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Founded in 1998, CRJI aspires to build a tolerant, responsive and inclusive community by providing restorative justice services to local areas. 

CRJI Staff applying Restorative Values in different settings, have a look at Paula's take on it

The Restorative Garden… What’s that?

The concept of The Restorative Garden is very simple, it is a tool that is based on our values and is used to help people to learn and use restorative values to help them, in whatever situation they are facing. Our values, in essence are uncomplicated but in reality, are something that require hard work and support to achieve; respect, responsibility, relationships and restoration. So, in every day practice what does that mean? How does The Restorative Garden project work?

I have used my gardening skills over my years as a Practitioner in several situations and I am currently developing a programme that can be delivered to different settings. The initial concept happened organically during a case; my client at the time was at a very low ebb, she felt isolated and ostracised from the community. She had initially come to me to report several incidents of ASB at her home but as we talked in our quiet room it was apparent that there was more that she needed to talk about. On a follow up telephone conversation, it was clear that she needed to remove herself from a situation in the home and I agreed to pick her up; I took her to the local allotments which is a very quiet, soothing place and we just sat, talked and drank a lot of tea. She didn’t want to talk about the incident yet, the activities on the allotment distracted and engaged her, soothing her and restoring a sense of calm. We continued to do this for a few sessions up at the allotments and as we walked about and participated in the various activities she continued to open up. This often happened in the middle of weeding, she would reconnect with our previous conversations and add in more information or thoughts. I think that these small tasks give the mind time to rest and to recover, or to explore the thoughts that have been held back due to trauma. In this case during our gardening sessions our relationship had developed and she felt safe, she tentatively began to open up and eventually she spoke about the trauma that had engulfed her, through my responses to her she realised and accepted that she was a victim, it was not her fault. She trusted me and we began to plan for her recovery, which included a conversation with PSNI and a referral to a professional Counsellor in the relevant field of trauma.

I believe that this case echoes the values that we hold dear at CRJI – this client found a place were she and her story were treated with respect, she was listened to and she was heard. From this a bond of trust was formed between the Practitioner and the Client and through our conversation she was able to recognize and understand that she was not responsible for the trauma that she endured, she was the victim. Finally, and equally important she was able to restore what had been damaged, not just her well being but her need to be able to take back control and make decisions about what form of justice she needed, what that would look like for her.

In this case some might say that we could have had our sessions in our quiet room at the office, and perhaps the story would have unfolded anyway through our active listening sessions and explorations but I think that for this particular client this was a more bespoke, holistic and organic form of restoration and I am very proud to have been a part of her journey.

Harry and I recently participated in a Panel Q&A at Queen’s University and one of the audience members asked us if Restorative Justice and Practice could be used in her field which happened to be a residential place for young people. My response to her was that the skills and values that we use are transferable to any environment, they are life skills that CRJI feel should be taught from a very young age, at home, in school, through adolescence and into adulthood. I believe there are many ways of illustrating this to people, different Practitioner’s use different tools, my tool happens to be The Restorative Garden, and I am happy to keep on digging.


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