Reflections on ASPIRE Foundation Program Training

by Renée Vaugeois

Photo by Dan Riedlhuber

In June 2019, I had the privilege of attending a five day training program at Tatamagouche Centre in Nova Scotia, the Aspire Foundation Program: Facilitation, Design and Leadership. I was excited about the opportunity to participate in some professional development work. As a small non-profit leader, resources for development aren’t readily available and it can be hard to prioritize yourself over other critical needs in an organization working hard for change.

Tatamagouche has a similar pedagogical model to the John Humphrey Centre for Peace and Human Rights (JHC) so I was keen to see how others facilitatey and to sit back, observe and learn. I really needed an opportunity to experience outside of my own work as I have felt quite alone out in the west. The training reaffirmed my practise and the work of JHC. It gave me some new ideas and insights on how we can strengthen. It also made me realize what makes us unique.

Unfortunately this training came at such a challenging personal time for me and I don’t feel that I brought my full self to the space. It really awakened what I felt was a deep depression at a time when the work is alive and beautiful yet the issues so hard. Such a challenging political, economic, social and mental environment we are living in.

I was frustrated the first few days as I really wanted to push conversations deeper. A new section was added on cultural diversity which left me wanting. I see that people are at different stages of the conversation but I feel a rebelliousness against the play it safe idea. Working with teammates Michele and Adriana, the facilitators allowed us to build something together and we dove in to agitate the space and push the conversations with a 15 minute session. It was intense, fun and we definitely shook up the space and provided some teachings. We greatly appreciate the trust they put in us and allowing us that space to grow together and play. This cultivated a strong little Righting Relations team and my objective will be to continue to grow this work. I’d love to work with the team to build out our workshop and deliver together.

Now more than ever we need to be ready and equipped for tough and brave conversations. We need to be strong and seek to agitate and unsettle spaces as much as we can to push our society and communities further. This is how we stretch and learn. No matter what education space we are in, diversity and inclusion are something that needs to be part of the conversation and we need to be equipping people with the skills  and confidence to be brave while modelling what that means and looks like. Part of that is accepting that none of us are perfect and all trying to navigate these fine and sensitive waters. It reinforces Sue Deranger’s teaching about calling in rather than calling out.

The training provided me a good framework and practice which I can apply to intentionally framing and designing education and I have already been using the concepts on an ongoing basis.

A broader take away that this reinforced for me is that I desperately would love to find a partner in Alberta where we can turn our human rights facilitator training into a folks school and build a business model around our programs. Tatamagouche has a space – something I have always dreamed of out west. Building spaces like this, with ASPIRE, need to be happening and I want to build and learn.

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