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Training Facilitators for AVP Workshops in Refugee Camps in Eastern Nepal

A Visit to Nepal by John Michaelis in September 2012 under the auspices of Friends Peace Teams (FPT)

In the two Nepal refugee camps where I travelled the Transcultural Psychosocial Organisation (TPO) administers the Alternative to Violence (AVP) workshops on behalf of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). I met in person with the Executive Manager of TPO, Mr Suraj Koirala.  Suraj shared his hope and expectation that the AVP series of workshops continue in Damak in 2013 and beyond. Central to our discussion was the need for additional training, particularly training facilitators for AVP Trauma Healing Workshops. With the Nepal AVP facilitators, they discussed a strong interest in training facilitators for the AVP Discernment Workshop that has been key to building and maintaining AVP Indonesia.

In Kathmandu I met with Mrs Bhagi Dhungle of UNHCR and former resident at the refugee camps. She asked that AVP Nepal consider running workshops for the refugees in Kathmandu. These are people who receive a very small stipend from the UN but are not permitted to seek employment in Nepal. I responded that we would very much like to run workshops for refugees in Kathmandu. Our resources are stretched until the end of 2012 but we will look for ways to respond in 2013.

On the morning of my departure from Kathmandu I was to meet with Mr Shaligram Bhattarai, the UN Program Coordinator of the refugee camps in Damak. Sadly, the day before, one of the UN staff members from his office went missing and he cancelled the meeting. I will try to meet him by Skype or on a future visit. Our agenda is to consider future AVP workshops in the UNHCR funded refugee camps.

A long term goal for AVP Nepal is to establish AVP workshops for the Communist Youth League in Nepal and with other former military from the revolution in Nepal. The Communist Party enlisted several hundred thousand young people to engage in violent activity as part of the revolution in Nepal. Because of their actions they became isolated from their communities in the villages. The AVP community in Nepal saw the AVP workshops as a means to bring healing.

I visited Kathmandu under the auspices of Friends Peace Teams. With a small number of active and experienced facilitators in Nepal, most of whom are located in Kathmandu, I am convinced that encouragement and support for the community will make a difference for the growing AVP presence there. Friends Peace Teams is effective because we practice building and maintaining relationships. We must nurture our relationship with the facilitators in Nepal so that the work there may continue and grow and so that AVP Nepal can respond to new opportunities. In discussion with AVP Nepal they would like to establish visits to Nepal every six months or so. I believe there are Quakers and AVP facilitators from Australia and elsewhere who would like to share and support the work, whether it is financially, by travelling to Kathmandu as part of a visiting team or by sharing in the administration or other tasks that contribute to this work.

John Michaelis
28th November 2012