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AVP workshop Kharkiv

AVP (Alternatives to Violence Project) gives practical training that helps people to deal with potentially violent situations in new and creative ways. The method was originally developed by Quakers in the 1970s in the USA for use in prison work. The techniques are applicable to many different situations and contexts, and AVP is now an international volunteer movement active in more than 60 countries. FHM funds essential operating costs for AVP work in Ukraine, Russia, and now Estonia.

AVP Ukraine is run by a group of volunteers (many of them psychologists) who are based in Odessa and Kharkiv and operate in various locations around the country. In 2014 and 2015 they worked extensively with the large numbers of internally displaced people fleeing from the conflict zone in Eastern Ukraine. More recently these refugees began to integrate into local communities, and so AVP could no longer target them as a group to work with. Instead they continued their usual programme of workshops with a wide variety of participants.

AVP training in Ukraine is offered to psychologists, teachers and social workers in schools
and higher education institutions; students; and employees and volunteers working in social organisations. Another strand of work is with inmates of young offender institutions. The project has aimed to run around ten one- or two-day workshops during the year with a total of 400 participants.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine which began in February 2022 has – understandably – impacted the work of the group.  Initially, some of the facilitators in Odessa left the country; they later returned and are finding ways to rebuild their style of work. Recently the war situation has made work very difficult, especially due to the loss of electricity on multiple occasions.

AVP work in Russia was quiescent for several years but recently started again in Moscow. The current project plans to hold four workshops to reach a total of 40 to 50 people.  FHM is funding the use of an online event booking service to advertise the work and attract participants.

A new venture in 2022 is AVP work in Estonia, where we are supporting Quakers in Talinn to run AVP workshops for mixed groups consisting of refugees from Ukraine, and citizens of Estonia who are ethnic Russians. The latter group make up about 24% of the population, and
tend to feel (rightly or wrongly) that they are treated as second-class citizens. The AVP work
aims to defuse tensions by bringing both groups together to work for peace.

(Estonia is, of course, one of the countries of the former Soviet Union: our mission statement encompasses work in “Russia and former countries of the USSR”. So just as with Ukraine, supporting work in Estonia fits within the remit of FHM.)

The photo is from an AVP workshop at a school in Kharkiv in November 2018