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Warm breezes welcomed our team of six healers to Managua on Feb 18, 2016. The group settled in at Quaker House where they were greeted with a delicious meal and hugs from Pro Nica staff. The team included massage therapists, yoga teachers, a psychologist and a sex therapist. For several team members it was their first visit to Nicaragua. For the next ten days the group led retreats for Pro-Nica staff and partners in various parts of the country.
The first day the team visited sites in the city of Managua and listened intensely to the history of the country. It was important to understand the context of the country and the inter-connectedness of our nations. The tree-lined Salvador Allende Bolivar brought us to present times as we admired the “trees of life” that were created by first lady, Dona Rosario Ortego. The well-lit metal structures loom tall and powerful. Political billboards proclaiming the strength and goodness of the Ortega government are everywhere. A tourist might surmise there were no other political parties in the country that calls itself a democracy.
Our first workshop was a one day AVP training on trauma healing held at the Kairos Center. Harold Urban and other Alternative to Violence facilitators from around the country enjoyed the intense “advanced” workshop experience. For most of the team, it was an introduction to the AVP model and the popular education modality.
Next we traveled to the Centro de Retiros La Palmera in Diriamba to spend the next few days with Los Quinchos staff. Initially, we visited the children and were entertained by a visiting circus who were there working with the former street children for a month. Our team was excited by the holistic approach of Los Quinchos to the traumatized street children. We observed them learning new skills (like sewing or drumming), cooking together and a cooperative family approach.
“The best part of the experience for me was working with Los Quinchos staff. It was amazing fro see their resilience, desire to learn and to help in spite of all they have been through themselves. Sometimes I feel jaded about the world and working with them boosted my sense of hope.” This statement by one of the team is reflective of the their experience as a result of our days in retreat with these amazingly resilient and resourceful people.
Our third – and final- retreat was held in San Ramon at the Sueno de la Campana Retreat Center. Retreatants came from Pro Nica’s northern partners and some traveled for many hours by bus to join us. Casa del Nino, Casa Materna, Rio Blanco Women’s Network were all well represented at the retreat.
Each person was received a massage during our time together and got called from the circle when their turn came. Again we explored types of trauma with a popular education format. We spoke of stages of grief and how to deal with them. There was ample time to share stories and learn some new information as well. For many the five circles of sexuality were a welcome way to explore issues of relationship and violence. The circles include: sexualization, sensuality, intimacy, sexual identity and sexual health and reproduction.
In addition to leading the three retreats described, the team has time to swim at Laguna de apoyo, stroll along the Lakeshore waterfront park in Managua and have a mini-retreat at La Garnacha near Esteli. The healers were all pleased to participant in this project and several described deep hearings that happened to them during the experience.
A team of 6 healers traveled to Nicaragua from Maryland in the US for 10 days in August. The group learned about the country and its history, practiced the ministry of presence and led two retreats. Staff of the partners of ProNica (see http://www.pronica.org) were invited to participate in the retreats. The workshops included community building, trauma healing awareness and hands on healing. About 60 people participated in the two workshops – one in Managua and the other near Matagalpa.
Repairing the damage and building resiliency among those working for social justice is essential for peace building anywhere. It’s especially important in Nicaragua where people have been buffeted by wars, poverty, earthquakes and storms for many generations. Those who labor on the front-lines are invaluable in transforming the scars of multiple traumas into positive change for individuals and communities. Their work with marginalized people, street children and victims of violence is honorable – and stressful. Our workshops/ retreats were offerings to help keep the leadership strong of body, mind and spirit. So their organizations can continue their amazing work.
The team was led by Bette Rainbow Hoover, a healer, peace builder and workshop facilitator. The five women who accompanied her included a registered nurse, two acupuncturists, a yoga teacher, massage therapist and an anthropologist. Presentations about the work of the delegation are scheduled for
September 18, 2015 at Eden Valley in Howard County, MD
October 24, 2015 at 7:30 at Sandy Spring Monthly Meeting (Quakers)
Call us at 202-329-4667 for more information.
A party to raise funds for our peace and healing teams to Nicaragua. (The next team travels from August 13-23, 2015.) Live music begins with Bronson Hoover on jazz piano and features the Hollow Prophets, a classic rock band. Drinks available for tips or bring your own bottle. Co-sponsored by Sandy Spring Friends Peace Committee, Pro-Nica http://www.pronica.org & Just Peace Circles, Inc. Venue: Eden Valley- in the woods of Howard County, MD, just west of Columbia, less than an hour from Washington or Baltimore. Contact Bette for more info at 202-329-4667.
“It is much easier to begin a war than to end it. And even more difficult to repair the invisible consequences, those stains on the soul that can never be erased.” Carlos Powell, a Nicaraguan writer
Save-the-Dates: November 6 & 7, 2014
Maryland’s 5th Restorative Justice Conference
Proudly presented by the Circle of Restorative Initiatives (CRI) for Maryland
Bette has been working for peace with justice in Central America since she founded CASA de Maryland www.casademaryland in 1985. Recently she traveled to Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras. In Guatemala, she traveled with the Highlands Support Project www.highlandsupportproject.org to the ancient Mayan capital of Xela (aka Quetzaltenango). The program has organized 26 women’s circles in the villages of the highlands. In Nicaragua, Bette joined a wedding caravan for her dear friend, Becca Wheaton, and spent time in the village of Jinocuao as well as Granada and San Juan del Sur. After the wedding, she connected with Jenny Atlee and Tom Loudon and met her old friend Dada Maheshvarananda for their trip to Honduras.
Bette & Jenny at Lagoon Apoya
Dada is a Proutist monk who lives and works in Venezuela. See more of the Prout Research Institute of Venezuela at www.priven.org. You can also learn about his speaking tour regarding his book “After Capitalism” at www.proutaftercapitalism.blotspot.com
Jenny & Tom are based in Managua, Nicaragua for their organization “Friendship of the Americas” www.friendshipamericas.org. Since the Honduran coup of 2009, the situation there is highly unstable and thus much of their work is currently focused on Honduras. The Report of the Commission of Truth on which Tom worked was published in April 2013 and documents “the voice of greatest authority…the victims”. Their Project of Accompaniment in Honduras (PROAH) provides an international presence to those who document the human rights violations and disappearances. See the PROAH blog on the right side of their website.
We were invited to come to Tegucigalpa, Honduras, to support the staff of COFADEH -The Commission of the Families of the Disappeared www.cofadeh.hn -who are on the front lines of the work for justice in this troubled country. The organization has spent more than 25 years documenting deaths and disappearances and since the 2009 coup they have been incredibly busy! The bus ride was about 9 hours each way with a long border crossing and police stops along the way. With some trepidation (after all, Honduras had the highest murder rate in the world in 2013), we crossed the border into the mountains of Honduras and found our way into the capital city.
Bertha Oliva, COFADEH’s executive director, had decided to give her entire staff of 18 a day out of the city for “sesiones de terapia relajamiento” or sessions of relaxation therapy. Each day we journeyed by mini-bus out of the city and into the mountains to their beautiful retreat house called “Lugar Contra la Olvida” (a place against forgetting). It was funded by a gift to Bertha from the European Union for COFADEH’s human rights work.
Bette and Dada led peace circles, cooperative games, yoga and meditation, singing and body work that renewed the staff to wholeness. Everyone returned to their work with renewed energy and increased understanding of how to reduce the stress in their own bodies and support each other better. We promised we’d tell their stories back home and return to support their important work. We will see Bertha Oliva when she comes to Washington DC in March 2014 to testify to the Organization for American States about the situation in her country.
Bette & Dada facilitating a peace circle for healing and relaxation.
We are looking for peace workers and healers to join us in return trips to support our sisters and brothers of COFADEH and PROAH in their work and let them know they are not forgotten. After all, we all all one family, and what affects any of us affects all of us. We do this work so we all may be healthy and live peaceful, happy lives.
A word on Guatemala: Since the US overthrew the democratically elected government in 1955 and imposed military rule, the military rules. Although their civil war of 36 years ended in peace accords in 1996, it’s not a peaceful country. Neo-liberal capitalism supports 10 wealthy families who own most of the land. NAFTA – true to its reputation – benefits the US and causes great hardship on trade from Guatemala. Adding to their already troubled economy, the US deports 2000 to 4000 persons back to Guatemala every month. The indigenous (Mayan) are about 60% illiterate, and 2 out of 6 children are “drastically” malnourished (meaning mental and physical health is stunted for life). There is a doctor to about each 100,000 people in the countryside. Village leaders who don’t obey government and military orders are accused of “drug – dealing” and put in jail with no recourse. Women who organize are specifically targeted for repression. Our sources spoke of a revolution needing to happen.
The exciting thing that’s happening in the country is the renaissance of mayan culture and indigenous ways. We saw it bubbling up everywhere as women are recovering their voices and power and reconnecting to “madre tierra” (mother earth).
Our delegation from VCU (Virginia Commonwealth University) to Highland Support Project in Guatemala
The Circle Process ~ some benefits of using circles:
- Circles provide for equitable power sharing
- Circles allow quiet voices to be heard
- Circles nurture the emergence of leadership
- Circles encourage problem solving by consensus building
- Circles help build a safe space
- Circles provide a place for people to build relationships
- Circles provide an opportunity to explore issues more deeply
- Circles help people step up and take responsibility for their stuff
- Circles are an effective organizing tool
- Circle ritual transcends the ordinary and mundane
~ and sometimes magic happens!
Circles can be used:
- Anytime three or more people gather
- To open or close a gathering
- To clear the air when there is controversy
- To build consensus and come to cooperative decision making
- To move a group towards action
Ideas for the Circle Keeper:
- Introduce a talking piece (stone, ball, stuffed animal, etc.)
- Give clear directions to increase the likelihood of success
- Start with a low risk question that builds a foundation of shared values
- The Circle Keeper responds to the question first.
- Give people the opportunity to pass during the first go-around
- Pass the talking piece around the circle the second time
- Suspend the use of the talking piece for brainstorming or facilitated discussion. Return to its use as needed.
- The shape of the circle does matter – everyone needs to be able to see everyone
- Circle Keeping is simple – but it isn’t easy!
Just do it!
Just Peace Circles, Inc. 2010