When I received the invitation to participate and make a presentation on my AVP work within the prison settings in Kenya at a United Nations Commission on Social Development side event at the United Nations Headquarters, New York, in February 2019, I was not sure if I would be privileged to meet anyone from the AVP family in the US during my UN event visit. I, therefore, embarked on reaching out to the few friends from the US whom I had met at the AVP International World Gathering in Nepal 2017, with the intention of sharing with them my strong desire to facilitate, at least, a workshop at the famous birth place of AVP, Green Haven Prison (Correctional Institution) in New York before I returned back home. I was very fortunate since the first message I sent out opened all avenues and created amazing networks and connections which finally made it possible for this desire (of doing a workshop at Green Haven) to be achieved.
I owe huge loads of gratitude to Mystic Margaret, Learning Leah, Contagious CC, Easy Ed, Funny Valentine, Natural Nancy, Faithful Fred, Curious Kevin, Magic Margie, and many other friends that were directly or indirectly involved with making sure the right paperwork was in place for me to realize this dream. I am equally very grateful for the marvelous hospitality and very remarkable hosting that I was accorded by the teams in New York and Connecticut. The team provided the desirable family support and made sure I stayed warm in the thick of the chilly Winter weather conditions. By the way I experienced snowfall for the first time in my life while in the US (In Mombasa we see snow only on TV footage). The sacrifices made to provide housing and hospitality will never escape my memory as long as I shall be alive. I remain very grateful to Mystic Margaret who was, particularly, on top of things coordinating my affairs and managing my diary besides arranging for the airport pick ups and drop offs and offering me rides to the other places I had interest of visiting. Through her efforts I was able to do some workshops with college students and former gang members in the Bronx County of New York State.
Since this was my very first ever visit to the United States, it is my firm belief that I greatly benefited from this trip more than I had earlier imagined and I believe I am among the very few AVP facilitators from the African continent to visit both Green Haven and Sing Sing Correctional Institutions for the sole purpose of facilitating AVP workshops. This was indeed a very humbling experience for me. I learnt so much from both the inside facilitators as well as the teams from outside in both institutions. Yes, it is true that both prisons I visited are maximum security facilities with very strong and active AVP presence. I noticed that in the larger New York State there is a clear monthly calendar of prison AVP workshops (mostly three workshops per month) and the program is properly packaged during publicity which makes it very appealing to potential community workshop attendees who often pay a good workshop fees of between USD 40 and USD 100 per participant per workshop.
The benefits of traveling as an AVP facilitator are so many. Apart from the opportunity to interact with existing friends and bond further, there exists another opportunity to meet new friends and learn from them. There is also greater connectedness when we acquaint ourselves with understanding of the different cultural aspects of our lives vis a viz those things we have in common and learn from our different approaches whenever doing a workshop.
It is my greater hope that, occasionally, AVP International can support visiting facilitators to the US from the developing economies in order to support their movement from the different states where they may develop interest in learning from the US teams through workshop facilitation..
Finally, I would love to state it that I am always ready to make visits to any AVP teams around the world as long as the visit for a workshop will positively impact my life and that of my local team here in Kenya.
Best regards to all.
Below are pictures from my US trip.
With Faithful Fred and Learning Leah at the UN Headquarters, New York.
With TNT Haywood and Mystic Margaret at the Osborne Association, the Bronx, NY after a workshop.
With Gentle Joe, Curious Kevin, Affectionate Anne, Madelein, Laurie, Susan King, Bill Leicht and other friends at the Aikido of Columbus, after a Body and Mind awareness (an AikiAVP) training in Columbus, Ohio .
After a workshop with Prof. David Fletcher at the Lehman College, City University of New York, in the Bronx.