AVP was founded in the prison system 36 years ago. It was developed in the think-tank with convicts and members of the community. They were looking for a program that would disseminate away from stereotypical behaviour people expected to see from those coming out of prison system. AVP is an initiative to assist ex-convicts with their integration into society. This program was based on the philosophical ideals presented by the Quakers.
I remember going through this program as a participant and learning that the Quaker philosophy was indeed a simple one, believing that there is good in everyone. It gave me much hope, hope that my life was not carved out for me by living what was expected of me in my trouble. With that thought I began a journey of self discovery, first as a participant in the program and I later trained and became a facilitator to give back to the program. Facilitators and participants are strictly volunteers, and what is discussed is strictly confidential. It’s the one place where as a participant you can be truly honest, and feel safe about it. All the volunteers take the time to spend a marathon weekend and explore the five different principles of AVP and how they relate.
The 5 core principles that lead these discussions are very simple: Community, Communications, Cooperation, Conflict resolution, Confidentiality
When I first joined the project I was sceptical. After all, anyone taking the time to be openly honest and look at causes, real causes knowingly or not is going to hear things they wont like about themselves. AVP does just that, it shows you who you are as an individual. I was honestly able to say I didn’t like who I was and that there was room for improvement – there always is. I’m not talking about just by going to school and things of that nature but to be truly honest with who I am in front of others and being able to accept the consequences of that, or make a change in my view of the world. I met a lot of different people over the years from all walks of life – I realised funnily enough that we are all messed up in some way or other, and that AVP addresses the shields we all wear.
I attended the 25th anniversary hosted at Green Haven Correctional Facility and I met many facilitators from around the world, this is how far reaching the program has become since then. People came from New Zealand, Scotland, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. When we were in attendance on that anniversary – it was very spiritual, if I had to pick a word. I have built my life on the foundation of concentric circles formed since I joined that program, and gained so much in terms of self development and rediscovery of myself. I am not the same person I was since before joining AVP.
I stayed a volunteer for ten years within this program as a facilitator, conducting workshops within various groups, such as street gangs, women of violence project and individuals who suffer from substance abuse. This program has given me much and I just wanted to say thank you, for allowing me the opportunity to give back to the community through this program.