AVP in the Dóchas

Claire, a facilitator with AVP writes about her experience of running workshops in the Dóchas (women's prison in Dublin) in the past year. 

"AVP resumed offering workshops in the Dóchas in July 2017 after a few years hiatus. I began AVP workshops at Dóchas in April 2018 and I was very privileged to be asked by Dorothée to co-facilitate this workshop with her.  There were no inside facilitators at that stage, there were a number of women who had taken part in a Basic Workshop in 2017 or recently in Limerick Prison.  The weekend was a Second Level Workshop and it was very noticeable to both Dorothée and I after it that we were full of energy on the Monday morning! 
I have co-facilitated three more workshops at Dóchas (a T4F in October 2018, a Basic Level in February 2019 and a Second Level in April 2019).  Each time, I have been hugely energised by connecting and working with a group of awe-inspiring women over a weekend.  Oh, I have felt tired on each Saturday evening – and slept really well each Saturday night.  But I have been buzzing every Sunday and Monday! I am beginning to realise that I experience the Dóchas workshops as a good healthy dose of psychic, emotional and spiritual energy that lasts me longer and longer each time I take part in a workshop there.  

Why is this, I wonder?  I have found that women working together in the supportive, respectful and caring way that is the AVP process is simply a joy to experience.  The need that the inside women have for an experience of safety, respect and community is profound.  Every woman’s (myself included!) need for affirmation and self-esteem is also acute and to get that affirmation from women is hugely nourishing and healing.  And maybe one of the biggest contributors to my energisation process is the absolutely wonderful fun we have on these workshops!  I have found that I spend lot of time on these weekends laughing, sometimes so hard I can’t catch my breath and tears stream down my face. I honestly don’t know any other context (outside my home) where I laugh like the way I laugh when I am doing an AVP workshop at Dóchas." 

An AVP team member in the Dóchas Centre responded in writing. This is a short extract but a fair reflection of the whole meaning of the letter: 
'Your continual courses have had such a massive effect on my way of thinking and I have found l've gradually used more and more of the skills in my daily life and I feel so much better about so many aspects (...) I was always the kind that firmly believed in getting revenge, so as much as I wanted certain people in my life, I wanted to hurt them back (...) But now I can't even explain how much that mind-frame has changed (...)
Spending time considering what is behind people's action and realising that when somebody hurts us it doesn't always mean they are out to get us but that factors in their life might have led to it has helped me a lot. In the same way, realising how my actions which I might have before thought were nobody else's business have really affected others. Stepping back and looking at things in a different perspective has been enlightening (...) In other situations I've felt able to take that step in deciding to forgive (...) Even so far it has helped me build better connections...'