By Lucas Wolf (and the team of Leadership Retreat Peace Fellows)
On the southern coast of Sri Lanka, there is a special place just north of Galle where the waves crash over the rocks after their long journey across the Indian Ocean.
The rains arrive in the early evening to inundate the verdant, tropical lands. This was the setting for the second Rotary Peace Fellow Leadership Retreat from 7-9 March, attended by 10 former Rotary Peace Fellows and one gifted facilitator from Northern Ireland, Susan McEwen. We arrived from all corners of the globe, including Juba, Mindanao, Nicaragua, Somaliland, Kurdistan, London, Ottawa, Nigeria, and Sri Lanka itself.
McEwen is the Head of Programs at the prestigious Corrymeela Community, Northern Ireland’s oldest peace and reconciliation organization. Along with two of the peace fellows, she designed the retreat to highlight the importance of reflective practice, echoing the works and teachings of John Paul Lederach. It also incorporated the unique ethos and experience of Corrymeela and the dedication to service and peace inherent in Rotary’s philosophy.
Reflective practice is designed to allow practitioners to dig deeper into their own perspectives, observations, and experiences, while also taking time to listen carefully to fellow participants and enhance listening and communication skills. It proved invaluable for sharing lessons and struggles from the field and discovering how we can unite to form networks of resilience. Susan’s mastery of facilitation, dynamic energy, and skill in discussing sensitive areas surrounding peace and conflict resolution helped us grow together tremendously.
There was a special group chemistry from the start and it was clear that these hours together marked critical building blocks for our professional development and personal well-being.
Sri Lanka is a unique and inspiring destination for such a Peace Fellows reflection: On the one hand it possesses all the magic and allure of any top tourist destination in the world, but on the other hand, it is a post-conflict country seeking to turn the page and change the dialogue after years of struggles. On the final day of the retreat, Peace fellows received an overview of the post-conflict realities and challenges facing Sri Lanka via a prominent field worker, Ananda Galappatti. This opened up a wider and deeper discussion on our collective experiences in conflict or field settings. Ananda is the founder of the Good Practices Group and the Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Services Network. We discussed psychosocial approaches to trauma, reconciliation, and recovery at length and emerged with a much greater understanding of the history and scope of the Sri Lankan struggles, and lessons we can use to inform our own work.
Three days is a relatively short time for a retreat, but this session was unique from the beginning. There was a special group chemistry from the start and it was clear that these hours together marked critical building blocks for our professional development and personal well-being.
Learn more about the Rotary Peace Centers