Getting the “why” of Advoz

From Marina McDonough, Advoz fall intern, sophomore at Harrisburg Area Community College

Interning in the Advoz office this past fall, I’ve seen some of the most routine and most interesting parts of the work. During one of our weekly meetings, we went through a group brainstorm activity that helped me think about my own contributions to Advoz. The activity looked at three levels of any organization or team and how to build a common focus, but it also showed me my own motivation for working for peace in the community.

The first level is the “what’s.” What do we do with our time in the office? What do we do with our limited resources? What services do we offer? For Advoz, this is volunteer trainings, dialogue-focused events, and most of all, mediations. Then Advoz shares as much information about the work as they can, with donors, volunteers and surrounding communities. This was my first stage of learning; I learned what was done at Advoz.

Next came the “how’s,” which are difficult to get in summary forms, like a monthly newsletter. How do we get from point A to point B? How does an idea become a campaign? And how does an eager individual become a mediator? I saw a lot of hard work, including hours’ worth of behind the scenes jobs that were necessary, but thankless and often unnoticed. I saw the process of reading feedback from volunteers, of making something better than it was the last time. I learned about the importance of diversity and cooperation within a team and the value of communication.

Finally, come the “why’s,” which are at the marrow an organization like Advoz. I spent many hours in the office, and learned valuable information about the how’s and the what’s, but what I will remember came from three hours on a Tuesday night when I had the chance to observe a mediation between two people. Experiencing forgiveness and kindness, or frustration and relief is a world of difference from reading a story online or a statistical report on restorative justice. As well as vulnerability and resilience, the relationship formed, if only for three hours, shone brightest. I was able to see a transformation of two opposing individuals, an offender and a victim, two human beings who understood and in the end, wished only goodness for each other. For me, that is the “why.”

At Advoz, I learned about the unquantifiable value of bare, unguarded human connection. To hear it through Herman Melville, “We cannot live for ourselves alone. Our lives are connected by a thousand invisible threads, and along these sympathetic fibers, our actions run as causes and return to us as results.”

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