Friday – July 6, 2018
Hello dear archiving group,
How are you? I hope you are having a pleasant summer, I saw some of you have plans for vacation so I am happy about that 🙂 I hope you all get to have a good rest and restore your body, mind, soul.
So, I just wanted to update you on a few things: first is that FRIDA needs a report from us about last year’s meeting for archiving. I am thinking we don’t have much to offer them in terms of anything we have produced, because we have not managed to find funds to do the work we planned to do for archiving. However, I would like to work on a a prezi website to tell our story with as much archival material as possible. I know that Gamze and Tuba have done some work, so maybe we can use your suggestions and/or videos for the website? Have you completed any videos at this point?
We have some funding from the FRIDA grant so maybe we can compensate you for the work you have already done and if/when we have more funds we can keep improving. At this time, I have applied to two funds this year so far and both have been rejected. I have applied to another grant through the U.S. Embassy here in Yerevan for peace-building projects about two months ago, but I have no news yet. So the final meeting we wanted to have at the end of this summer will most likely not be taking place…
So basically I feel a bit stuck because of no funding and I want to work on some things on my own voluntary time and with others if you have the time, energy, resources, but I understand this is not always possible. So I wanted to see what you think if I go ahead and just work on the prezi website and maybe if you get inspired you can contribute with some things also whenever you have the time.
And the last thing, sorry for a long e-mail, but I wanted to update you on the retreat, which Elvira and I facilitated with/for Georgian feminist activists. I am attaching a short report I wrote for the Georgian Women’s Fund who was sponsoring the retreat. I just have to say I was so so inspired, I started to trust myself, others and process again. So many of the things I have learned from you and others in the Beyond Borders group was with me during those 4 days and I have so much gratitude toward you for what you have made this project to be 🙂
This is all. I send so much love to you.
A feminist retreat for Georgian women human rights defenders tooks place in Gonio, Adjaria with facilitation from two members of the the Beyond Borders: Linking Our Stories Turkish-Armenian peacebuilding group. Prior to designing the program for the three days’ retreat meant to facilitate a process for resting, wellbeing and self-care for 18 feminist activists, an application process took place where applicants had the chance to explain their motivations for joining the retreat. After receiving all the applications the facilitators held one-on-one skype sessions with each applicant to make initial contact, connect with the main needs and get to know everyone on a face-to-face basis as a method for building trust before the retreat. The backgrounds and experiences of the activists gathered in the retreat varied from geographical location, to sexual orientation, to age. The retreat started through an exercise of non-verbal communication and connecting to oneself and to one another, followed by a day of “opening hearts” through meditation, storytelling, dance, image theater and emphatetic listening, leading to the third day of “collective being” through building compassion for oneself and for one another using art, nature and voice. The final day was dedicated to evaluating the days spent together and a combination of voice vibration with a heart meditation as a way to close the retreat in harmony with oneself and with the group.
Upon reflection within the facilitator’s team and with participants, it became apparent that the retreat successfully managed to reach its goals and even exceed those goals. These achievements include: strengthened connections among activists and feminists working around similar issues in Georgia; guided rest supporting the body and mind to release and relax; discovering new tools for self-care and wellbeing; renewed trust. Most of the participants of the retreat knew each other before, however there were about 4-5 new participants who connected to the others and for whom it was important to find like-minded people to feel less isolated in their own communities. One activist works in a less busy city than Tbilisi and she became reassured that she is not facing issues alone, as she feels she is doing in her own city, but that there is a group of women who understand her issues and are ready to support her if/when needed. Additionally, meeting new people and connecting in meaningful ways also has the potential to lead to future collaborations and opportunities for the group as a whole. And lastly, those participants who knew each other previously but not intimately, got to know each other better, discovered more similarities of interests and deepened their already existing connections.
In terms of retreating/resting one participant put it in perspective by calling the retreat “guided rest”. Indeed, the facilitators were supporting the group to release, breathe, relax, and play/find their creativity, which can be quite an enjoyable activity for activists engaged in difficult work. Often times when people go on vacation to relax from their stressful lives, it can take days to really turn off the noise from the work life. In the retreat, the facilitators gently reminded everyone that they are free to come to whichever sessions they want, and most of the time all of the participants came to all of the sessions. From the start of the retreat participants were already introduced to stillness, meditation, breathing and creativity as methods to pave the way for their rest. By the end of the retreat one participant who had a hard time working with breath affirmed that she had let go of that issue and could breathe with ease now. Another participant mentioned that her entire body was in pain and that she had been crying several times during the retreat, but for her these things were a miracle, because she had been frozen/stuck before.
In many ways participants also took new techniques and methods for self-care as well as collective-care to bring back home to themselves and to their own communities, women they work with, individuals they counsel, etc. The facilitators had included a diversity of methods from voice, vibration, meditation, art, dance, yoga stretching, breathing, rituals, nature, and storytelling so that all participants could take something that resonated and felt relevant to them. One participant has already reached out to the facilitators to share some of the methods in written form so that she can use it in the communities she works with by incorporating these methods into Forum Theater.
And finally, trust was refreshed among group members and reaffirmed for those who either did not know each other previously or who had difficulties in their relations. An important excersise in empathetic listening took place on the second day of the retreat, which created opportunities for people to speak to each other about different things that were on their minds and important to discuss. All of the participants reported that this excersie made them feel they were in a safe space, they were listened to and cared for and that they grew from this experience.