NYC-DR Round Table Recap- February 2010

For those who miss the monthly NYC-DR Roundtable Breakfast meetings sponsored by ACRGNY and John Jay College due to schedules (yes, we are all very busy conflict resolvers) or due to locations (I guess everyone doesn't live in New York City!), I plan to write a recap of each gathering I attend.

You can join the listserv by clicking [here].

Note 1: this is not an official recap nor is it intended to be one but rather it is just a posting of my notes and recollection from the day.

Note #2: For this month I credit Maria Volpe for contributing to this recap as well as editing it...Thanks!I hope you enjoy and feedback is always welcome!
For February's description from the invitation, see below in italics.
[Note: There is an edit at the very bottom]
The speakers were introduced by Mediators Beyond Borders Member and Safe Horizon Mediation Center mediator, Alan Gross.
Tom spoke first and mentioned how he was the “appetizer” which made me think two things, the next speaker, Ray, would be the main entrĂ©e and the other thought being I should have grabbed another mini-danish. As an aside, if going to these monthly round tables is to meet great people in the audience, see friends (old and new) and hear a variety of interesting speakers, please note that there is free coffee, tea and bagels!
Okay, with that said, back to the recap!

Tom continued with the following comments:

He said he was speaking from the “Quaker Mode” (which he did not imply was limited to just Quakers) of reacting non-violently to violent situations.

He works with the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) which is involved in “Healing and Restoring Communities”.

AVP works in prisons as well as with global projects set up in countries including Rwanda where AVP works with victims of genocide and rape. Tom mentioned light heartedly, while also compassionately, it’s “pretty serious work”. He also mentioned a project in Indonesia where they work with people caught in the midst of a 30+ year enduring civil war.

To put it mildly, AVP has grown and prospered all over the world (other countries were mentioned too).

Tom then introduced Ray who provided insights about his own experiences with AVP.
Ray began by noting that AVP workers are volunteers and how AVP work is “giving of yourself”. He stressed the importance of the work be volunteer based so they can concentrate on the work and not the “paycheck”. He did mention that he did not think it was necessarily bad for people to be doing similar work and getting paid- his point was to point out the “giving of yourself” aspect of AVP’s workers.

The workshops AVP does are very experiential. The participant’s experiences guides the workshops however there is a basic structure consistent with all the workshops.
Ray is originally from Brooklyn by the way.

There are non-Quakers involved in AVP.
They like to keep things simple; they have a modest budget yet they believe they make an impact on and benefit those they serve. Because of this view, they do have a national campaign. As Ray put it, “they are fearful of over-promotion!” Keeping it simple was explained as being effective. Their small budget has allowed them to continue to prosper during the current economic downturn which is endangering many other groups.

AVP was started in 1979 at Greenhaven Correctional Facility guided by the question: “How can programs be created in the prison system that are positive and beneficial to the people there?”
The AVP workshop is 3 days and again, simple. It is based on Affirmation, with the people participating choosing (positive) nicknames. Examples were “Radical Ray” and Bubbly Bill.” (Hmmm, perhaps I would choose “Jolly Jeff”…no, probably not.) Confidentiality and the informality of the workshop are stressed with the participants.

The workshop creates a community atmosphere for the inmates as well providing an opportunity to open dialogue.

AVP is the #1 volunteer program in the New York State Prison System.

After the first program, the prison participants stated, “we want more!”

Ray stressed how they train inmates to be facilitators which ensures that the workshops are run by peers. This is how AVP evolves.

In addition to the aforementioned information about prison connection, Ray noted that 6 board members and the current president have been formerly incarcerated. Those being served are also involved in the decision making process.

He mentioned how they also have free programs in the community for when people leave prison. One is called the “Landing Strip” which is set up in selected communities. While it is part of the inmates’ parole program, Ray also stressed one way to explain Landing Strip’s success is measured by the fact that many continue to come after their parole ends.

AVP holds an annual Family Weekend in Seneca Lake (upstate New York) as well as an international conference every other year.

We did a group exercise that is conducted during the AVP workshops. I will not describe it further other than saying it we had to stand and say “Zip”, “Zap”, and “Boing” to each other!

A graphic they include in their teachings/workshops is a mandala type design which you can see [here]. It is called a “Guide to Transforming Power.”(see above)

Johnny spoke next. He was formerly incarcerated in Sing Sing and became involved in AVP while serving time. He mentioned how he, like many other inmates, was leery at first of the workshop but embraced it. He, like many others, enjoyed it and was able to open up during the workshop.
He continues to work with AVP.

Someone asked if this is also done with women in prison and Ray stated yes.

Ray mentions how it was not easy getting the program into the prisons. What helped? “It takes time, effort, lots of meetings, and getting the right people to embrace it.”

For more info about AVP, go to
Alternatives to Violence

Our Speakers
Ray Rios and Tom Rothschild, both closely involved with the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) will speak about the work of the organization at the February 4th ROUNDTABLE breakfast.Radames (Ray) Rios, MPS is a Housing Works Program Director, providing education, counseling and support services for individuals and their families touched by HIV/AIDS and substance abuse in inner city New York. He has conducted dozens of Conflict Resolutions Seminars for AVP and has dedicated his life to making a difference with youth, former prisoners and those touched by HIV and AIDS. He currently serves as co-president of AVP-New York.
Tom Rothschild is a Quaker in New York City who has been involved for the past several years with AVP. Tom is also a mediator, facilitator and attorney in private practice. For six years, including two and a half as clerk (chair), he was involved with the Quaker Committee for Conflict Transformation, which assisted Quakers in and around New York in resolving conflict in positive and transforming ways.
The Alternatives to Violence Project is a grassroots, volunteer program committed to reducing violence in our lives, in our homes, in our schools, in our prisons, in our streets and in our society.
Their mission is to empower people to lead nonviolent lives through building a sense of community where people affirm one another and themselves and learn the skills to transform conflicts nonviolently into win-win outcomes. The AVP program was founded and developed from the real life experiences of people inside and outside prison walls. AVP encourages every person's innate power to positively transform him or herself and, in so doing, to begin to transform the world.
[Edit Sent Via Email:
Hi Jeff
...I have one minor correction. Healing & Restoring Our Communities (HROC) is actually an offshoot of AVP; it is not part of AVP, but is, if you like, one of AVP's "children." HROCis the name for the Quaker-sponsored program in Central Africa (formal name, African Great Lakes Initiative of Friends Peace Teams) that helps people deal with the aftermath of genocide and other violent divisions within communities. (I apologize for any lack of clarity on my part that led to the inaccuracy) ....

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