At 63 and newly widowed and retired, I joined the Peace Corps who sent me to the Middle East. My assignment in Jordan was targeted to reduce the unemployment rate of young men by teaching conversational business English for specific job placement within the international construction industry. The Peace Corps designed this job because of my 20 years of experience as an English teacher as well as 17 years with AT&T as a project manager.
In 2012, when I completed my Peace Corps tour in Jordan, the Syrian war had just begun next door. I returned to Jordan a year later, and found my friends' home was filled with Syrian relatives who had to flee the war.
Once home from that visit, with the world even more unstable and filled with conflict, I realized I wanted to develop skills that would allow me to make a difference in the lives of those directly affected. I searched through many programs and discovered the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP).
Founded by prisoners in 1973, this volunteer-based organization has worked both nationally and internationally with prisoners, youth, and community. For many states within the United States, AVP has become one of the most succesful peer directed programs within the prison system.
The following is taken from AVP USA's Mission Statement:
To build an international movement of creative conflict resolution built on affirmation, respect for all, community, cooperation and trust.
AVP-USA is an association of community, school and prison-based groups offering experiental workshops in personal growth, community development and creative conflict management.
Founded in prison and developed from the real life experiences of prisoners, AVP encourages every person’s innate power to positively transform first themselves and then the world we live in.
Alternatives to Violence Project brings together diverse groups of people to build Dr. King’s nonviolent “beloved community”. Together, we will build a more peaceful and equitable world.'
An AVP workshop seeks to assist people in personal growth and change. AVP is not psychotherapy. It is an intensive learning experience, offering three-day workshops on three levels:
The Basic Workshop
The Advanced Workshop
The Training for Facilitators Workshop
For more information on AVP, please see their website:
About Lydia's AVP Jordan Project:
I have trained in all 3 levels of AVP and since 2014 have volunteered as a facilitator in over 60 workshops primarily in prisons and jails in California but also in the community in California and internationally, and during this time with AVP, my original Peace Corp work with Jordan has never been far from my mind.
In April of this year (2018), I hope to be able to bring together the practices I have learned with AVP, and the current situation Jordan faces after the start the Syrian War. My original dream was to train Jordanians in AVP so that they could train Syrians in the Za'atari Refugee camp. The Jordanians were very responsive to the program but wanted to first direct their attention to Jordanians displaced by the Syrian conflict.
Jordan is a country with incredible hospitality and deep cultural integrity and perseverance. It has long endured limited resources with high unemployment, and a scarce water supply. Now, with the war in Syria, Jordan has absorbed an additional almost 2 million Syrians, with about 1 million in refugee camps, and another million dispersed throughout the country's cities and villages.
My AVP project would be directed toward training Jordanians in all three AVP levels so that these new Jordanian facilitators would then themselves be offering the community workshops so that displaced Jordanians could rebuild their lives in a positive direction, with the hopes that in the future, that the conflict resolution skills will benefit not only Jordanians effected by this war, but the Syrians as well.
What your donations would go toward:
AVP is a volunteer based program, therefore all facilitators and workshop participants are volunteering their time with no compensation.
However, to run the project I have in mind, the following costs need covering:
- International air travel and housing expenses for 3 weeks for 4 experienced AVP facilitators (including myself) that I will be bringing to Jordan to lead the workshops
-Cost of participant transportation, supplies, and food during the workshops
-Arabic/English Interpreters and venue director costs
- Kate Kapetanis
- Stephanie West
- Serine Goodmond
- Nancy Vimla
- Meredith Vecchio
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