Every Tuesday for the past three weeks, the CEMPROC Team, together with our friends from the Mennonite Church in Quito, have hosted a workshop for Colombian refugees to acquire, practice, and apply their newly established mediation and negotiation skills in order to resolve common, everyday conflicts. On average, the workshop has consisted of 10-15 participants and is directed by CEMPROC’s Director in Ecuador Omar Rodriguez with the help of our Program Coordinator and Research Assistant, Julie Moreno. The workshop usually lasts for a period of two and half hours, from 3 to 5:30 pm.
Last week (August 18th), marked the halfway point of our six-week program, where refugees were asked to form groups of 3-4 people in order to simulate mediation. They were asked to choose two individuals to represent two parties in conflict, as well as a mediator, who would attempt to intervene with the intention of helping both parties resolve their conflict in a peaceful manner, as well as maintain their friendship/relationship in the long run.
Although the three groups were given the same case study, after an hour’s time the proposed solutions (or lack thereof) were as different as the participants involved. While some were able to achieve consensus, others were left filled with resentment and bitterness, which can be a common outcome of mediations that take place within the refugee/migrant community. As a result, the participants were able to see and understand how mediation can prove to be highly beneficial, as well as the risks and consequences that are also involved when the parties do not have the will to seek positive results. All in all, they were willing to participate and engage with their given roles, which provided them with the useful tools and skills they will need if they ever encounter a conflict in their own personal lives.
This week (August 25th), the participants were able to exert some autonomy over the mediation process, as they were encouraged to design their own case study where mediation may be used. In groups of 3-4 people, they were able to brainstorm ideas for a plausible conflict that would then be given to the other group who would play the given roles. By allowing the participants to come up with a conflict situation for another group, they were able to dig deep into their own past experiences (that may or may not have been resolved in a peaceful way) in order to bring them to this environment of mediation.
So far, it’s been a good experience for both the CEMPROC team and the Colombian refugees who partake in this six-week workshop. Looking forward to next week already!
Find out more directly on the Colombian Refugee Project’s Blog!