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Initiative to reduce violence

Several organizations have embarked on initiatives to reduce violence and its devastating consequences. These include mediation, counselling, conflict resolution and sports. Recently, we have been hearing about the Alternative to Violence Programme, which seeks to identify and analyze violence in its different forms and to provide alternative solutions to address the situation.   The Alternative to Violence Program originated in the United States; however, activist, Cynthia Ellis-Topsey has brought the program to Belize to see how it can help reduce the violence that the country is exposed to on a daily basis. On Saturday, Ellis-Topsey held one of the Alternative to Violence workshop at St. Ignatius High School in Santa Elena, Cayo District.

Cynthia Ellis-Topsey – Activist: “So far we’ve had three, this is the third one and I was one of the first Belizeans to be exposed to this methodology because I was blessed to be in the United States some years ago. I went to visit the prison and that’s when I became exposed to this program that came up at Attica upstate New York and that was where the alternative to violence project had been developed. I was so excited by it that I went to visit Attica for six  years I would go to visit prisoners there and I would work through this program and also I was an apprentice in the methodology for many years in restorative justice and many other approaches.”

Love News also spoke with Carmen Hamilton, the coordinator of Alternative to Violence Project, who said the program provides the tools that will examine the root causes of a person’s violent behaviour.

Carmen Hamilton – Coordinator, Alternative to Violence Project: “We have to get to the roots and so I found alternatives to violence gives us those tools to look at, identify, and work on our feelings, speak our feelings and speak our own truth. Our four main building blocks lead to community building and we deal with self first and then we find out how we can better communicate with others in our community, it doesn’t matter if our community is a group of three, four or twenty four.”

Rebecca Barber, the Apprentice Facilitator said that the program provides hope.

Rebecca Barber – Apprentice Facilitator, Alternative to Violence: “There’s always a light in dark places and even and if we could throw up our hands and say ‘it’s the end of the time and violence and violence it’s gonna be what it’s gonna be.’ there is still a responsibility to those that believe those kinds of things that you still she light in the dark places. And so it gives a testimony to non violence and peace even in the midst of maybe what we think of as dark and violent times. So we’d always have that thread of light and that thread of peacefulness.”

Hamilton advised that the four pillars in the alternative to violence programme are: affirmation, communication, community building and trust.