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Living in the Midst of Conflict: The Experience and Method of AVSI

bambini uganda IC 260x190Abidjan, Ivory Coast – A closer look at the story behind “Let’s Build Lasting Peace”, a new manual addressing peace and conflict, recently compiled by AVSI in the Ivory Coast.

Over the years, AVSI has confronted countless situations of conflict, violence and natural disaster. The trauma experienced by those involved is often extreme and, especially in cases where conflict and violence are personal, there is always a risk that it become an obstacle to the emotional, cognitive, and relational development of each person.  In many cases, the trauma can even become something passed down from generation to to generation, without any hope of course correction.

In dramatic moments such as these, AVSI helps provide the initial push along the path toward recovery by affirming the “value of life” as a good entrusted both to the individual and to the community. The experience of taking responsibility and caring for one’s own life and for the lives of the smallest and most vulnerable in the community is fundamental to the projects AVSI proposes because it the only way that the value of life is reaffirmed, especially when everything seems to undermine it.

The starting point is the whole person with all of the value they possess and not simply ethnic or sectarian belonging.

AVSI’s psycho-social approach aims to build greater awareness of the value of life through work with both the individual and community. Specialists work one-on-one with those in need whenever it is possible; AVSI’s holistic view of the person always considers each individual’s fundamental needs, desires, and relationships. AVSI’s work within the community seeks to strengthen intrapersonal relationships, to take into account the differences that exist and to find ways to rebuild the community by overcoming the existing sources of tension and restoring trust as an essential component of human life, particularly in the relationship between children and adults.

Every project places an emphasis on resilience, or the ability to adapt to reality in the most complex situations, and to grow even in the most difficult circumstances.

Seeing life as something unified, as having value even when the past is painful and the present is a challenging, is crucial for a child learning to face and reexamine what they have lived through. It allows them to move forward and to build a new life while limiting the chance that violent behaviors will reemerge when they find themselves in front of traumatic experiences that they have yet to  overcome.  

AVSI’s method focuses on education as the source of sustainability and development for every project.

Looking at AVSI’s experience, it’s easy to see how the relationship between children who have been victims of traumatic experiences and those who educate them (volunteers and professionals, community workers) can be the starting point for real change and recovery.  Those working with the children possess a certain sensitivity, ability to listen, and openness that keeps them from trying to “repair” the children. Instead, children are accompanied and aren’t left to face life alone. Time is made for recreational activities, group work, writing, drawing, music, dance, and theater. Each activity is a means for the child to better express themselves and to confront the difficulties of life, always in community.

Given the success of its educative method, AVSI, along with the Commission of Justice and Peace in the Ivory Coast have created a manual called “Let’s build a lasting peace” in order to teach children in Ivory Coast about the importance of promoting peace after years of conflict. Simple in language, but significant in content, the manual uses examples, illustrations, and suggests activities that advocate peaceful cohabitation and mutual respect within the cultural context of the Ivory Coast. It encourages the creation of spaces and moments for reconciliation and peaceful solutions at the local level, particularly in the family, the neighborhood, and the community.

The manual is part of a long journey, pulling from the knowledge AVSI gained from the genocide in Rwanda, conflicts in Northern Uganda, the reemergence of child soldiers in both Uganda and Sierra Leone, the violence in the streets of the Haitian capital Port au Prince, various natural catastrophes in both Haiti and Southeast Asia, working in schools with mixed ethnicities in Palestine, the protection of refugees in Burundi, and working in the community of the Democratic Republic of Congo which has never known peace.

AVSI completed the manual with Resilience, an Italian association of specialists and experts in the field of psycho-social intervention.

The manual demonstrates that it is not enough to provide individual psychological support to resolve the traumas, or to face the situations of ethnic, religious, and social conflict. Instead, it is necessary to embrace every person in their totality and complexity, and to include the relationships that matter most to them and to their community.


Download the Manual Here: "Let’s Build Lasting Peace" (French/Français Only)