Advoz at One Year

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.

Learning about Anger: Intern Reflections

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 and Zoie

Hayley (right) enjoys the post-event meeting with fellow Advoz intern Zoie just before graduating from Millersville University.

Start with ‘discourse about discourse’

May 1, 2017

This was published May 1st, 2017 in OP-ED in print and online. Copyright © 2017 LancasterOnline. All Rights Reserved.

The April 8 article on the visit of Jonathan Haidt (“America’s Uncivil Discourse”) is a reminder of how the need for civil discussions is a central concern of this era, perhaps a lost art. Our political and cultural divisions are starker than ever. “Discourse about discourse” sounds like self-indulgence until we notice that many cultural traditions — and contemporary conflict resolution methods — take this step very seriously.

Ground rules, as they’re called in modern conflict mediation, are fundamental to the success of any dialogue. Where people share linguistic and cultural norms, ground rules often function invisibly. But in situations of escalated tension with diverse assumptions about “normal,” conversation about conversations is necessary. That’s the state of America today. Our diverse schools, businesses and communities are increasingly microcosms of a diverse society, including its conflict.

The insight of ground rules suggests that neither Haidt nor those he criticizes for demanding “safe spaces” are wrong. What may be wrong is prescribing the rules. Each challenging dialogue will have its own needs and goals. More likely than not though, people will want similar guidelines — respectful listening, equal chances to speak, refraining from putdowns, etc.

The point of creating ground rules for each conflict is not to shape unique guidelines. It’s to get buy-in for the eventual dialogue.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau suggested that democracy be periodically remade so that each generation could renew its sense of ownership. Similarly, in heated debate with diverse norms, our communities and institutions can be strengthened by inviting people who want to join the dialogue to jointly build that conversation from the ground up. Then when we begin the deeper conversation, we’ll be speaking in a space safe enough for everyone to be part of the change they seek.

Christopher Fitz
Executive Director of Community Engagement

Arun Gandhi’s jokes in visit, ‘I think you have convinced me that i should move to Lancaster’

Richard Hertzler | Staff Photographer
Arun Gandhi, an Indian-American author, scholar and political activist and a grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, speaks with Chris Fitz, executive director of Advoz, after his meeting with a panel of representatives from Lancaster outside the Lancaster Marriott.

Published May 5, 2017 in Lancaster Online. Copyright © 2017 LancasterOnline. All Rights Reserved.

May 5, 2017

After listening to a diverse group of Lancaster County residents describe their community at the Lancaster Marriott at Penn Square Friday morning, Arun Gandhi said it reminded him of the story his grandfather told of the blind men and the elephant.

In that story told by Mohandas Gandhi, also known as Mahatma Gandhi,  six visually impaired people felt various parts of the elephant. One who felt the legs said it was like a tree. Another who held the trunk said it was like a snake. Someone else who touched the body said it was like a wall.

To get a true picture of the animal, you need to put all of those pieces together. The same, he said, is true of a community.

Gandhi is a peace activist, author, journalist and agent of change. He founded the  M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence in Rochester, New York. He visited Lancaster at the invitation of Advoz, a nonprofit agency dedicated to transforming  conflict and building community through face-to-face dialogue programs. Thursday evening, he addressed 500 people at Spooky Nook Sports.

He spent Friday morning listening to 22 county residents from different backgrounds and walks of life describe their community.

What he heard was a belief that over the past 30-plus years, Lancaster has become more diverse, more accepting of outsiders, and better for it — as evidenced by the fact that Lancaster city is the No. 1 area for refugee settlement in the country on a per capita basis, according to the BBC.

Joe Moore, a member of the Lancaster Friends Meeting (Quakers), spoke of the racial, cultural and ethnic diversity in the city.

Deepa Balepur,  president of the Indian Organization of Lancaster County, said members of her community have easily integrated into life here.

Mukaram Syed, a business consultant and board member of the Islamic Community Center of Lancaster, said that from the outside, Lancaster looks like a closed community, but “it has a big heart. In seven years, I have seen Lancaster’s fabric change.”

“We will dissolve into your community like the sugar in the water. I think that’s a wonderful symbol of how we should all live in a community where we enhance each other and sweeten each other by our presence.”

~ Arun Gandhi


Richard Hertzler | Staff Photographer Dr. Arun Gandhi an Indian-American author, scholar and political activist and a grandson of Mahatma Gandhi is shown speaking to a panel of Lancaster representatives. To Gandhi’s left is Thomas Ryan, Lancasterhistory.org and at right is Leroy Hopkins, retired professor from Millersville University.


Mayor Rick Gray attributed people’s acceptance, in part, to the underlying influence of the peaceful and respectful Anabaptist community.

Others addressed the local work ethic and deep history of Lancaster — how the promise of religious freedom guaranteed by William Penn and the adherence to democratic principles have contributed to the  fabric of the community.

When asked his impression of what he had heard, Gandhi quipped, “I think you have convinced me that I should move to Lancaster.”

Noting the diverse perspectives  presented Friday, Gandhi referred not only to his grandfather’s story about the elephant but about Zoroastrians, who left Persia sometime between the 8th and 10th centuries and sought a home in India, which was then ruled by various kings. One king, Gandhi said, held up a full cup of water and told them that like the full cup, there was no room for them.

At that point, one of the Zoroastrian leaders took a spoon of sugar, stirred  it  into the water and said, “We will dissolve into your community like the sugar in the water.

“I think that’s a wonderful symbol of how we should all live in a community where we enhance each other and sweeten each other by our presence.”

Were you around the table with Dr. Gandhi? Complete the “talk back!”

If you had any doubts about the hope and resilience for adding voice in South Central Pennsylvania, I imagine they are now erased. The turnout, the participation, the generosity and the feedback in the last 24 hours from Around the Table is humbling now to receive. Thank you for being part of this special experience.

Add your voice one more time in this 3-minute survey on the event by clicking on this link: https://goo.gl/forms/b06xdAcNLHbotSB92.

We have reached 1,000 Advoz fans on Facebook! Click here and push us to a new level!

We are tallying up the fruits of your incredible generosity now, but before we have a final tally, I welcome you to post your own photos to social media and or enjoy a few here and on our Facebook page. Include #AroundtheTable2017 and #AddYourVoice and our username: @AdvozPA on both Twitter and Facebook.

Before he left, Arun Gandhi shared with some of us how our conversations are like a story of seven blind people describing an elephant. None of us can describe fully what the elephant is, but together, when we speak clearly and listen–we begin to see the big picture, the whole community. Thanks for adding your voice, for listening and for furthering Advoz’s work of transformative dialogue.


Restorative schools is a first benefit of merger

CCP, CRS join to offer proactive, responsive and restorative conflict services under one roof

February 16, 2017 was a bitter, cold and blustery day, but that didn’t deter a stalwart band of peace-builders from venturing onto Lancaster’s Penn Square to “flash” the new name and merger of Lancaster County’s two long-serving organizations addressing conflict and crime to form a one-stop-shop for face-to-face dialogue programs: Advoz.

Pronounced “ad-vōss,” the word comes from the Latin for ‘voice,’ inherently meaning, ‘adding voice to dialogue.’ Its expanded mission, to transform conflict and build community with face-to-face dialogue programs, was discerned by consensus by the boards of both founding organizations.

Lancaster has a rich tradition of leadership in building peace. The Lancaster Mediation Center (later CRS) was founded in 1980 early in the US mediation movement. Similarly in 1994, LAVORP (later CCP) was formed at an early stage in the restorative justice movement. By 2017, both organizations worked in ever more proactive ways with people in conflict and have come of age.

The merger now allows Advoz to take a new proactively with local schools. With restorative practices technique of inclusive dialogue and classroom circle process, Advoz is part of a movement gaining steam nationwide to reverse the harmful trends of zero-tolerance discipline that exclude youth from their peers and increase their chances of lifelong criminal involvement. In 2016, 30% of juvenile justice cases referred to restorative justice from around Lancaster County happened at schools. Already underway at the School District of Lancaster, Advoz’s Restorative Schools project will equip more schools to address harm in youth violations “upstream” and prevent needless justice system involvement.

Lancaster County has been unique in Pennsylvania having two active services for mediation and restorative justice. While such services are legislated in other states because of their effectiveness and efficiency, our programs have thrived because of cooperative relationships with our county courts and generous community contributions.

Your support has made possible the joining of two leading programs in an even more effective and innovative force, bringing together more than 60 highly trained volunteers with a streamlined administration and board of directors. Your involvement—donations, event participation, facilitating, volunteering, praying, spreading the word—your voice—helps to realize the potential of our community to truly transform conflict into an opportunity for growth.

Arun Gandhi to recount boyhood lessons with grandfather

In what is shaping up to be a unique and interactive kickoff dinner event for Advoz, Dr. Arun Gandhi will literally speak “around the table” in an in-person interview  with Scott LaMar, WITF’s Radio Smart Talk host, who is also receiving the first Dignity in Dialogue Award on May 4, 5 pm, at Spooky Nook’s Olympic Hall.

Arun Gandhi grew up experiencing bullying and racism as a youth in South Africa, but learned about peacemaking and reconciliation during the two years he lived with his grandfather, Mohandas Gandhi. The elder Gandhi, a lawyer, pacifist and an activist, became the leader of the Indian independence movement.

Dr. Gandhi founded the M.K. Gandhi institute of Nonviolence in Rochester, NY, to help young people achieve a nonviolent, sustainable and just world. He has authored and edited several books on nonviolence, social justice and his grandparents’ legacy.

The event theme, Peace: The Next Generation asks, “How do we build a culture of peace in a divisive world, particularly for our youth and succeeding generations?” And the event will facilitate conversation on the theme around every table to add your voice. Find out more and register at:  AroundtheTable.org.

Register for Around the Table

Adding Voice – Advoz is Born

Merger of Center for Community Peacemaking and Conflict Resolution Services unifies dialogue programs

The 14 year-old boy looked down at the floor through most of the dialogue session. Then the others in the room, those he had robbed, asked him, “what do you want to do with your future?” There was a pregnant pause.  He grasped for an answer; he wasn’t prepared for such a question about his life, his purpose.

It’s a scene that plays out again and again in restorative victim-offender dialogue.

After writing the acclaimed Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey later identified a wholly different “eighth habit” that gives people purpose and greatness: finding your voice and helping others find their voice.

Covey’s work, which arose from feedback on his original groundbreaking book, shows a growing understanding that communication and empathy are both moral imperatives and survival skills in our post-industrial economy.

And “voice” has become a central theme of forming Advoz from two dialogue-focused organizations joining. Our name, Advoz, discerned unanimously by more than 20 board and staff members, derives from the Latin and Spanish for “voice,” or “adding voice” to dialogue. And an imperative for “adding voice” shows up again and again in our work:

  • The young offender who is asked about his life vision;
  • The crime victim who gets to be heard by those most involved in the violation;
  • The neighbor listening for the first time to the other side of their dispute;
  • The group that shifts their focus to their talents and vision and away from their weaknesses and divisions.

Add to all this the disempowering political news cycle, and it’s clear: the need for “adding voice” is more pressing than ever, in our personal, professional and community lives.

Your involvement with CCP, CRS and now Advoz, is now playing a growing part in cultivating “purpose and greatness” in Lancaster County and beyond.