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2015 April • AVP workshops in Nepal

I had the privilege of spending the month of March in Nepal doing AVP workshops. I was one of the team of five working together to facilitate five workshops during that time, three Basics and two Advanced. John Michaelis, a past president of AVP-International, had made the arrangements in advance for our adventure, making sure that our food and housing needs were well taken care of  and that the workshops had been scheduled. Mike Murphy and I are experienced AVP facilitators in the New York area of the US, and we were able to travel together from the US to Kathmandu. Subhash Kattel is an experienced (brilliant!) AVP facilitator from Nepal who is also fluent in English and had the major responsibility for translation. Peter Morris, from Australia, had taken a Basic training and wanted further training, so came to Nepal to be with us and to help with facilitation. He had had lots of facilitator experience prior to coming to AVP, and contributed his insights as we were working with groups of participants. Mike and I were the last to arrive in Kathmandu. The next morning all five of us boarded a bus to take us to Pokhara, where we spent nearly two weeks.

Pokhara is at the base of the Annapurna Mountains. As we were transported to the workshop site at Children Nepal, most mornings we could see the snow covered mountains clearly. Although we could also see the mountains from Children Nepal, during the day they generally became covered with clouds. Our accommodations were at the Three Sisters Guest House. Three Nepalese sisters started a business of training Nepalese women to be guides for trekkers who want to explore Nepal. As part of this venture, they also established a guest house for trekkers to stay before and after their trek. John had met the sisters on other trips to Nepal, so we were treated like royalty, including a dinner at their home.

An area near Pokhara City. Photo from wikicommons.

Our first Basic workshop was for faculty of a school a couple of hours drive from Pokhara. We were greeted with flowers and scarves from some of the participants, and a welcome from the headmaster of the school. The workshop went well, and a few of the participants came to Pokhara for further training.

Back in Pokhara, we did a Basic and Advanced workshops with participants who are staff and volunteers with Children Nepal. This is an NGO founded in 1995 to reach out to children and to their families who were struggling to provide basic needs for their children. Because the parents had often had a difficult childhood, they were also unable to provide emotional support. Younger children receive school education. Youth receive practical peace education, career counseling, vocational training and job placement. A number of women create handicrafts to generate income for themselves. The executive director, Ram, joined the facilitation team for the workshops and helped with translation.

For the Advanced workshop, we used Nadine Hoover’s Discernment workshop. For the next Advanced we used the workshop Gathering for Silence and incorporated the decision-process that leads to unity rather than consensus. Otherwise, the workshop was similar to other Advanceds we had facilitated.

We had a day of sightseeing in Pokhara before traveling to Surkhet to do Basic and Advanced workshops with Mid-Western University students and faculty from the Conflict and Peace Studies (CAPS) and social work departments.

The bus ride from Pokhara to Surkhet took more than 12 hours, so we stopped in Lumbini, Buddha’s birthplace, for two nights on the way. We had received the news that the 2017 AVP International Gathering is planned to be held in Nepal, so part of our time there was spent looking at possible venues for this event. We also visited the national park that includes Buddha’s birthplace. At another time, I will relate the joys and dangers of traveling on the roads in Nepal.

Surkhet. Photo from Flickr.

These workshops went well too. Several of the participants said that they had learned new ways of dealing with their clients as a result of the workshops.

Following the workshops, we had a free day. The team had expected to spend it debriefing the workshops and packing for the next leg or our journey. However, Lalit, chair of the CAPS department, had made an appointment for us to meet with the Mid-Western University registrar. The meeting was quite productive. We spoke about how the AVP teaching style differs from the university lecture process. It was pointed out that some universities have implemented ways of evaluating experiential learning so that this type of teaching can be integrated into a university setting. We urged the university to give Lalit the time necessary to complete a T4F (Training for Facilitators) so that he could bring AVP to more students and faculty at Mid-Western University, and perhaps integrate AVP into both the university and the surrounding community. The rest of the day was spent with Lalit and the participants visiting tourist attractions around Surkhet.

The next day, Peter Morris and I left the group to fly back to Kathmandu and from there, home. Mike Murphy stayed with the team for the month of April.

One exercise (or “activity” as it is called in Australia and Nepal) that I have brought back to the US is called Feelings and Needs. It begins with participants sharing Life Experiences, positive and negative, followed by the Feelings that these events have invoked. The next leg of the exercise is for participants to state human needs ­– those needs which, when they are not met, have us finding destructive ways to meet them. The final step is to ask participants to “link” with markers and words the relationship between Life Events, Feelings and Needs. This exercise is done routinely in many places, but not in my area of the US. When I had the opportunity to introduce it here it was very well received.

I am grateful to have been able to spend the month of March 2015 in Nepal with a truly gifted team. My AVP facilitator skills have been enhanced, and the relationships developed among the team members were extraordinary!

I am experiencing great sadness hearing about the devastation in Kathmandu following the earthquake. I am most grateful to John Michaelis for letting us know that AVP facilitators were safe, and staying in a building that has withstood the initial quake and the aftershocks.

Deb Wood (April 2015)