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2014 March – April • Indonesia Peace Team Travel Log

Friends Peace Team in Indonesia March – April 2014

In March 2014, a peace team came together in Indonesia to travel, visit and share experiences in peace activities. Four Quakers made up an international travelling team: Nadine Hoover from New York State in the US, Esther Cowley-Malcolm from the eastern Bay of Plenty in New Zealand, Judith Simpson from Melbourne and Canberra in Australia and Vidya also from Canberra, Australia. Nadine helped coordinate arrangements, facilitate some activities and interpret for English speakers.

We were welcomed by the hosting team of four Mennonites from Peace Place in Pati, Central Java: Petrus, Nanik, Ninok and Ria, who are all experienced Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) facilitators. The three women also interpreted English. Jaye Starr, a Muslim woman from Ann Arbor, Michigan, US, is currently studying in Jogjakarta and joining us as a participant in our AVP workshops. Amy Rakusin, a trauma specialist from Baltimore, Maryland, US, will join us later at Peace Place in Pati for a week.

We began our trip visiting Wiladeg, Central Java outside of Jogjakarta for six days. A team of women there had come to Peace Place to visit and train with us and asked us to come to their village and share the AVP and developmental play training with more people in their community. Next we visited Jogjakarta for two days, spending one day at the offfice of the Society of Health, Education, Environment and Peace (SHEEP) and touring the ceramics and microbiology lab and one day when Nadine visited university faculty while the travel team saw some of the city. We drove to Peace Place in Pati on the north shore of Central Java where we plan to spend ten days visiting communities, attending a Javanese wedding, working with the AVP-based preschool, after-school and parenting programs, and facilitating a trauma healing workshop. After which, on April 14, Jaye and Amy will depart the team, with Nadine, Judy and Vidya going on to Sumatra and Aceh and Esther goes on to Bohol, Philippines.


AVP Basic Workshop Wiladeg, Java, 27-31 March 2014

Our first activity was an Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) workshop in Wiladeg, a traditional Javanese farming village. Nearly all of the thirty participants were women who work hard in their local community in their many different roles: farmer, mother, wife and also part time pre-school teacher or assistant.

The Javanese Muslim and Christian women embraced the concept of creating peaceful pathways together. The women laughed, cried, and expressed sadness and joy – the same emotions we have seen in AVP workshops in Kenya, New Zealand, Australia and America, joining the many people in over fifty countries whose lives are being transformed by AVP.

Pak Kanio the Village Head of Wiladeg and his wife Puji kindly provided a house for our team so we could all stay together. The local AVP facilitators, Tilah, Yohana and Naning, organised a delicious variety of food that sustained us throughout our time in the village, as well as managing the logistics and serving on the facilitation team. While we walked to the pre-school in the cool of each morning, they organised lifts home for us in the hot afternoons on the Javanese women’s motorbikes. This local team apprenticed with the Mennonite team from Peace Place in Pati and Nadine, Esther and Vidya.

The AVP workshop began with a welcome from Hery representing the Village Council. (Hery was the only man besides Petrus who stayed for the whole workshop.) After introducing the history and philosophy of AVP, we formed into two workshop groups which over the weekend allowed us to build cohesion from shared stories, activities and “Light and Lively” games. We ended each day in the large group reflecting together on the day’s activities.

Many participants spoke of the friendships they formed over the weekend, and the insights they gained into experiences in their childhood and their current behaviour. Hery was so impressed that he said AVP should be done in all the schools. The Javanese were moved to tears in the final circle as simple statements of kindness were whispered in their ears. Hundreds of years of colonisation robs people of a sense of self worth and dismisses affirmation as arrogant or unbecoming. The visiting women confessed to how contagious persistent anti-Islamic media has been in our countries, especially in stark contrast to the ordinariness of our mutual humanity as we all laughed, cried, played and learned together.


Early Childhood Developmental Play Workshop, 1 April 2014

We next turned our attention to the young children in the Village of Wiladeg spending an afternoon in cooperative and creative play. We started with a large circle where we shut our eyes and clapped until we made a rhythm together and played the Hokey-Pokey. Then we got into three smaller circles to sing and play games such as Elephant, Bird, Palm Tree and Floor Pat as well as local games with stones and singing. At the end we all got together and played Bump Tag.

In the morning, the preschool filled with children, mothers and teachers. We observed activities in each age group in the morning, then Nadine ran a workshop with the teachers from three local preschools on play activities to develop the physical, observational and decision-making skills of children, connecting activities and skills with consequences in adulthood, the work place and general development of the village.

The teachers were given repeated opportunities in groups of three to work on how they would explain the critical nature of early childhood play to the whole village. One key point was how education requires peace and peace requires education; in other words if children are scared or facing violence at home or in the community, the brain shuts down, thinking and learning suffers. From the other direction if people in the community do not feel skilled and capable, they frequently turn or return to violence rather than peaceful approaches to problems they face.

A second key point was how skills developed as children are not “stages passed by” but are skills taken with us into adulthood. If we learn or practice things minimally when we’re young, those skills may remain weak our whole lives, but if we invest hours in strengthening and deepening skills when we’re young, then we’re more skilled when we’re older. This made a huge impression on the teachers and they felt much more respect for themselves and their work with young children and much more capable of advocating for their needs in their community.