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Workshop Teaches Skills for Non-Violent Conflict Resolution

May 1, 2008 — There is still time to register for this weekend's conflict resolution skills workshop — developed in the 1970s by the unlikely combination of prison inmates and Quakers — in the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) seminar.
The two-and-one-half-day seminar offered Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation uses exercises and activities designed to teach non-violent conflict resolution.
Older youths and adults will participate in activities and exercises designed to teach the project's fundamentals focuses of affirmation, developing community, improving communication, cooperation , trust building and conflict resolution.
Program organizer and project facilitator Carolyn Keys of St. Croix explains that "most of these exercises are learn-by-doing. There is a lot of play and a lot of movement in the exercises," Keys said.
The groups are held to about 15 participants to best facilitate the exercises.
Keys said different communications skills are used together toward conflict resolution.
"Once you can talk to people without making them defensive or getting all angry oneself, then it is easier to cooperate and develop community," Keys said.
Keys said the Virgin Islands have more than eight times the U.S. national average for violent deaths.
"The U.S. average is 6.5 per 100,000 deaths by violence, but in the Virgin Islands there were 44 deaths with 110,000 residents for 2007," Keys said.
The Rev. Thembalethu G. Mkhabela, pastor of the church, explained that some members of his congregation were concerned about the increasing level of violence in the schools and in the community.
This is the second time the AVP workshop has been held on St. Thomas. The first one was for fifth and sixth graders at Jane E. Tuitt Elementary School earlier this year. (See "Alternatives to Violence Project Spreading from St. Croix to St. Thomas.")
Lisa Forde, principal at the school, said that the workshop in concert with other initiatives at the school had had measurable results.
"There is a decrease in the number of children that are coming in for disciplinary infractions," Ford said
Forde noted that teachers were part of the AVP training, enabling them to recognize and employ the conflict resolution strategies.
The principal said that one outcome of the workshop was that the "children were more sensitive to each other's moods — [they may say] 'oh, he might be having a bad day' " whereas before this behavior could initiate a conflict."
Participation in this weekend's seminar costs $40 in advance and $50 at the door. For registration or other information, contact Carolyn Keys at carolynkeys@hotmail.com, 719-7805 or 332-2244.
Workshop hours are 6-9 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 1-5 p.m. Sunday at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation, located at 149 Anna’s Retreat; the telephone number is 340-775-1022.
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