On 19th and 20th October, we received visitors from Derry, who embarked on an “experiential learning expedition”, as Mickey, who initiated the project, called it.
Mickey had been in touch in the past months with James, our RP coordinator and Paul, the lead board member for RP, about the BYC RP story. He is managing the STARS project in Community Restorative Justice Ireland (CRJI), which delivers restorative practice training; his aim is to train youth workers in Derry’s area, and he wanted to give them a meaningful insight into how it can look once implemented.
It started with a fascinating tour of the area led by Terry Fagan, a local historian, who unfolded for the group the layers of history of “Monto”, red light district run by ‘Madams’ under British Rule, then tenements, with a few famous institutions like one of the Magdalena laundries, affected by the first waves of heroin coming to Ireland in the eighties… it sounds grim, but with Terry’s words, it’s a vivid human story of courage against adversity. From an RP perspective, it’s significant to be reminded of how much trauma the area has carried over the last 150 years, especially for women, from prostitution, poverty, and grief. And also the incredible resourcefulness, courage, sense of fun and solidarity people have demonstrated. One staff member native of the area said he didn’t know many of the stories Terry told us. RP is about storytelling also, and it sounds especially relevant to promote this approach in an area where there are so many stories to be told and maybe not enough opportunities for people to tell them and for others to listen.
The visit was followed by sessions about the various implementation elements: planning, training, sustaining, and reaching out. We tried to keep it as experiential as possible, alternating testimonies from our experiences, group discussions, pieces of training and participation in restorative processes.
The discussions highlighted the commonalities between the two areas, affected by poverty and violence, and the benefits RP can bring in a complex environment. Feedback from the Derry team has been very positive. Participants preferred the second day, more interactive, with the fishbowl circle and the North East Inner City Community of Practice run by Emma Weathley and attended by corporate funders from SMBC Aviation. You can read Mickey’s article on the visit. It is great to see that there were meaningful outcomes and that participants have already made the first implementation steps.
Last but not least, these two days were very enjoyable and are a tribute to the Derry team’s openness, enthusiasm, commitment, engagement and sense of fun!