We welcome Jake Rauchberg this summer from Franklin and Marshall College and the Ware Institute for Civic Engagement. He’s joined Advoz this summer as a full-time intern, assisting in both programs and community outreach. Welcome Jake!
What do you study?
I am rising senior at Franklin & Marshall College and a native of Randolph, NJ. At Franklin & Marshall I study Government and Environmental Studies. I am also a Spanish minor, which gave me the opportunity to study in Havana, Cuba to learn Spanish and more about Afro-Cuban culture. My favorite parts about being at F&M is discovering more about the Lancaster community and all the County has to offer.
What was your motivation in selecting to learn and serve at Advoz?
I knew I wanted to be a part of an organization that was a champion for change in the Lancaster Community. For me, I knew Advoz was that organization! I selected Advoz because of their mission to champion community building and the positive long-term investment mediation and restorative practices creates.
What’s your favorite part about interning at Advoz so far and what are you most looking forward to?
My favorite part about interning at Advoz so far is learning more about restorative justice, and how restorative practices can make a proactive difference in your local community. I enjoy learning from the Advoz staff about the day to day tasks of a local non-profit, and I can’t wait to see Advoz’s mission put into action throughout the summer!
Where do you plan to take the skills and principles learned at Advoz?
I am applying for law school this fall, and I hope to take the value of mediation and restorative practices with me in the future. The idea of an alternative concept of justice is something I am learning about every day, and my goal is to apply the principle mission of Advoz to my future endeavors, wherever that may be.
When you are not in the Advoz office, what do you like to do?
I love the outdoors and hiking on trails around Lancaster, so I am always ready for a new trail or challenge. My favorite place to hike in Pennsylvania is Valley Forge National Park because of the park’s natural beauty, but also for my love of American history. I also love to play and watch soccer. I am a member of the F&M men’s club soccer team, where we travel to and compete against other colleges across Pennsylvania. I am an avid follower of the English Premier League, and my favorite club is Chelsea FC in London!
Look for Jake in Lancaster City this summer, kicking around alternative forms of justice with us as he contributes to Advoz’s court-referred and community-based work…or blazing a trail near you. Welcome Jake!
We welcome Sklyer Gibbon this summer from Lancaster and Millersville University. She learned about Advoz through our network of partners and mentors and has joined Advoz this summer as our full-time program intern. Welcome Skyler!
What do you study?
I am an English major with a concentration in Writing Studies and an African American Studies minor. I have always had a passion for writing, especially poetry. I enjoy watching other people perform their writing, as well. Through Millersville University I became interested in the connection of African American Studies and rhetoric. I will be graduating and moving onto my English MA studies at Millersville after Advoz and completion my thesis on the rhetorical influence of black preaching within hip hop culture.
What was your motivation to learn and serve at Advoz?
Initially, I wanted to go somewhere that would help me grow, while also utilizing my English degree skills to serve people. I was just browsing possible non profit internship opportunities online with one of my professors. He told me about his own personal experience with Advoz, and about the important work they do for the community. I had never heard of restorative justice conferencing before that and didn’t know why. I wanted to sign up immediately.
Also, I lived abroad a previous year as part of an international intentional community based in the UK. It was here that I learned the value of being vulnerable in order to listen, understand, and work through conflict with the goal of reconciliation. The idea that Advoz could help me build on that within my local Lancaster community was really exciting.
What’s your favorite part about interning at Advoz so far and what are you most looking forward to?
Going into Advoz, I was really interested in diving into everything. I participated in last spring’s conferencing training, and so I’ve just started a few cases now. That’s been really enriching, and a good challenge. Humans have an innate tendency to gravitate away from conflict, and I’m stepping into it.
Plugging in data has been interesting, too, because I have been able to see what narratives make their way into this office. Looking through them has only made me more aware of the significant opportunities restorative justice has in creating real healing. We then give others the opportunity to see faces attached to the narratives.
Where do you plan to take the skills and principles learned at Advoz?
Advoz has been very helpful with learning good communication skills, which means listening properly as well as communicating myself effectively. It’s really good practice in being dialogic, which will be so useful in my academic/professional/personal self. I’m practicing skills here that I will take with me forever.
When you are not in the Advoz office, what do you like to do?
I enjoy the arts. I like writing and listening to poetry, reading, seeing plays, films, any literary events…especially within the Lancaster community. I practically live in the Millersville English Department. I am also active in my church community, where I am a vestry member. Social justice is a passion and value of mine, so I like participating in different promotions of it, too. I’m really into riding my bike, which is an ethereal experience that I use often for commuting when it’s nice out.
If you’re lucky, you can see Skyler cycling around Lancaster, not just to and from Advoz this summer, but also to appointments with Advoz clients. Welcome Skyler!
We are pleased to announce a new slate of officers for our board of directors. Advoz, a Lancaster-based nonprofit providing mediation, restorative justice dialogue and conflict resolution training since 1981, recently named a slate of experienced officers to its board:
Lucille Connors, of Lititz and CEO of Significa Benefit Services, continued in her second year as board Chairperson;
Ken Nissley, of Lancaster and retired IT administrator and restorative justice case manager steps forward as board Vice-Chairperson;
John Bomberger, of Millersville, retired CEO of Choice Books steps forward as board Treasurer;
John Huber, of Lititz, retired Attorney at Gibbel Kraybill & Hess, steps forward as board Secretary.
Other members include:
Peter Faben, Attorney at Barley Snyder LLP;
Rob Bomberger, President at Benjamin Roberts, Ltd.;
John Eby, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Messiah College;
Dawn Gamble, CPA, CGMA, CFO consultant;
James Landis, Management Consultant at Core4;
Barbara Spiegelberg, retired real estate professional;
Deanna Weaver, Deputy Director at Lancaster Victim/Witness Services.
Advoz formed from the 2017 merger of Conflict Resolution Services and the Center for Community Peacemaking, both having served Lancaster County and beyond for a combined 59 years. In its most recent fiscal year, Advoz served more than 900 youth and adults involved in conflicts and crime to assist them through facilitated dialogue and education training. Demand for these services has risen 40% over the past two years, adding urgency to the work of Advoz’s board of directors to increase funding and volunteer involvement.
Advoz is one of the most active restorative justice and mediation services in Pennsylvania thanks to its partnerships in local justice system and support from volunteers and donors in the community.
Advoz staff is led by Chris Fitz, of Marietta, executive director of community engagement, and Mila Pilz, of Manheim Twp, executive director of program operations.
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.
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.
“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 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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
Maybe it’s the work we do with youth. Maybe it’s seeing the dramatic about-face change of heart in a conflict or crime. Maybe it’s the “a ha” you’ve had seeing your own relational skills make a difference around you. It’s clear after one year merging two storied organizations, that you and 2,500 others follow Advoz for slightly different reasons. But there is one big thread: change.
In Advoz’s first year, we’re seeing change in exciting ways. A surge of interest in Circle Process and deeper dialogue training, especially with schools, has doubled the number of people served. It also means that Advoz is becoming more community-involved as the graph (below) suggests. Thank you for supporting this change journey.
Advoz is serving the community in a large way with historic numbers in comparison to what we did as the Lancaster Mediation Center and the Center for Community Peacemaking. We served nearly twice the number of folks as in 2016, with a nearly equal number of youth and adults (860 and 833 respectively). The large part of those served came from the Restorative Schools Training in which 650 people took part, 450 being students from the School District of Lancaster. service that has grown quickly is the customized training, where we worked with 145 youth and 292 adults in various community groups. We have blossomed in our first year as Advoz and will continue to extend our roots to build a stronger foundation for reconciliation in Lancaster County and beyond.
When I think about my time at Advoz, I do not think about anger at all.
But, earlier this week, I observed some juvenile court hearings. I listened to the offenders in their own words while also hearing the judge’s rulings. I became not only angry with the idea of these offenders being challenged in their lives by the impact of their decisions, but also how beneficial mediation or victim-offender conferencing could have been in such situations.
Throughout the Spring semester, I was the Communications intern at Advoz. I had started in February, just as the merger announcement was about to take place – you could say it was a busy first week!
Looking back, most of my projects involved working within the database, adding pages to the website, and creating social media posts. However, the highlight of the semester was the Around the Table event. There was much for me to do leading up to May 4th, including scheduling some of the Silent Auction items & Sponsor posts you may have seen on Facebook as well as helping to organize the content for the Event Program.
Because my internship dealt with a lot of the “behind-the-scenes” projects in the office, it was wonderful meeting many of you during the event and being able to put faces to names! Listening to Dr. Arun Gandhi speak with such insight was truly inspiring, and it was a great way to end the event. As Dr. Gandhi mentioned, “Anger is like fuel in our car. We need it… but we must learn to use it constructively.”
Overall, interning with the staff of Advoz was one of my personal highlights of the semester: no anger here, by the way, just lots of coffee and laughter! I was extremely grateful for the experience, and I know everything I learned -especially the notion of focused, constructive anger to facilitate restorative justice- will stay with me going forward.
Hayley (right) enjoys the post-event meeting with fellow Advoz intern Zoie just before graduating from Millersville University.