Brokenness is cross-cultural. No matter where you go, you will find people who have experienced brokenness and need mending. This is the heart of Peaced Together – to enable people to take their first steps towards a future of hope, and maybe a few more steps on that journey.
Tina is a good friend who lives on the small Caribbean island of Dominica. When she approached Heidi, the founder of Peaced Together, about running the course in Dominica, I was keen to help! A radical change in the law and attitudes towards abuse on the island have led to opportunities for people who have suffered abuse to seek help. Tina, a trained counsellor, realised that the Peaced Together course could help these people to rebuild their lives.
I have been part of the training team working in Dagenham, east London, for a couple of years, so was excited to have the opportunity to train people to run the course in Dominica. In November 2016, I packed a suitcase with my Peaced Together manual and resources (as well as sundresses and swimming cossie) and headed off to Dominica. I had visited Tina a couple of times before, but this trip was very different. For a start, I was travelling alone. This was a big adventure for me as I don’t like flying at all. But I had such peace throughout the journey there and back, I can only thank God.
Arriving in Roseau (Dominica’s capital city) on the Tuesday before the training weekend, one of our first tasks was to gather together the resource materials and adapt the craft projects to be appropriate for this small, developing country. For example, in the UK we use terracotta pots for one of the crafts. They are not easy to come by in Dominica, so we decided to use mirrors instead. A few trips to the building store saw us purchasing strong glues and a large mirror sheet, cut for us into smaller mirrors, as well as a bag of broken tiles. At the stationery store, we were able to buy spoiled tissue paper at a discount. Two sewing machines and a variety of crafting resources were among the boxes of charity donations just arrived from the UK. Add to these the sweepings from the tailor’s floor for fabrics, and we were well on our way to making beautiful things from stuff destined for the bin, or just left unused on a shelf.
All the resources started to come together, in my room! Tina and I had a fun evening sticking broken china to mirrors with various glues. After grouting the next day, the mirrors looked great!
Although there were times when I couldn’t see how the training was all going to work with the new crafts and resources, every morning I took time to be thankful and look for treasures, an important focus of the Peaced Together course. I found plenty to be thankful for – the rainbow after a storm, the birdsong and peace early in the morning and a box of tile cutters, hammers and goggles that we found in Tina’s basement.
In between these preparations, Tina had arranged a 45 minute interview at the local radio station for us to promote the training weekend. This was a great opportunity to read some of Heidi’s poems from the course on air. I also got to talk about hope and making peace with the past.
Friday came, and despite a number of set-backs, such as a bad outbreak of flu, eight of us gathered together at the beautiful setting of the catholic retreat house in the mountains. I trained the group in how to deliver Peaced Together, as well as sharing the vision of the course. Together we overcame the challenges of communication across different cultures and adapting the crafts, while keeping the message the same.
When we start, work through and complete a new or familiar craft, it enables us to express ourselves creatively and we see things in our lives in a different way. Through times of quiet reflection, scrapbooking and sharing together, the people being trained began to catch the heart and vision of Peaced Together, as well as take steps on their own journey. One lady stuck some screwed up paper in her scrap book – “this is me, this is mine, I made it!” she declared, as she talked about her life. As we recognise our own brokenness, we are able to be thankful and see treasures in difficult circumstances, looking forward with hope.
Whatever our culture, being broken doesn’t mean a person is useless; they can be ‘Peaced Together’ and made into something beautiful and worthwhile.