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Charlotte Amalie
Friday, March 1, 2024
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AVP Workshop Offers Alternatives to Violence

Ten participants attending an Alternatives to Violence Project workshop over the weekend learned tools to employ as alternatives to violence. The AVP program is designed to improve self-esteem, communication skills, managing anger, letting go of grudges and transforming conflict, as well as to clarify values.

“Our goal is to help people gain the skills to avoid conflicts nonviolently and to realize there are choices for nonviolence,” said Carolyn Keys, program manger and facilitator. “We teach people to realize even enemies have good in them.”

Keys said AVP is designed to find the good in everyone – even our opponents. She explained even a murderer doesn’t kill all the time; murder happens in just one moment.

The project was started by Larry Apsey in 1975 in Green Haven Prison in Stormville, N.Y., as a collaboration with the Quaker Project on Community Conflict in devising a prison workshop. AVP is a grassroots, all-volunteer program dedicated to reducing violence.

The three-day, 16-hour workshop titled “Changing the Face of Violence on St. Croix” was held at the St. Croix Reformed Church. The basic workshop focused on affirmation, communication, cooperation, community building and trust building.

Keys said that, while everyone in the group came in the door already on a peace path, the workshop offered ways to help reduce the level of violence by introducing people to ways of resolving conflict that lowers the need to resort to violence as a solution. Keys said the belief of AVP is that we are all learners and we are all teachers.

The workshops are held with all the participants seated in a circle, because according to Keys, “No one has their back to anyone and the circle helps promote interaction and trust.”

The participants learned communication and listening skills – among other things – through what are called “light and lively” activities. The workshops ended with word pyramids where participants joined hands and each gave a positive comment and then they lifted their hands up symbolizing the release of the words into the universe.

Ray Hamilton, a local restaurant owner, said he was delighted to have the opportunity to attend. “It was a really enlightening experience,” he said. “The energy level of the group and facilitators was high.”

He said it was good to hear that others have the same issues and that he gained a lot from hearing their feedback. Hamilton said he was glad he had the chance to learn how to become a good listener and step back and let others offload. Hamilton said he is excited about taking the next level workshop to perfect his skills at being a mediator.

Some took part because of their jobs and others because they are interested in promoting peace. There were people from the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Council, Lutheran Social Services, Frederiksted Health Clinic, pastors, business people, stay-at-home moms and others.

AVP workshops have also been held at Positive Connections Alternative School, Help Increase the Peace in Williams Delight, AVP Training of Facilitators and AVP Basic at Golden Grove Adult Correctional Facility.

Keys explained the general consensus of the participants is that the workshops are important because the Virgin Islands are in a terrible state of affairs and there is a need for alternatives to violence. Keys said the participants in the workshop are ready and willing to get involved at the Community Peace Center in Frederiksted.

The center is sponsored by the Interfaith Coalition, which since 2004 has run the Alternatives to Violence Project.

The next workshop will be the advanced level and participants will get deeper into the focus areas of their choice. It will be held Aug. 8 to 10 with the location to be announced. For more information about the Peace Center and AVP, call Keys at 340-719-7805.

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