’s learned when he gets home. Valerie and Terry have already prepared a team to go to Bohol in October to support him in apprenticing. He is very interested in the nonviolence training, trauma resiliency and developmental play as his community is very concerned with peace and nonviolence and recently opened a preschool on the premise of kindness, compassion and integrity. He’s exploring in his mind the idea of an information center that offers trainings and potentially mediation; I let him know about Ann Dusseau’s work in transformative mediation.

Chris Hughes from Melbourne, Australia, is so relaxed, attentive and engaged. He’s had similar experiences traveling in Cuba, so this is a good refresher for him. The work we’re doing is very informative in supporting his dedication to build relationships between Australians of European decent and First Nations People, which shares many similarities with the extreme challenges of building relationships in Aceh. Our explorations are deeply affirming the appropriateness of a Friends Peace Team in Australia.

The five-day AVP workshop on developmental play in Barak Induk was amazing! Nanik came from Central Java and two staff members from the Directorate of Early Childhood Education came from Jakarta. Training together in a rural, isolated, poor school was a tremendous help to them as well as to Mislan and the teachers in North Sumatra. Sharing a common understanding and language opens lines of communication to seek ways together to support this type of work in the future. The team enjoyed the training time as well as swimming in the river, walking and visiting. We did noticed that the teenage boys in Barak Induk, who were three to five years old when driven out of the war in Aceh into the mountains, are now prone to extreme explosions of rage and are dropping out of school. I told Mislan’s teenage son, Edo, that when we return in January we will give him three days to organize a workshop of his own with his friends. He lit up at the idea, surprised that we would be so giving to him and his friends.

Mislan and Ani are progressing at college. Mislan is unsure whether he can complete five years, since it takes so much away from his family and livelihood with no prospect of returning an income, simply cultivating what he has to offer in his village. But for now he plans to continue. Two teachers, new to the school last year, have begun college programs in early childhood education as well. We are hoping to offer all four scholarships, which requires US$220 per semester per person or US$1,760.

After two years of trying, we were finally able to get a video recording of the lonceng (the bell that calls the people in case of emergency), which will allow Terese to complete her video as well. The lonceng resounds over the hillsides and everyone comes when it rings. There are different rings for emergencies, deaths or cooperative work projects. Ringing the lonceng will bring literally everyone, so it cannot be run at just any time, so this was a huge challenge. Darmo took on the challenge. After we got the recording, I said documenting often feels a bit contrived and he responded without hesitation, “But it is REAL!” After we took their documentation to Jakarta last year, the rumor is that the Norwegians withdrew a billion US dollars pledged to the Ministry of Forestry for this region, responsibility for implementation of the reforestation project Indonesia committed to internationally was moved from the Ministry of Forestry to the army, every soldiers’ pay was docked to cover the cost of the project, and the residents of Barak Induk were given identification cards. The effects of documentation were clearly felt.

Ziah and Ifau also came to Barak Induk from Aceh for a five-day training in Barak Induk, which we followed up with a three-day training at Ziah’s Butterfly Preschool in Langsa, Aceh. Her teachers were was able to implement the developmental play and plan to conduct AVP basic workshops for their parents with the support of the AVP Aceh Team. The workshop at the Butterfly Preschool was attended as well by three women from a Gayo community (native people of the area; Acehnese have a lot of continental Asia and Arab ancestry), as well as teachers from two schools in East Aceh. They all felt about to go home and begin doing activities with parents and children. SHEEP staff will visit the schools. We told SHEEP that we will purchase a set of wooden unit blocks for every school that actually implements activities.

Although Nadine Hoover’s dedication to building relationships with Acehnese is strong, the challenges have begun to outstrip her stamina. She was beginning to question whether or not we could continue to visit in Aceh, but lo and behold! … the Acehnese acknowledged the reality of this problem and suggested an approach. Ferry and Bowo will explore a basic workshop at the orphanage in Langsa, Aceh, called Bustanul Fahkri. They participated in Alternatives to Violence Project workshops in the past and developed a one-week orientation for new students based on AVP. Difficult internal problems got in the way of proceeding, but they have cleaned these up and everyone agrees they are strong and well. They are taking in about forty elementary students, twenty junior high students and fifteen high school students invited from remote villages around Aceh. They invite children who are extremely poor, even destitute, who sincerely want to learn and who suffer from the historic violence in Aceh. If we can reestablish AVP at Bustanul Fahkri and at the Butterfly Preschool in Langsa, we can use Langsa as a base to reach out into East Aceh.

Manty from the Children’s Media Center in Idi Rayeuk, East Aceh, will be invited in the new year to join a basic workshop at Bustanul Fahkri, followed by a trauma resiliency workshop at the SHEEP office in Langsa open to them, for the parents and friends of the Butterfly Preschool and other former AVP participants. Based on that experience, Manty may consider how AVP could be brought to his community in East Aceh. He needs to understand that this is not a “program” to secure CMC, but rather a volunteer commitment because it is of value to him and others for personal learning and change. Otherwise East Aceh seems beyond our capabilities; the cumulative trauma is so severe that simply greeting people, hosting guests, trusting others, administering logistics, sequencing multi-step activities, or looking beyond personal, financial gain is not possible.

Peace Place offered a five-day AVP workshop on developmental play as well. It was more rudimentary than the training in Barak Induk, but participants left feeling as if they were deeply changed themselves and able to share that with children as well as family and community members.  The core training team, Petrus, Nanik and Ninok is strong. Sun participated, but was not able to facilitate as he has many home obligations, and Zum is pregnant, so she is not participating. The preschool in their home in Tondomulyo is going well and significant results in the elementary school are felt–violence as reduced dramatically and children are able to write until their ideas are complete rather than dropping a pencil after a minute or two because their hand hurts. Peace Place struggles with finding enough leadership who are strong enough to learn this material and dedicated enough to apply themselves to learning and practicing, especially when the financial returns are so negligible.

Kamto is extremely proud of his new woodworking equipment and is beginning to make a miniature, table block set. He has already begun to pay back his loan, although he does not feel capable of guaranteeing he can pay precisely on the first of each month. His approach to boiling the wood for two to three days seems to be very successful. It not only kills any worms, but over days it takes out enough resin that the wood dries very quickly. When cut at the right season, mahogany does not have worms, but as mahogany is harder to come by, loggers are cutting all the time and woodworkers are struggling with the results. Large producers dip the wood in chemical baths toxic to children. Kamto does not have access to chemical baths, so this approach has proven profitable for him and his workers more broadly. Kamto wants to begin with the hardest projects, but I reminded that him that as a woodworker, he looks at the wood and imagines a high-quality product, but as a father and community member he has to look at how fast he can get it into the hands of young children so they can begin to learn. Therefore, he should prioritize some simple, easier, cheaper items to begin to distribute and build the market, so that children can begin to play and when he has more expensive items there’s a market in place. In the end he understood and will try to work towards that end. Kamto is recovering well from the explosion of a 55-gallon drum for boiling the wood, but it blew the roof off his shop. As he is paying for the hospital bills and the loan on the equipment he does not have the funds for a roof, which would cost US$350 or more. The teams in considering offering the funds so that he has more room to spread the equipment out and a place to store the toys as they are produced.

Ika in Jakarta has been ill and many complications arose from the end of the school year and holidays coming up, so the trauma resiliency workshop in Jakarta was cancelled, which gave Ludwig and Nadine (Blaze and Chris had to depart earlier) the chance to attend the Peace Place, end-of-the-year celebration on July 1, 2013 before departing for home. It was a splendid Peace Team trip!