“How Alternatives to Violence Project helped me get my life back on track!”

By | October 29, 2016
Mary Kennedy, AVP Scotland FacilitatorHi my name is Mary Kennedy, and I’m a volunteer facilitator at AVP.
I heard the ‘Violence’ word and thought it was a self-defence course.
I hadn’t been listening when I heard about the charity which helped me get my life straightened out, because when I turned up for the workshop it wasn’t what I had expected.
I’d missed the bit about it being 16 hours long and the cost. Fifteen years ago it cost £50 now £95… but only if you can afford it. AVP doesn’t turn people away because they can’t afford to pay!
I had been frightened of other people’s violence and thought it might help me depend myself.
At the workshop I met a lassie about my own age. We shared our personal stories and she told me she was a Big Issue vendor. We came from very different backgrounds. We both had histories of abuse and mental illness. Both of us were in recovery and learning how to handle conflict. Other people in the workshop shared their stories too. Some had convictions for violent offences. Sixteen hours suddenly seemed far too short. I was getting so much from being around other people who understood about the effects of violence and learnt with them to use new tools to handle conflicts better.
Over the next few years I went to workshops as often as I could. I found that I needed to look at and change my own behaviour, the workshops helped me do that.
The workshops are as much for people who have been violent as for those who have been victims of violence.
Sometimes people ask me if they are ‘violent’ enough or ‘too violent’ to come. I always say ‘come along and find out for yourself’. People who have behaved violently come to workshops because they want to change. People affected by violence come because they want to change too. Most people have been at both ends of violence. Everyone comes as a volunteer, including the facilitators.
My full time work in the NHS brought me into daily contact with families stressed by mental and physical illness, poverty, domestic violence, addictions and homelessness. My own family life brought its own difficulties too and I needed the safe community of AVP people to help me find healing, new perspectives and tools to carry on.
For a long time I was happy to be a participant. But I knew that sooner or later I would be ready to give something back for all the help I had had over the years, so just before I retired from work I trained as a facilitator.
Another recovery…
Within a couple of years of retirement I experienced a serious health setback. A year later, after two ops I was in recovery again. Partially hearing, with balance problems and learning to live with uncertainty. The skills I had learnt from the workshops and the friends I had made in AVP helped me through it all and with a huge amount of support from family and friends I got back on my feet.
It took time to get my confidence back, but I’m happy to say I’m now back to work at AVP!
The biggest milestone in my recovery was when I began to help with the workshops in HMP Addiewell again, learning again and using my experiences and training to help other people on their journey to non-violence.