In 2019 IofCA in partnership with the Southern Migrant Refugee Centre (SMRC) received a grant from the Victorian government to run Creators of Peace Circles for a period of two years in schools and with women in the southeast of Melbourne, spanning suburbs that are exceedingly rich in diversity. COVID-19 proved a challenge for the continuation of the project, as face-to-face sessions were originally planned. With Zoom available, in spite of the lockdown, the first Circle for women of refugee background commenced in August in a virtual format, comprising one two-hour session per week for seven consecutive weeks.
Athalia Zwartz, Shannon Ormiston and Liz Weeks facilitated the program, with seven women from Afghan, Burmese and Yugoslav backgrounds taking part, as well as an intern from SMRC. It was an adventure as we got to know each other and navigated the technology. Some of the women were supervising their children's school work as well as participating, or caring for little ones as well. It was harder than being in a room together, and breakout rooms were very important in discovering more about each other and building the trust to explore further. The story sharing was incredibly powerful and really knit us together as everyone shared the joy and the pain of their lives. On the last day no one wanted to leave the screen. We were women together, creating peace, especially in our homes. It was a rewarding experience throughout.
Our great hope is that a reunion in person, in a park, will be possible in November so we can catch up and get to know each other face to face! Another Creators of Peace Circle for the southeast on Zoom is scheduled to commence in late October.
'When you share your problem you feel stronger, also hearing others sharing their story gives you insight of their life and you see their strength in how to overcome an issue.' - CoPSE Participant, 2020.
Report by Alex Childs and Liz Weeks.