Dates: September 1-4, 2002
day was acclimation day. My first AVP International Conference! There were
no scheduled events for the conference, just registration at the University
of Lagos Guest House Quarters. This was my first trip to a third world
country and the transition experience made immediate impressions upon me.
were met at the Lagos International Airport by four AVP Nigeria
representatives who immediately took charge
of exiting the airport premises. We saw why as soon as we were through
customs. Hawkers, beggars and teams of porters descended upon us. Our AVP
team selected porters and ushered us to the parked cars. Confusion reigned
for us unfamiliar with "normal" Nigerian culture. Uniformed
officials halted the cars and were "offered settlement" by one car
and refused settlement by the other. Off we went into traffic that was
unimaginable, even in New York City. Roads and buildings in disrepair for
miles on end. Dirty litter everywhere and people bustling everywhere.
traveled with Eddie Francis and were at once made comfortable and welcome by
his interest in us and for our well-being. He indicated points of interest
and historical commentary with an immense sense of pride. We arrived at the
university compound (a gated, extra large, multi-community area with as many
broken, deserted buildings as those being used.) The Guest House quarters
were top quality and safe by Nigerian standards but probably described as
dingy by U.S. standards. The locale was in a corner of the compound with a
relaxing tropical lagoon for an outdoor view.
Chiemeka, AVP Nigeria National Coordinator,
was extremely attentive. He paid personal attention to details such as
having functioning air conditioning and switching our room when we didn't.
He was liaison between all local people, establishments, and travel arranger
extraordinaire! He enjoyed his role of host and attempted to accommodate
most all requests concerning travel and housing before, after and during the
Conference with energy, efficiency and a great smile. Thanks very much to
the local Nigerian AVP people, my immediate impression was of the
extraordinary friendliness of the people. All were eager to socialize,
interact and share directly of themselves. All we met were extremely
engaging, direct, curious and fiercely proud to have us visit Nigeria.
I get ahead of myself. The first day was spent checking on familiar faces:
Ellen, Jane, Teresa, and Toby. And, politely meeting new faces: Sebastian
from India, Tonho from Brazil, Marc from Canada, Moses from Liberia, and
later Bob Barnes and Giri from Australia and Kaki and Mutheu coming from
Kenya. It was comforting and exciting to meet people with common AVP
threads. We managed a quick trip to a "cyber café" and a local
restaurant within the university community in the evening.
Conference Day 1:
Speakers and Sessions
rather formal beginning with introductory speeches by the Project Manager
for the International Red Cross for Nigeria,
Carol Osborne. A short talk correcting the roots of AVP from Greenhaven to
preventing a prison riot in Oklahoma was delivered by Ellen Flanders for the
U.S. Marc Forget spoke for Bill McMechan on “How do we get an
international organization unified?” Toby Riley read an address from Ann
Ward and regrets from Steve Angell who was in Serbia doing workshops. Other
countries expressed greetings; Australian greetings from Great Giri,
Brazilian words from Talented Tonho, India well wishes from Sebastian and
Giri, Canada represented by Marc Forget, Great Britain greetings from
Grazyna, Kenyan greetings from Mutheu, New
Zealand's official invitation to 2004 AVP International Conference offered
through Teresa Tyson, and a plea to begin AVP in Liberia from Moses Jackson.
The representatives from the Nigerian districts, North, East and West were
was done in a very large horseshoe of about forty-five
people with a podium at the end. All the while there were
photographers walking in the middle popping off pictures and videographers
taping the event for both posterity and the local news station.
introduced ourselves around the circle and then became acquainted with one
person whom we had never met before to be "our buddy." My buddy
was Adamoh Mustapha. A beautiful, single, Muslim woman working with PRAWA.
Tea break brought us headlong into "snap" opportunities. The media
cameras were interviewing attendees (whites who were obviously not local).
Also, many people requested posing for a barrage of photos with new
acquaintances. We learned the reason by lunch when the photographer returned
with the pictures (excellent quality) and sold them to all who desired to
buy them. This remained a constant "service" wherever we were. For
the most part it was very flattering, pretty convenient for immediate memory
souvenirs and as we began to know the people, more endearing. Some posed to
be pictured with "the white people" but many more enjoyed knowing
us and wished us not to forget them.
tea break we reconvened for a speech dealing with conflict resolution in
Africa. Non-violence convictions need to equate to peace, social stability
and empowerment, he urged. He highlighted root problems of illiteracy and
lack of communication and conflict over resources. He felt AVP and our
common agreement on non-violence needs to spread countrywide. We all
lunch the program continued with exercises addressing Restorative Justice
with Great Giri, a small group discussion on how better to integrate AVP
facilitators into local groups with Toby Riley. And a provocative
mandala/small group discussion on the violent relationships of African
women's issues and how better to address them led by Nice Nnenda.
dinner Bodacious Bob and Great Giri led a session on adapting AVP to other
cultures. As the workshop closed, Charles and I found ourselves wandering to
the outside area of the bar for a Schweppes pineapple soda to share our
thoughts of the day. A small gathering from AVP were discussing local and
historical politics with Voke, an AVP facilitator and Southern District
Activist. As I listened to his educational narrative I was struck by the
fervent love of his area, tribe and country that he had. His frustration
with corrupt officials and his aching for change that would benefit his
people was evident. His passion was so heartfelt and moving. He later
assisted a group (see Kaki's adventure) to visit near his home area.
and I went to bed that evening sharing like thoughts of the incredible
respect for these welcoming hosts that sincerely seek whatever we have to
share and in turn share openly of themselves.
Conference Day 2:
National Museum and Badagry Tour
was the most remarkable tour I've been on. It showed some of the best and
some of the worst of Lagos. The museum tour was quite informative, although
a little rushed. I noted that they took a male/female headcount and cameras
were checked before admittance.
collection of humble barn-like buildings, walled within the city, proudly
housed displayed artifacts of past and present Nigerian tribal history and
culture. Guides were paid to explain what we were viewing. Upon entry to the
political history building the Nigerian National Anthem was requested to be
sung and was done with gusto. A car complete with bullet holes was displayed
for one of their assassinated leaders.
Nigerians were greatly interested in the tour with many students taking
lengthy notes (no brochures or handouts were available). It became clear
that this was a first time opportunity for most of our hosts as well as us.
lengthy bus ride toward the Badagry area
illuminated the vastness of Lagos, the city. For mile after mile, traffic
was deplorable with dented buses, cabs, cars and hawkers sharing the
roadways. The poverty was obvious in the living conditions, litter and dirt;
and yet the people were smiling, busy and impeccably dressed. The self-pride
amazed me over and over.
friends in AVP represented the 20% of educated and employed in Nigeria. Out
of the bus windows were the representation of the illiterate and
under-employed selling anything and everything from their stalls, homes and
streets. And the culture practiced sharing on a large scale. If one is
fortunate enough to have more than a room, other family members were asked
to share the living quarters. Hospitality was offered to visitors although
reluctance was shown to "oweebos" (whites) because the thought was
that there would be a lack of understanding for their acceptable conditions
because it is not what we're accustomed to.
to tour Badagry was asked of the Mayor. He
was paid a personal visit by Toby, Charles, myself and Peterx and two other
Nigerian AVP people. A connection was made between the Personnel Manager and
Charles as they both went to college in Ohio and shared tales of relatives
near Tampa. Settlement came in the form of leaving our conference pins that
were engraved with "Say No to Violence."
area official, Ibrahim Agosu-Sunmola, then escorted us the remainder of the
day and evening. He served as tour guide at some locations and shared meals
and transportation with us. He was especially proud to produce his own,
handmade edition of the history of the region, complete with photographs and
was at a beautiful spot. A gated restaurant called "Mercy's
Gates." There were lovely thatched-roof pavilions set next to a
flowering walkway. Conversation was much easier than on the bus. I met a
very shy, Red Cross volunteer who boldly sat at our table away from her
school friends who joked with her, but hesitated to enter a conversation.
After lunch she rushed up to me and offered her email address. Christie is
bus continued to the “First Storey" building in Nigeria. A house
built by Christian missionaries. Made more important by the fact that the
first Portuguese bible was translated to Yoruba in its rooms. An empty
wooden structure now, it held much importance for the Nigerians. The tour
included a well and former gardens being marked by signs.
walked to the center of town to the Mobee family’s "Slave
Museum." It was still in the original family. The story goes that two
family members disagreed. One wanted to sell people into slavery and the
other didn't want to sell slaves at all. The slave industry flourished until
the Portuguese ended it. Tohno in our group was noted as very important as
he was of Portuguese descent. Another interest point was two small wooden
rooms kept as they originally were, no windows, no light. 40 people were
asked to try and fit in them – as that is what they were for – holding
cells for slaves. It was a stark jolt.
the street was a lovely gated park. It was closed to us as they were filming
a music video there. We watched through the barred enclosures until we
noticed they were filming us watching them!
walked further to the banks of the ocean tributary. Time and immediate price
increases prohibited us from a boat ride to the "point of no
return." A place in the water that once reached by boat, families never
again saw the people return.
bus then traveled a bit further to tour a Badagry Museum and Fish Hatchery.
A plaque seemed to commemorate the building just a week prior, however the
Hatchery was not yet functional and the Museum was closed. We were on the
time we went to the "beach" at Whispering Palms Badagry. This was
a combination restaurant, resort, zoo and open-air theatre. The zoo had 4 or
5 varieties of animals. The grounds were lovely sand, fountains and palms.
Near the ocean banks, there were many tables. We were served fresh from the
tree coconut milk followed by halving our coconuts for the meat.
accompanying Red Cross volunteers then surprised us with a lovely musical,
play performance in the round. My shy friend Christie was a beautiful
dancer! It was a unifying time. We marched out together singing and chanting
Nigerian and anti-war tunes.
again hit the buses and traveled back to our luncheon spot for dinner. After
dinner the bus driver re-negotiated the price by threatening not to return
us to Lagos. (He hasn't taken AVP yet!!) But Iyke did transform the moment
and we all entered the bus with night upon us.
long drive back to Lagos and the University began. The day street scene
became an almost beautiful tapestry of dots of candlelight, kerosene and
splashes of electric light. Many police barricades proved to be no problem
with a flashlight around the bus with several white faces and a wave to let
a day! What contrasts to weave into our memories.
Conference Day 3:
group has reduced in number. Many of Monday's dignitaries, PRAWA overflow,
and Red Cross staff have returned to work.
remaining group took great interest in TP for international issues with Kaki
Sjogren, forgiveness stories, music and concentric circles from Theresa
Tyson, multi-cultural empathy discussions in smaller groups with Toby Riley.
and Livelies happened with a sort of musically chanting version of
"Simon Says," Nigerian-style led by Nice Nnenda. Toby also managed
to change Pattern Ball into Pattern Stuffed Animal Toss ending with bags of
toys to be taken back to other workshops.
group segregated into men and women to discuss gender issues within AVP and
how to deal with them. Thoughts were brought back to the circle.
too-hurried final discussion of AVP International responsibilities was begun
and not really finished. It did not create full closure for the event, but
did create much food for continued talk. Several people committed to stay in
touch via email.
impression of my first International AVP Conference was very positive. As in
any AVP forum that I have experienced, we run out of time for some of what
we think are very significant topics. But the truly significant feelings
developed for new AVP partnerships all over the globe have been built and
nourished by common experience. The incredibly open and honest sharing of
Nigeria has made a never-to-be erased bond to this struggling place of
as international participants to this AVP Conference said their farewells,
others made arrangements for the ensuing days in Nigeria. Jane, Kaki, Mary
Kay, Mutheu, Tonho with Voke were very invested in bringing signed documents
of support to the striking Ijaw and Itsekeri women of the Niger Delta.
Teresa Tyson was off to Great Britain to do workshops (she had assisted with
one in Kaduna, Nigeria prior to the Conference). Bob, Toby and Giri agreed
to do another workshop in Kaduna after the Conference. Charles and I stayed
in Ikeja, Lagos to work with local facilitators at a Basic workshop.
Workshop Planning Session & Fun
and I changed hotels. The new hotel, Com Executive, was closer to the
workshop venue. The staff were wonderfully attentive and the cooking better
than we had anywhere else (one Nigerian lady
having learned cooking in Detroit!).
didn't have the lagoon and area to leisurely stroll as we were advised not
to go into the streets unescorted. This didn't present a problem, as each
evening after the workshop all we wanted was dinner and sleep. Iyke had
dependable drivers and escorts available for any activity we desired.
back to the planning session. We met at the AVP Nigeria offices with our
team members, M.A.K. Momodu, Nnenda Tom-George and Glory Adeyeye. M.A.K. had
originally been scheduled as lead facilitator but in an effort to explore
different leadership styles Charles and Nnenda suggested rotating the lead
facilitator slot each day with M.A.K. leading off, followed by Nnenda and
then me. We all agreed. Glory was apprenticing as a facilitator. We planned
our agenda, volunteering for exercises that we thought would benefit us all
by seeing them done with our respective cultural emphases.
our planning session, Nnenda and Nokia, another friend, agreed to take
Charles and I to the Yaba Market. My goal was to get my hair done into those
fantastic cornrows and braids that most of the Nigerian women had. After a
bus trip that abruptly stopped halfway there (the driver refused to
continue) we found another bus.
Market was amazing! It seemed like thousands of stalls full of everything
– clothing, dry goods, food, produce. We found the recommended stall and
began my hair remake. Five women worked two hours on my "too fine"
hair. Many pictures and staring passers-by later we left to get an expensive
cab back to the AVP office and a driver back to our hotel.
Nigeria Basic Workshop
September 6-8, 2002
6, 7, 8,
workshop began, as we learned, like all Nigerian workshops – with a head
table. The chairs were formed in a horseshoe arrangement. This was a change
from rows as done in previous workshops.
International Red Cross Nigeria Project Manager, Carol Osborne, with other
Red Cross representatives made brief speeches with photographers popping
pictures. This was "respect" to the Red Cross for their
sponsorship of AVP Nigeria. They subsidize paid positions within AVP as well
as transportation for participants and meals while at the workshop. In
conversations with Carol, I believe she would be quite comfortable with
joining a circle. It became a suggestion in our final evaluation. This was
brief and the AVP circle was formed.
with all Basics, the initial formality, shyness and curiosity melted into
smiles and sharings of personal discovery by the end of the first day. The
diversity of our group was wonderful. There were 26 participants composed of
male, female, Muslim, Christian, multi-tribal, all literate, ages 21 to 51
and with us, multi-national. The team quickly discovered that we all
presented exercises very closely to the Basic Manual instructions.
Debriefing questions were universal.
greatest variation was in light and livelies. And they were all totally
enjoyed. A benefit that we brought to the workshop was a truly good role
modeling of male/female equality. Coming after our enlightenment at the
conference of some deeply entrenched cultural gender issues, we thought this
was very important.
did not notice any deferral by females within the participants, but it was
noticed within the facilitation team to begin, but improved as the workshop
and planning sessions progressed. Our team became very aware of including
everyone's opinion. It was a healthy step forward to rotate lead
facilitators. We strongly suggested that qualified women be encouraged to be
lead facilitators (Nnenda being an excellent example) as none had been
offered that opportunity to date. We were told they are on the schedule. And
I believe they are.
M.A.K. presented a very organized, strong, leadership style. With a large
stature and carrying voice he did get attention quickly. He did share
leadership, asked many probing questions of us and definitely enjoyed
encouraging all the participants. His intensity in exercises was balanced by
his intensity in L&L's. He was receptive to all critical challenges
addressed by Charles and me.
Nnenda's strength was a thorough knowledge of all exercises presented and an
immediately charming rapport with all the participants. She was able to
explain herself very well (and assisted tremendously when participants did
not understand Charles or myself).
Glory, although suffering with a flu-like cold, was well prepared for her
activities too. She offered less input into team evaluation sessions, but
was a very good apprentice.
participants were energetic, fully invested, and so eager to grasp all that
the exercises opened for them.
was a wonderful workshop. With the final day came more photos of new
friends, commitments to spread AVP to their respective places of work,
social circles and families. I strongly believe that AVP is making a
significant difference with cultural, religious, and gender differences in
felt sad to leave and incredibly fortunate to have learned so much from our