When Mark Vander Vennen and Anne Martin went to Port-au-Prince, Haiti in April to introduce Restorative Practice to Non-Governmental Organization community leaders and workers they had no idea what to expect.
Port-au-Prince is the capital city of the poorest country in the western world. Along with poverty, violence abounds. With language and culture differences, they wondered if what they had to offer would make any sense to workshop participants.
Before they arrived in Haiti, Mark and Anne were warned that not all the participants in their workshop would be able to read, and so Anne revised their training materials, trying to replace words with images, and distilling the information down to the most basic foundational elements. Using these new materials, and with the help of translators, the success of the training far exceeded their expectations.
Quisqueya Chapel offered an oasis of space and calm for the 3-day workshop. The participants responded graciously to Restorative Practice. A very impressive group of people, they quickly understood the basic tenets—how leadership is based on building and strengthening relationships, and how these relationships need to be grounded in high expectations, respect and support. They understood the power of fair process and the effects of shame. They experimented with asking questions that open people up, creating safe spaces for people to have difficult conversations. They reflected on the challenges of developing a healthy workplace culture.
Several months later, Anne was invited back to Port-au-Prince to develop a restorative process with a local organization. Being able to go beyond the training to helping participants establish the actual practice in their organization made the trip very rewarding.
Restorative Practice offers people a powerful way to relate in respectful and upbuilding ways both during times of cooperation, and when conflict arises. Shalem’s experience in Haiti shows how this practice is not limited by language or culture, and that people the world over respond eagerly when introduced to this positive way of building relationships and community.