I’ve come to appreciate how important it is to connect with other colleagues and to also do self-care.

We tend to be so busy and there seems to be no time. It’s part of the problem of this do-do-do reality. It’s time to BE first and foremost, to make ourselves a priority and to also spend some quality time with like-minded people. Sometimes we need to refuel and rejuvenate.

That’s just what happened at a restorative justice retreat. 19 people representing 10 organizations from our region spent the weekend together at camp! We chose a beautiful setting, with boat access so it felt like we really got away. There was an even number of men and women, and a wide age range.

This was a grass-roots and self organized initiative. It began with an idea: two people who run Victoria Restorative Justice thought it would be great to get together with other practitioners and build more community. Turns out a lot of us agreed.

Our regional collaborative took it up as a project and two practitioners from North Shore Restorative Justice, Alana Abramson and Teresa Canning, volunteered to organize and facilitate the weekend. Each of us paid $150 to cover all costs, which included lodging and meals.

Our retreat was structured using the Alternatives to Violence Program (AVP). We sat in circle and did a lot of different activities, mostly geared toward self reflection and getting to know one another.

We didn’t focus much on restorative justice directly, except one session where we shared our challenges and ideas for overcoming them. A need for funding, more criminal justice buy-in, education and consistent messaging were some of the themes discussed.

There were some tears and a whole lot of laughter all weekend.

The results were a wonderful combination of gaining more self awareness, personal rejuvenation, forming deeper relationships, and building our local restorative justice community. Tremendous gratitude was shared in our closing circle.

We plan to do another retreat next year and realized we have started a legacy, for ourselves and for others who join this field.

I think about all the projects and programs around the world that started with one or two people having an idea and a conversation. And a small group having the courage to take a leap into the unknown and making it a reality.

Margaret Mead is right: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Thank you to my colleagues, near and far, for being and inspiring the change we wish to see in the world.