What Happened Around the Advoz Table this Year?

Even if you weren’t around the Advoz table last week, I thought you might want to know how memorable it was for so many of us.

Whether it was folks who experienced Advoz dialogue, committed volunteers, dedicated sponsors or curious newcomers on April 30th, the atmosphere was celebratory as you’ll see, thanks to photographer Andrea Faus. Check out some photos below and at @AdvozLancaster.

So how generous were we around the Advoz table? See below…and contribute to that table tally here.

We Raised…. $59,400!


Romeero, an impressive young man who was part of Advoz’s restorative victim-offender conferencing discussed his experience with Advoz, restorative justice and his dreams for the future.

The winning entries from our Art Contest displayed their work. The students from diverse backgrounds in School District of Lancaster expressed “how does peace look in your community” in their works

Last year’s Dignity in Dialogue awardee Dr. Amanda Kemp honored this year’s recipient, local artist and social justice advocate Salina Almanzar, who spoke about the challenges and opportunities of dialogue as a Latina artist.

Bidders had friendly competition over 80 items, from baseball tickets and jewelry, to art and handmade goods. 

The talented auctioneers from HK Keller rallied the crowd and inspired the audience to raise bid generously.

Laughter, friendship, support… all creating peace in our community. That’s what Around the Table is about. And we hope you can join us next year!

So what’s next? We have three opportunities to learn more and join Advoz’s work as a volunteer creating peace. Check out and consider signing up for:

Advoz’s work continues. And I hope you can continue to be a part of it.

With so many thanks to the leadership and sponsorship of…

The Hess Agency
High Companies
Sharp Shopper Grocery Outlet 
Weaver and Associates
Bertz, Hess, and Co., LLP
Mennonite Central Committee
Sentinel Management Services
Elizabethtown College Ctr. for Global Understanding & Peacemaking
EMU Lancaster MAED
Bomberger’s Store
John and Susan Simkins
Goodville Mutual
PNC Bank

Vicki Carskadon
Lancaster County Financial Group, LLC 
Saundra Hoover
John Eby
Esbenshades Greenhouses
Oregon Dairy
Executive Image Solutions
Lancaster County Youth Aid Panels
Ray and Lynette Huber


Creating Peace Takes Effort…and You

Written by Chris Fitz

When people talk about “peace,” I often hear an assumption of tranquility or calmness. Not usually so at Advoz. German philosopher Immanuel Kant once distinguished between the “peace of the graveyard” in its quiet stillness and a peace wrought by vigorously building agreements. This active peace is a core Advoz value, built into the meaning of Advoz, “to add voice.” It’s not easy. And your part is more necessary than ever.

This year’s event theme, Creating Peace, was inspired by a young man who didn’t flinch when he was invited into active dialogue with Advoz. “Reme” had been caught spraying illegal graffiti by the warehouse owner and police. And when the owner opted not to participate in restorative dialogue, Advoz invited Ramon, a community volunteer to stand-in as a “surrogate victim” in restorative dialogue.

Ramon working on the graffiti instillation at a local school

As it happened, Ramon is also a professional graffiti artist and was able to speak to the respect that’s missing in illicit graffiti. Ramon invited Reme to help work on a professional mural at a local school (above), and they kept in touch as Reme began building his own entrepreneurial portfolio. Reme knows that peace is work. Creative work.

If you want to appreciate this more fully—and find out how it ends—Reme and Ramon are featured guests at our Around the Table signature event on April 30th. You’ll meet them and their artwork if you join us.

Creating peace takes effort. And the dozens of volunteers that comprise Advoz’s team of mediators and facilitators know that. They often report feeling both exhausted and rewarded after a dialogue session. So do participants. They’re often reluctant to participate in dialogue at all because the outcome in uncertain. But despite the effort it entails, more people are seeking to work through conflict and crime through dialogue at Advoz.

Program growth from 2016-2018


“Over the past two years, demand for Advoz’s core services of restorative justice and family mediation has soared 40%”

Over the past two years, demand for Advoz’s core services of restorative justice and family mediation has soared 40% from 225 to 314 requests. Those additional 89 cases have begun outpacing our capacity to respond in a timely way. A new class of trained facilitators and mediators will increase Advoz’s capacity to help people in conflict create peace together. But as this opportunity unfolds, we face the critical question, can we respond to it?

As someone who understands the life-long community impact of creating peace with youth like Reme and families in a critical transition, you can also play a vital role sustaining it for someone else. We face an estimated additional 50 cases and $30,000 in cost during 2019. And we invite you to consider a making a special kind of contribution, a monthly “Sustaining Table gift” to sponsor one case in 2019 at $50/month ($600), over two years at $25/month or over six months at $100/month ($1,200).

Go to our special campaign page www.SustainingTable.org and join hundreds of courageous folks like Reme and Ramon in the hard work of creating peace.


Advoz’s Dignity in Dialogue Recipient: Salina Almanzar

Advoz is excited to announce this year’s Dignity in Dialogue recipient, Salina Almanzar. A native of Lancaster City, Almanzar is a visual artist, educator and community activist whose work has impacted residents of Lancaster. Almanzar’s art serves as a catalyst for countless conversations about the role of the Latinx community within Lancaster, neighborhood revitalization and the implementation of the arts within our school systems.

Holding a MS in Art Administration from Drexel University, Almanzar has established herself as an influential member of Lancaster City. She stands as the youngest and first Puerto Rican woman to be elected to the School District of Lancaster Board of Directors, serves on the Community Engagement Committee for the Fulton Theater and is a teaching artist for Lancaster Public Art at Culliton Park. 

Salina Almanzar
Salina Almanzar during one of many community arts events that she has led.

As a community artist she has dedicated countless hours toward researching the cultural space of the Latinx community within Lancaster City. Her Graduate thesis focuses on Creative Placemaking within the Lancaster Latinx Community where she curated countless stories from community members in an effort to shed light on an underrepresented population of Lancaster. Through her art she strives to create spaces of expression and cultural preservation for Latinx people in the Lancaster area, as well as creating permanent places for the community to share.

Community art collectives have been a staple throughout Almanzar’s professional art career, and she has employed her creativity to help shed light on issues within the Lancaster Community. Some of her projects include Love Notes to a Park (the ongoing revitalization on Culliton park and its surrounding neighborhoods), Arts and Craft Pop Ups, This Neighborhood Is: Portraits of Culliton Park, Like Water Community Zine, Somos Semillas at the Mix at Arbor Place, and Alza La Voz.

Almanzar sets an example for us all on the importance of art within the healing process. Her art encourages community members to congregate into one space and engage with each other while creating open spaces for dialogue. On her website she states, “making together, much like sharing a meal, has the capacity to break down barriers, open up new avenues for conversation, and reveal bonds that may not otherwise be exposed”. Art, just like the dinner table, brings people together.

“Making together, much like sharing a meal, has the capacity to break down barriers, open up new avenues for conversation, and reveal bonds that may not otherwise be exposed.” 

Advoz invites you to join us April 30 for our Around the Table where we will share stories of reconciliation in our community, enjoy a seated dinner and silent and live auction, enjoy art from School District of Lancaster, and connect with fellow peacemakers. Show your support for Advoz’s reconciling dialogue and hear testimonials from the ones who’ve been through it.

For more information please visit http://AroundtheTable.org or email chair@aroundthetable.org. See you around the table!


Making the Shift Happen, with Neighbors and Politics

“The shift” is often imperceptible in mediation. What starts out as a heated and contentious business negotiation suddenly turns to a rational exchange with voices even and tempers cooled.

Soon after, folks in the room are finding their own way toward an agreement, generating their own solutions, testing them and finding resolution.

It’s a process we see every week at Advoz, a Lancaster nonprofit that offers mediation and restorative justice services.

And it’s a process for which we can see a real need in our current national political struggle.

But how do we get there? How can we make the shift happen in America?

President Donald Trump announced Friday afternoon that a deal had been reached to reopen the federal government. The partial federal government shutdown had lasted 35 days — the longest in U.S. history.

Congress and the White House now have until Feb. 15 to negotiate a deal involving the thorny issues of immigration and border security. As a mediator, I see this as a clear opportunity.

The pain of the shutdown was not felt equally. The pain of federal workers, contractors and their families is what we honor in asking the question: How can we, the American people, help to avoid another such impasse?

It would be easy to suggest mediation tools for lawmakers to find common ground and make the big “shift” happen. But the opportunity before us is not just a political one, it’s a cultural one. If we citizens can’t talk to our neighbors about divisive issues, how can we expect our representatives to do that?

So what follows are a few ideas, many of which were articulated in the best-selling book, “Getting to Yes” (Fisher & Ury, 1981), for how to approach the current moment as an opportunity — for our elected representatives and for ourselves:

— Separate the person from the problem: What do you deeply want in our national political debate? What does that look like in your life, day to day? How can you talk about that in terms of your own story (rather than blaming or comparing)? What does your neighbor, your representative deeply want for themselves and our shared community? Can you ask them?

— Explore underlying interests and needs below publicly stated positions: Your neighbor may say they want “border security” or “border freedom” but there may be deeper interests. What might they be for you? For your neighbor? Can you ask your neighbor about his or her deep needs and concerns? Can you model courageous vulnerability to share your needs and concerns? Can you listen without judging, advising and assuming, and stay curious?

— Make an offer: As you struggle in a difficult conversation, you might find an opportunity to contribute something constructive. The shift happens, in part, because one person has the courage to recognize or appreciate the other, to create or suggest something new, to contribute positively despite feeling threatened.

Perhaps ask: “I wonder what it would like if our kids … .”

What can you offer to move the situation forward one step? Voicing this once is not a guarantee, but it is at times a surprising antidote to a cycle of critical one-upmanship, blame and defensiveness.

Conversation starters

Need a few one-liners? These could be used in many conflictive situations — or with your elected representatives — to shift a conversation toward breakthrough:

  • “How were you personally affected by the government shutdown?”
  • “Could you tell me more about that?”
  • “What do you hope for our community and our country?”
  • “What values do you think that we share as a community? As a country, even across party lines?”
  • “Could you imagine a positive path forward toward our shared values?”
  • “What can you offer to move this situation forward just one step?”
  • “Here’s what I can offer.”

Finding common ground

In 1995, I landed in Northern Ireland to study what had been a 25-year run of seemingly endless violence, division, discrimination and political impasse among the Roman Catholics and Protestants there.

But working amid the din of bombings and political bombast were Catholic and Protestant clergy, lay leaders and politicians in quiet conversations with paramilitary leaders. Those secret conversations, some lasting nearly 10 years, led to a permanent ceasefire of the major paramilitary organizations, followed by a long series of political discussions and agreements. Everyone I met on the street seemed to still be in a state of disbelief, asking the question, “How could such a shift just suddenly happen?”

As members of the greater Lancaster County community, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, helpless and disempowered in the face of seemingly intractable national conflicts. But we live in a diverse community right next to people who share very different positions with equally passionate conviction.

In our own backyard, we have an opportunity to apply the lessons of mediation, to find our own common ground through quiet conversation.

If we can do that, we can join Northern Ireland and hundreds of other unsung peace processes around the world, leading our representatives to sit down — out of the glare of media cameras — and look each other in the eye, and hear each other in a new way.

That’s the kind of leadership that can make America’s big shift happen, not just in the weeks ahead, but during the many inevitable challenges — and opportunities — to come.

Christopher Fitz is executive director of community engagement at Lancaster-based Advoz: Mediation & Restorative Practices, which was created by the merger of Conflict Resolution Services and the Center for Community Peacemaking. Mila Pilz, executive director of program operations at Advoz, contributed to this column.

This article appeared on the Lancaster Newspaper Op-Ed section on January 27, 2019.


Advoz Works with 900+ in Annual Report Highlight

We’re excited to see increasing stability and growth as Advoz’s had its first full fiscal year as a merged entity ending May 31, 2018. This report outlines the many people engaged in our dialogue programs along with the funds raised and expended for that work. The graphs do not depict the nearly 100 dedicated, skilled and trained facilitators, mediators and trainers who donate their time to  make resolution and restoration possible and affordable for so many.

Thank you for your contribution towards Advoz’s growth this year through meaningful dialogue. If you want to continue your support into 2019, you can get involved by making a donation or volunteering.


Adding Voice Upstream

Chris Fitz
Executive Director, Community Engagement

I was on a family hike with my wife and kids a few weeks ago. We descended a wooded trail into a beautiful glen, hearing the ever-louder creek and its gushing current below. But reaching the bottom, we found human-made trash strewn on the bushes and trees around us. Broken boards, twisted roofing, television sets, and yes, even a kitchen sink. A flood had literally scattered the contents of homes more than a mile downstream. We were struck sober and dumbfounded from the imprint of nature’s violence months later.

At Advoz, we see the impact of another kind of violence scattered downstream. Violations in schools and around our community end up at our doorstep months after they occur, often leaving behind a traumatic imprint on those involved, directly or indirectly.  And the “cleanup,” like at our creek-side trail, is a lot more difficult and costly after the flood has spread its damaged goods for miles downstream.

One of Advoz’s founders, Lorraine Stutzman-Amstutz, recounts a formative story in which she was asked to mediate with two boys who tried to fight at their school. They had been immediately suspended when the administration learned of their plot.

“What have you learned?” Lorraine asked.

“Not to fight in school,” one of the boys said. They admitted to planning another fight, but this time, out of school.

Lorraine then asked them why they wanted to fight in the first place. As it turned out, there had been a genuine misunderstanding. The disrespect that one of the boys had heard was false. In fact, the younger boy had looked up to the older. The ice was broken. And the two agreed to sit beside each other for a week at lunch and send the message to their friends that the fight was off, saving face and making peace at once.

As the two were leaving the room in a lighter mood, one stopped at the door, turned to Lorraine and asked, “hey, how come we didn’t see you before we got suspended?”

That’s a question we are increasingly asking ourselves and our partners, especially in area schools. What preventative, responsive and restorative actions are we taking before reacting with isolation, punishment and shaming?

“How come we didn’t see you before we got suspended?”

Youth after restorative dialogue in their school

Approximately 1/3 of Advoz’s restorative dialogue cases originate from area schools. Because of time delays, many participants from these incidents refuse to participate in a restorative process. Our downstream vantage position often fails to serve those involved in the original violation. Both schools and those challenged in their system always have a fresh stream of crises to keep them busy. With increasing social isolation and tech-related dysfunctional responses to conflict amongst our youth, a new vantage point is needed to help face the inevitable floods our communities face.

One recent case we facilitated illustrates the challenge and the promise. A sophomore with special needs becomes agitated in class, lashing out and pushing her teacher. She is charged with simple assault and leaves the school district. More than a year later, Advoz sees the case. Much has happened, but the student and teacher have never gotten a chance to address the incident directly. Both agree to a restorative dialogue which happens outside of the school. And the student, now a junior, her family and the teacher emerge with a sense of closure.

“We had a clear path forward. At the end, there was closure, a sense of healing,” the teacher recounted.

The teacher, who is also a coach at the high school, is talking with Advoz about how we can work more closely with his school.

“We can use more restorative justice. Advoz plays an important independent role, different from our school or law enforcement.”

The nationwide epidemic of school threats and shootings, has woken public attention to the need for preventative work. But this violence is symptomatic. In 2017, 28% of Lancaster County students, grades 6-12, reported being bullied in the past year, up 50% from 2015, according to the state PAYS survey. Clearly a more holistic approach is needed to work upstream and build a culture of peace in our schools and community.

In conversations with school officials, we often hear from staff overwhelmed with lacking time, energy or money for intentional work to improve school culture. Meanwhile, others downstream—in police, courts and prisons—face the impact of violence and trauma downstream with a limited toolset that often isolates and shames those involved. They too benefit from complimentary, restorative approaches.

Just two years into its merged work, Advoz has worked with more than 900 people in restorative dialogue, mediation and training. All that has been accomplished with support from many of our visionary readers who value the unique role Advoz plays in healing the harm of violence and preventing it.

Last year Lancaster County spent $68 million on public safety and court-related expenses. As our annual report attests this year, we have offered a transformative, complimentary alternative to the services around us, all for a tiny fraction of that cost. And we’re not sitting passively, waiting for the next incident. Here’s how our programs work together:

1. Downstream: Restorative Justice enables people to find healing from harm and make things right after an offense.

2. Midstream: Mediation invites participants to resolve active disputes as they emerge.

3. Upstream: Training equips people and institutions who are often using our other services with skills and forms for handling conflict and discipline before it washes downstream.

Advoz has extensive history working downstream. Continued satisfaction surveys show that people experience healing, relief and empowerment in restorative justice and mediation. Just last month, we received a note with a donation from an anonymous participant (below).

  Our upstream training and educational work is just as rewarding, but more challenging to sustain. Yet, existing relationships with courts and schools situate Advoz ideally to address those underlying needs with training education. 

“Advoz” is a name derived from Latin and Spanish, meaning “adding voice.” The merger of mediation and restorative justice programs has empowered us to look beyond the crises that come our way each week and ask, how can we add voices to the equation that keep this from happening to the next youth? The next victim? The next family?

As a member of Advoz’s network, we invite you to add your voice upstream with us. Here are a few ways:

1. Think about your school, business, congregation or other group to consider how Advoz could help build a restorative culture of peace there, and give us a call to discuss training ideas;

2. Might you have training skills that you could offer to our community? If so, we’d love to hear from you. Go to www.advoz.org/volunteer to let us know of your interest to help;

3. Make a monthly donation to Advoz online at Advoz.org —> Donate or with your billpay system. There may be ways to multiply your impact like a company donation matching program, minimum IRA distribution or naming Advoz in your will or estate plan.

Peacebuilding scholar-practitioner John Paul Lederach suggests that “Voice” equals “power” + “meaning.” Like my family’s excursion on the flooded trail, we can all meaningfully participate, picking up the downstream items we find or walking upstream. But no matter how you contribute to Advoz’s work, you are meaningfully empowering untold hundreds more in our community.


Keeping the Thanks in Thanksgiving Conversation

Will your family be hosting a circle dialogue this Thanksgiving?

Many families have a tradition of going around the table and answering the question, “what are you thankful for this year?” This is a great example of an impromptu circle– just grab a talking piece (you can create one or just grab the salt shaker) and set the ground rules that when one person has that talking piece, everyone else is listening!

Remember, others will follow if you set a tone of openness and vulnerability for your circle! Promote strong dialogue with your family and friends this holiday seasons with the following tips:

Conversation starters to spice up your holiday table talk:

  1. What does it mean to you to give thanks?
  2. What expressions of gratitude would leave you feeling most appreciated?
  3. Who at the table would you like to thank personally and for what?
  4. If you could share Thanksgiving dinner with one famous historical figure, who would you choose?
  5. What question would you ask them?
  6. What are you looking forward to in December?

Tips for a constructive conversation:

  1. Avoid starting questions with “why”
  2. Start sentences with “I”
  3. Ask open-ended questions—questions that have more than a 1-word answer
  4. Use your good listening skills–that means no interruptions, watch your body language and try to paraphrase the facts and feels of the speaker
  5. Ask for clarification before making assumptions

 

Best wishes for a fun and productive conversation!


Meet Miles Iati, Advoz program intern

Advoz:  What are you studying these days?
Miles:  I am a psychology major focusing on developmental and social psychology. I am interested in research and study of trauma, childhood disorders, and addiction.
Advoz: Why were you interested in learning and serving at Advoz?
Miles:  I was initially attracted to Advoz because I thought that the Restorative Justice Conferencing would be a great way for me to get experience working with kids and to practice communication and conflict resolution skills. Now that I have finished the training and completed a few cases, I feel as though I have a good understanding of Advoz’s mission, and I’m looking forward to continuing to volunteer even after my time in the office. 
Advoz: What’s your favorite part about interning for Advoz so far?
Miles: I enjoy exposure to all the programs and trainings that Advoz offers. In addition to the Conferencing training, I also enjoyed participating in the mediation training.
Advoz:  Where do you plan to take the skills and principles learned at Advoz?
Miles:  I plan to use Advoz skills eventually as a school psychologist. Like the communication skills in Advoz’s trainings, I’ve gained some very valuable skills for my professional development.

Meet Erin Lee, Advoz program intern

Meet Erin Lee, our full-time program intern this semester. In her first month, she’s already brought a wealth of organizing and research talent. So let’s get to know her!

Advoz: What is your focus of study?

Erin: Social work with a sociology minor. My main interests include community development, social policy and administration.

Advoz: Why were you interested in learning and serving at Advoz?

Erin: I believe the mediation and restorative practices Advoz offers are essential to maintaining a well-balanced community. When our communities are balanced, there are so many benefits like mental and physical health, an increase in opportunities to develop essential skills for people to contribute the community.

Advoz: What is your favorite part about the internship at Advoz so far?

Erin: I would defiantly have to say, the diverse expertise and skills each staff member has.  When we are in a staff meeting, or brainstorming ideas, I am always learning new ways to analyze and think.

Advoz: Where do you plan to take the skills and principals learned?

Erin: I am currently applying to graduate school for my master’s in social work, concentrating in macro social work.

Advoz: Is there a story about a favorite scar that you can tell?

Erin: My favorite one happened when I was in elementary school cooking dinner with my grandma. I was chopping carrots to make a salad, and I ended up stepping backwards and dropping the knife right down into my foot. I don’t quite remember my reaction (probably tears), but I remember looking down and seeing the knife in the middle of my foot! Thankfully, the knife was small, and I didn’t have to go the emergency room. But I still have the scar on my foot as evidence that I should never be chef.

Say hello to Erin if you happen to come by the Advoz office on North Duke Street. And our Open House is coming up during the Extraordinary Give, Friday, November 16th, when Advoz hosts cappuccino (or chai) and biscotti on the house! More at www.extragive.org/organizations/advoz


Relationships and their Critical Conflict Moments

By Mila Pilz, Executive Director, Program Operations

A woman in her early 30’s called our office recently. She and her husband have two children living with them plus both of her parents, one of whom has Alzheimer’s. It was becoming too much to handle,  and she was unwilling to sacrifice one set of relationships for another. Could she and her adult brothers find a new way forward amid the tension and growing resentment?

At the core of Advoz’s values is a belief that conflict and harm are a natural part of our lives. Sometimes, they are even beneficial for our personal and relational growth. It is how we handle that conflict and harm—the process—that makes the difference. Will our hero’s family grow from the challenge or become increasingly divided and retreat to their own comfort corners? This next critical process defines the relationships and future of this family.

Her story is not unique. According to a May 2018 AARP article, “Millennials: The Emerging Generation of Family Caregivers,” there are 40 million family caregivers in the United States, a quarter of which are millennials. Millennials are loosely defined, but typically considered to be those born between the years 1980-1996. This means that 1 in 4 of the family caregivers are between the ages of 22-38; the same population that according to the Pew Research Center, made up 82% of US births in 2016. The “sandwich generations,” younger than previously thought, are maintaining a fine balance of taking care of their parents, their children and themselves. And it’s increasingly clear that many caught in these generational transitions need support to navigate the news kinds of conflicts that emerge.

Working with Advoz staff, our hero and key family members agreed to be part of an intentional conversation, convened by Advoz mediators, to address their many challenges directly. Taking place at their home to accommodate the elders’ needs, the intense session revealed new insights and options, even among family members familiar with the situation. Over three hours the family learned how afraid their father was about going to a retirement community, how the mother needed additional care, and how each of the siblings felt differently about working together. An agreement was forged that included research on retirement homes, medical and financial assistance. Even though the outcome had specific points of agreement, it was the shift in their relationships that was most salient.

For this family, and many others, “conflict” turned into “opportunity” because a mediated conversation enabled them to talk openly about difficult issues in a safe space. Their relationships could weather the storm of this life milestone and create the next big step…together.