Thursday, October 11, 2018

When Beth Fuller took part in a Creators of Peace Circle in 2014 in Wingham, regional NSW, a lot of the content resonated with her personal values. She then trained as a Circle facilitator, keen to share the information within the community.

Then, Beth moved north to the Kempsey area, and took the time to ‘sit’ with the knowledge she had gained. In 2017, the time was finally right to offer her first Peace Circle, with Ada Mackay as co-facilitator. She also signed up to do courses at the University of the Third Age (U3A) in Kempsey.

The University charges a $5 enrolment fee for courses and provides community venues for classes, which are facilitated by volunteers with expertise in their subject. Participants are all in their early to mid-fifties and older, with plenty of life experience.

‘Here, I felt I had found the right community,’ Beth said as she reflected on her reasons for looking to U3A as a channel for delivering a Circle. ‘Creators of Peace was a natural fit for a community that would engage, dialogue and actively participate.’

 U3A participants, with Beth Fuller (standing, third from left). 

U3A participants, with Beth Fuller (standing, third from left). 

Beth registered Peace Circles as a course under the University, and ran the first Circle in February this year, once weekly over a period of seven weeks. There were nine women and one man in the Circle, and their collective response, at the end of the Circle, was that they had ‘rich conversations that otherwise wouldn’t be had.’

The interest this Circle generated led Beth to offer a second one, in which she had four repeat participants from her February Circle, including the man, and a couple of new members. The second Circle was run over two half-days and Beth changed the format slightly. This half-day timing, she felt, allowed conversations to flow more naturally than in the weekly sessions. As most of the group were revisiting the Peace Circle experience, she also combined some of the separate ‘gathering points’ that provide a structure for storytelling and sharing through the course of a Circle.

These Peace Circles also differ from others in that Beth has been the sole facilitator, due to a lack of trained facilitators in the area. Beth adapted some of the ‘rules’ of a traditional Creators of Peace Circle to suit her participants. Often, she sees herself as ‘a traffic controller’ when the gathering points generate discussion. She has used photographs from magazines to substitute for the ‘photo language’ cards and often sets ‘homework’ like asking people to consider how they would apply peace in life situations and report back at the next meeting.

The male participant, who is divorced, said, ‘I can understand now why things didn’t go the way I expected’ in his marriage. He had never sat down with women before and had these deep conversations. The telling of his story was very important to him, and he rang Beth several times beforehand to get it right!

Beth is continuing to foster these connections by holding monthly meetings, three so far. The group has made a commitment to continue in 2019. In these gatherings, she explained, ‘everyone meets, has a cuppa and a discussion’ using the format similar to the monthly meetings of Creators of Peace networks in the Auburn and Hills areas of  Sydney. In one meeting, discussion centred on sustainability and ethical living, minimalism, and maintaining connections within community.

‘This is the joy I find in Creators of Peace,’ said Beth. ‘The opportunity of introducing threads relevant to women, which people can pull together in their own lives.’ – Zohra Aly