We are in the midst of very strange times and we hope that you are safe and well wherever you are.
However, we hope you would be interested to know that the work of Touch of Hope is still continuing, and would like to know our future plans.
I went to Osijek on March 4th travelling on an empty plane to Munich and a half full plane to Zagreb. The main purpose of the visit was to lead a weekend interactive workshop at the Red Cross Centre in Orahovica for the group which came to Nuneaton just over a year ago. Orahovica is a beautiful little town set in wonderful countryside just one hour from Osijek. The Centre always has immaculate lawns! It is wonderfully equipped with a swimming pool and it is one of my favourite places to meet. Joining me was our ‘new’ but not so new co-worker Snjezana Kovacevic. Nena Arvaj who has been our co-worker for a very long time is now working full time at Osijek hospital and cannot be our co-worker now. We thank her for her commitment and expertise. However, she did come to the workshop and helped with translation.
Snjezana was one of the first workshop leaders going right back to Bench we Share days and worked with us for a long time before leaving for new work. So, it is really good that she is ‘back’ with us in Touch of Hope.
The workshop plan was first to recall the UK visit in terms of mind, body and spirit. The ‘highlight’ for them all was the meeting with Jo Berry and Pat Magee and the discussion we had about forgiveness and reconciliation. The visits to Coventry Cathedral and Nuneaton Mosque were greatly appreciated. They loved staying with their hosts and wished they could have had more time with them. It was a time of learning and spiritual renewal. They realised too that their perception of English people being ‘cold’ is entirely erroneous!
Secondly, we played with LEGO! We used LegoR Serious PlayR, a resource which helps people to translate thoughts, feelings and ideas into working creatively with the LEGO bricks. The group expressed the issues in their own communities and how they were going to tackle them through LEGO.
Thirdly, we asked group members to imagine he or she was on their way to a Touch of Hope workshop when suddenly they get caught in a downpour of rain. Each person finds him or herself sheltering from the rain in company with a stranger who asks, ‘What on earth is Touch of Hope?’ The small group task was to say in just five minutes ‘what is Touch of Hope?’ One group said, Touch of Hope runs a series of workshops on which we discuss together about our wounds, about health, forgiveness and about reconciliation. The focus is on individuals who are able to share their experience of healing and to be channels of healing in their own communities.
One of the Croatian participants Matej, said after the weekend,’ when I was born, the hospital doctors made a mistake and caused my bad vision. I had to fight for equality in society since childhood. At school I experienced peer violence. I have never given up and tried to show other people that I’m not so different. The second challenge in my life was coexistence with Serbian people. Today I’m trying to apply all things that I learned on the Touch of Hope workshops.’
PLANS FOR FUTURE WORK
1 Whilst in Osijek Snjezana and I met with Damir, the President of the Association of victims of Serbian Concentration camps. We plan to offer to the Association our first course of workshops which explores Health and Healing, Communication skills, Identity, Wounds, Forgiveness and Reconciliation. We plan to start in the Autumn.
2 It was great to have two recently trained facilitators, Evica from Beli Manastir Croatia and Anita from Novi Sad Serbia working with us in Orahovica. We plan to have an ongoing Continuous Professional Development workshop for recently trained facilitators on the theme of Handling conflict, both external and internal.
3 We continue to encourage new facilitators. We plan to hold workshops to equip new facilitators to lead workshop activities.
4 We plan to hold a reunion next year to mark 25 years of my initial visit to Osijek in 1996. The reunion will be for all those who have been on Bench we Share and/or Touch of Hope workshops. We tried to arrange the reunion for this year but could not find suitable dates and then COVID 19……
CHANGES AT CFR
CFR is combining with Red Letter Christians UK and Newbigin School for Urban Leadership to develop the work of reconciliation in the UK and worldwide. The centre Barnes Close is being refurbished and renamed ‘The Green House’ with a fresh vision for it to become the place to belong for growing leaders into fullness of life. The renewed centre plans to re-open on May 14th. The Green House will continue to host reconciliation initiatives and provide training with college and university partners. The new CfR Community Co-ordinator will be Rev Dr Ash Barker succeeding Rev Ian Ring. Michelle and Ollie Chavez are the new ‘The Green House’ wardens.
Rev Clive Fowle
Updated April 2020