The Alternatives to Violence project (AVP) is a practical training programme that enables participants to deal with potentially violent situations in new and creative ways. It 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 Russia and Ukraine. In 2015 the main
emphasis was on work in Ukraine, all the more needed because of the conflict in the east and the stresses it generates among displaced people and society as a whole.
Odessa, Kharkiv and beyond
AVP Ukraine is run by a group of volunteers (many of them psychologists) who are based primarily in Odessa, but work in various locations around the country. This year FHM funded two programmes: the first was an extension of previous activities, and the second an expansion of work with internally displaced refugees. This second project was made possible by a generous matching grant from The BEARR Trust (www.bearr.org).
An ongoing activity is work with juvenile offenders. This year a number of workshops were held in a detention centre in Odessa. Training workshops have also been held for a mixed audience of NGO volunteers, psychologists, social teachers and social workers from Odessa and surrounding regions.
The project with temporarily displaced persons took place in north east Ukraine (Kharkiv, Kramatorsk, Slavyansk) and around Odessa. In all, 157 adults and 423 children and teenagers (aged between 6 and 21) took part. Alla Soroka (Odessa) and Tanya Siritsyna (Kharkiv) write of the work:
“In 2014, masses of people began to stream in from the combat zones. They were resettled without any particular system, usually in summer health resorts, rest homes and children’s camps. The expectation was that people would not be there for long. Many expected that they would soon return home. At that time, organizations and volunteers actively undertook to help the displaced persons; this lasted for about a year. The situation did not change, resources were being depleted and people began to be angry that they had been stranded.
“…We offer our trainings to precisely those people who have been unable to integrate and who have been left to live in health resorts or children’s camps which are far outside of town. Every group we work with, like each person, is very individual and has its own character. These groups were characterized by a closed-off quality, watchfulness, a common reluctance to be part of the group.
“It was easier to gather the groups of children and teenagers … Gradually, the children’s confidence increased; they loosened up and began more to think about the experiences gained during the exercises and to share about experiences in their own lives … We saw that, deep inside, the children were experiencing everything that was happening in their families and that they needed a place where they could share and talk with grownups about the things that were worrying them … They were able to share with us about what they had endured, because that helped them remember good family moments from the past, memories that replenished their resources.”