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Living in the Process: An Intern’s Investment

By Sara Crouch, Program Intern

Restorative justice is first and foremost a process, rather than an outcome. That’s one of the major lessons that I learned as an intern with Advoz this fall. As someone used to learning new skills quickly, it took me a while to understand that being a facilitator requires constant learning and practice. These aren’t skills I can pick up by just attending a training, but a whole new way of approaching conflict and reconciliation which you adopt over time.

My three months with Advoz was a great opportunity to work with the passionate Advoz team. I strengthened my writing, outreach, and office skills and developed my teamwork and collaboration abilities.

More importantly, I attended Advoz’s trainings in conflict, communication and culture, restorative justice and mediation. These were definitely the highlights of my experience. I learned to be a better listener, a community facilitator and an impartial mediator. Above all, I learned about myself and how I approach conflict and relationship.

Some of the fellow trainees of the Fall 2020 restorative justice training.
Some of my fellow trainees practice facilitation in a role play at the Fall 2020 Restorative Justice Conferencing training (while wearing masks, of course!)

Advoz’s trainings broadened my capacity to actively listen and engage in constructive conflict with friends and family. They expanded my abilities to facilitate conflict transformation and restorative practices with others. These are life skills I know I will use in my future peacemaking work.

It was particularly exciting in my last month to apply my newly shaped skills as a volunteer facilitator with the restorative justice team. This experience was a lesson in just how much of this work is a process – and not outcome.

During my first case as a restorative justice facilitator, I felt pretty confident going into my introductory meeting with the youth offender. I just finished the training. I had all this practice in active listening and paraphrasing. I had done pretty well in role plays. As I looked over my manual, I figured this was as prepared as I could get.

We started the meeting. I introduced Advoz and confidentiality, and the meeting outline like a pro, and then we moved to hearing the youth’s story. I asked my first question and… my brain went blank. I couldn’t think of a follow up question. I knew what needed to be drawn out but wasn’t sure how to articulate a question. Luckily, my co-facilitator did, and the meeting ended successfully with the youth wanting to take accountability for his actions.

At first, I was disappointed in myself for not asking more questions, or forgetting part of the meeting. As I apologized to my co-facilitator, she assured me that it was a very successful meeting, and she told me the same thing after the next two sessions. After hearing more facilitators’ stories, seeing my co-facilitator at work, and noticing my own improvement from just one case, I realize that this work is not something you can just pick up one day. It’s building restorative habits in listening and perceiving other people.

I am so inspired by the facilitators I’ve met at Advoz. Not only are they facilitating restorative understanding between parties, they are also engaging in life and relationships restoratively. I now see each facilitation as an opportunity to witness reconciliation and the power of human goodness, while also learning about my own strengths and weaknesses.

Sara, bottom right, celebrates with the rest of the new Advoz restorative justice facilitators at the conclusion of fall training.

The other discovery I made is that Advoz’s impact cannot be measured in the number of cases completed or the number of circles held. The greater impact of Advoz is in sharing a different way of viewing conflict, harm, and communication with the community. Even if everyone can’t attend an Advoz training, the services open eyes to a different, more empathetic way of addressing harm and conflict than is common in our society.

Interning at Advoz, I was so encouraged by the number of community members who expressed their whole-hearted support for Advoz’s work and invested in building peace in the Lancaster community. If there is one thing that shows Advoz’s deep impact, it is the incredible passion and devotion shown by those most engaged – staff, volunteers and other community partners.

As I end this journey with Advoz, I feel empowered to continue using restorative practices in my own life and to take up Advoz’s mission of transforming conflict through face-to-face dialogue within my own community.

Sara Crouch Advoz Intern

Sara Crouch is in her final year at Long Island University Global studying Global Studies with minors in Arts & Communications and Spanish. During her free time, you can find her hiking, reading, and traveling. Upon completion of her BA, Sara plans to obtain a Master’s degree in Peace and Conflict Studies, and pursue a career in peacebuilding work.


Sociology Intern’s Observations

Becca spent a lot of her internship on the phone with clients.

  As a self-proclaimed Sociology nerd, I have come to understand that I look at the world through a certain lens. I recognize that I am constantly watching people’s behavior, looking for patterns or looking to see how their behavior fits into patterns already being studied in the world of Sociology. Because of this, for the past ten weeks, I have been looking for various patterns in the world of mediation at Advoz, and I have found one that really sticks out for me.

Early in my internship, I remember going to the courthouse with Mila to greet parties for a mediation. Prior to this, she had given me directions to not bring my cell phone, as it was a new rule in the Lancaster County Courthouse that no cell phones are allowed. I listened, but still forgot to leave it in the office. I remember feeling frantic and nervous when we got to the courthouse and I realized it was still in my back pocket. I had totally forgotten it was there because it is habitual to have it with me at all times. This got me thinking about why phones were banned for the general public, and the best I can come up with is that they are a distraction and pull individuals out of the present and into a world on the screen.

            As I have gone to the courthouse more and more times, I consistently see someone at the head of the line to go through security with a phone in their hands arguing with the guard about this rule. This made me think further about how engrained it is in society to have a phone with us everywhere, and how disruptive it can be when told we are not permitted to have them.

Finally though, upon observing some mediation sessions, I realized how powerful not being allowed to have cell phones in the courthouse really is, especially for the work that Advoz does. The mission of Advoz is “[t]o transform conflict and build community through face-to-face dialogue programs”, and face- to- face dialogue is only really possible when there are no distractions, like a cell phone present. So, the rule that cell phones are not allowed in the courthouse from my point of view has led to a very positive unintended consequence for mediation. By not having a phone available as a clutch to alleviate stress during mediation, clients are put in a position where they must speak with one another in order to reach an agreement. With this, I have become even more conscious in my everyday life to put my phone away when I am having a conversation with others; I have continued to learn how powerful it is to give someone your full attention and have seen how beneficial it is in terms of communication. It is something that I will continue to practice in both my personal and professional life, and something that I hope to inspire those around me to practice. It is in many ways a trivial change to make, but I believe that it is change that can aid in fulfilling Advoz’s mission to “build community through face-to-face dialogue.”

 


An Eye on Design: What an Intern Sees

Alicia works on designing Advoz’s first winter themed thank-you card

Working with Advoz has been incredibly interesting and insightful, not only when it comes to the work that they do, but for myself. I had so many mixed feelings about working here. As a soon to be senior at the Pennsylvania College of Art and Design, I was nervous because I knew I was going to be the only graphic designer in the office. I wasn’t sure if I was ready for that. It seemed like a lot of pressure and definitely intimidating.   But I wanted to work here; I liked the work Advoz does. I’m someone who thinks it’s best to work out problems rather than let them stew and end up boiling over, even if I do have difficulty talking about my own feelings. I also found Advoz’s Restorative Schools program to be incredible because I saw firsthand how zero-tolerance discipline policies didn’t work. So, I pushed my worries aside and got to work.

Since Advoz is still pretty new, its brand isn’t fully developed. I was working on a new slate, trying to figure out exactly what the brand would be like, what it would say, and I have to admit that I really enjoyed doing that. When you have a brand that’s already in place and fully developed, there’s not much you can do in the area of design.

For a designer, when a brand is new or just starting out, it can be a lot of fun getting to design everything from scratch.  I worked on new brochures, thank you cards, a banner and even a bumper-sticker! It can also be a little stressful. In each design I had to show their message, and when the brand is already in place, half that work is done for you. My coworkers and I would have to think about all the various audiences who would see the work and how they might interpret it. Being the designer in-house allowed me to see exactly what they did and gave me insight on how to create my designs.

I want to thank Chris, Mila, Angela, Becca, and Earldine for being so great to work with. I’m very appreciative to have gotten this experience, and I’m going to miss Advoz as I jump back into my senior year at PCAD!


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.