Experience of working restoratively opens up a whole new world
The restorative kaleidoscope
It’s been an adventurous journey, the one that lead me to be involved in CRJI as project worker.
Literally. Spring 2020. The first lockdown hits hard everywhere, particularly in my home country, Italy, where I was at that stage. Planning to come back to Northern Ireland, where I had lived for several years before, meant another new start, another new job and another house move. But before doing all of that, I was seeking new and creative routes to reach the country with by any possible means of transport during a global pandemic.
My original decision to relocate in NI was due to my interest in the conflict, and more importantly, the will to find out how a peace process works -if it works-, to learn about conflict resolution, and investigate its legacy at a systemic level. When I stumbled upon the STARS Project while doing online research, I had no doubt that it was exactly what I had been looking for. Although I was returning, this felt like something new, something that I haven’t experienced before.
The Striving Toward a Restorative Society (STAR Project) aims at developing restorative practices within communities, at both a societal and an individual level. Throughout training and other moments of collective discussion, I had the chance to feed my curiosity and to gain both the theoretical and practical tools that enhanced my skills as project worker within the Aspire Project.
My professional growth, albeit important, was not the only aspect affected by this educational path. Restorative practices have become embedded in my mentality and in my way of interacting with others - they offer the means to interpret the world around me. It’s like looking through a kaleidoscope, where for every detail you focus on, there is a wider range of possibilities.
What parts of myself don’t I know yet, and what can I learn from them?
Having a restorative approach implies trying to create a dialogue with yourself first of all. To question your choices, to investigate your inner conflicts, to identify your needs, and validate your feelings. That’s the honest precondition that leads to build positive relationships with others and to bolster solidarity and cohesion within the wider society. Far from trying to provide answers, working restoratively rather aims at raising the right questions.
Working with young people in need of support, whether it’s substance misuse, or mental health, or anti-social behaviour, is primarily leading me to question my role as an adult and as a citizen. People can harm, disappoint, hurt, engage in actions that don’t have any apparent sense and only serve to damage other people, communities, and themselves as a result. When dealing with that, I’ve learned not to give in to indignation: instead, I wonder what the unmet needs behind such behaviours are.