By John McShane, Community Programs Director

One of my favorite participants in a peacebuilding workshop at a resident retired community told the following story: “Looking back, many of us can remember a time when we were picked on, bullied, or, in some way, made to feel unwelcome or alone. Sadly, this sometimes continues as we move to apartment or resident retired communities. It’s like high school all over again.” She continued, “The difference is that in high school, you had a friend to talk to or could even go home at the end of the day. Worst case was that you knew you were getting out of school one day, that there was an end in sight. The difference here, though, is that for new residents, we don’t have friends yet, we aren’t going home at the end of the day, and for many of us this is the last place we are going to live. We deserve better than that.”

Peace Learning Center began hosting community peace building workshops for retired communities in 2015. The training was provided to residents, staff, and management. Results were impressive. One Service Coordinator reports that:

  • Many residents’ shared they have decided to stay housed in the community.
  • Residents report an increased sense of belonging.
  • Residents are protecting, caring, and contributing to their community. Some Residents are volunteering to host events for the community and residents are also beginning to seek volunteer opportunities in the greater community.
  • Residents are reporting they are very satisfied with the apartment community, Service Coordination program, and the property management team.
  • Residents now have social and community connections.

Based on successes, experiences, and lessons learned, we have created a two-day “Train the Trainer” workshop for Service Coordinators and Social Service Workers, the Community Peace Building Academy. Prospective participants are those who serve either apartment based or residential communities. This two day workshop will be hosted at Peace Learning Center’s Indianapolis facility on March 23 and 24, 2017.

Course materials are based on PLC original work and the Help Increase the Peace Program (HIPP) manual created by the American Friends Service Committee, a time tested curriculum for community peace building. Participants will learn to facilitate PLC learning modules based on:

  • Conflict resolution
  • Communication skills
  • Community problem solving
  • Understanding diversity
  • Assumptions (Gossip!) and open mindedness

Academy graduates will be certified HIPP and PLC workshop facilitators and will be able to facilitate workshops at their own facilities. Valued at $600 per participant, PLC will provide books, materials, and lunch for the two-day training.

Working with the retired community has been a surprising and beautiful experience. Building and a sense of shared community through dialogue and storytelling has been powerful for all participants – including me. I’ve met and learned from an original “Rosie, The Riveter,” who shared her stories of building airplanes during WWII. I shared memories with Santa Clause! My friend, John, was a Santa at Indianapolis’ L.S. Ayers and Company in the early 1970’s. John told proud stories of his red velvet Santa suit. (There were two, actually. One to wear while the other was at the cleaners!) John and I did some math and think I may have sat on his lap, “back in the Day!”

The community spirit of dialogue with dignity and respect has been a springboard for minimizing conflict and misunderstandings. Watching residents create and grow their own peaceful communities has been inspirational. The Community Peace Builders Academy will help other facilitators to continue the work!

Find out more and register here