Thank you to all of our participants from 23 countries, the interpreters, volunteers and staff for a wonderful event.
We are thrilled we exceeded our $10,000 goal to provide more than 60 scholarships. We wish to express enormous gratitude to the Strachan Foundation, and our Scholarship Partners: Erin & John Bailie, Bill Ballantine, Silverman Family Partnerships, and Ted & Susan Wachtel – Building a New Reality, for their very generous scholarship donations, and everyone who made a gift to the Restorative Practices Foundation so that people could afford to attend this event.
Monday, June 6:
Miguel Tello, executive director of the Strachan Foundation, welcomed 260 guests to the IIRP Latinoamérica Conference. He gave an overview of restorative practices concepts and then introduced a theater group who performed a humorous skit illustrating a restorative response to a serious crime.
Dr. Doris Arias Madrigal, Magistrate of the Sala III of the Supreme Court of Costa Rica, gave the keynote address. She pointed out the parallels in physics and the work of Steven Hawking to stress that we must see the world not as a collection of isolated entities but as one linked by mutual relationships. With an integrated approach in Costa Rica, she has focused on providing holistic restorative responses. Research showed a savings of $10,000 per case using restorative justice and 96% satisfaction in how conflicts were resolved.
With so many people presenting, there were many highlights, including:
Keisha Martinez, an IIRP student, co-presented with her husband Christiano Martinez on their work in Trinidad’s prisons. They stressed the importance of bringing together various disciplines, such as music therapy and mentoring. They shared their personal journey, which spanned meeting while Christiano was incarcerated in a high security prison, through today, as they work collaboratively with others in the justice system. The session ended with attendees singing Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds (Don’t Worry About a Thing)” together in harmony.
Dominique Smith from City Heights, California, USA, presented with a student on the success in changing the school climate at their high school. While data showed a dramatic reduction in suspensions and a 99% graduation rate, Dom emphasized that the results were due to being very real and continually pushing the staff to try, try and try again. Yonas, a junior at the school who had struggled with attending classes, shared that one of the most important elements contributing to his success was realizing it was not just one person who cared, but everyone – from teachers to staff. While one person can trigger a change, Yonas noted, it took everyone working together to have an impact.
After a full day with more than 30 sessions to choose from, attendees enjoyed a traditional Costa Rican dance performance at the Welcome Reception.
Tuesday, June 7:
Guests attended more than 20 sessions in the afternoon, but all shared the experience of the morning panel, which featured inspiring stories:
From Costa Rica, Irene Ortega shared the experience of the Blue Valley School. Their philosophy, which centers around the respect of individuals, resonated with restorative practices. Since 2014, they have used circles as check-ins for feelings, teaching academics and to resolve conflicts. When students have conflicts, conferences have brought together the community. Students draft their own contracts with agreed-upon actions to make things better. Contracts include ideas of what they would do differently if a similar situation arises again. In this way, children are able to solve their own conflicts and build better relationships.
From Nicaragua, Dr. David Parajón shared the community-based primary-care health model of AMOS Health and Hope, which has resulted in reductions in infant mortality and malnutrition while providing better access to health services. By training local people as teams of health promoters in 23 communities in Nicaragua, there is increased community participation and a sense of ownership. The process begins with building trust, identifying community strengths and then listening to community priorities. They identify epidemiological priorities, build capacity for program planning, and implement and evaluate community health plans.
Kay Pranis has been using circles throughout North America since 2009 to support communities in developing safe spaces for healing. She has been invited to many communities to support work in healing and social justice including New York, NY, working for racial equity so that neighborhoods are less dependent on formal systems and can solve their own problems; Des Moines, IA, working with community volunteers to attend court proceedings to support juveniles; Grand Rapids, MI, working with police so that all new officers have the opportunity to sit in circles with the community as part of their training; and working with individuals to create safe healing circles to address past harms of victims and families impacted by familial sexual assault; creating safe places bringing together families of slaves and slave owners to address historical harms; and working with Native Americans to heal from harms caused by the removal of children from their families.