Whitehope: expressions of non-violence

By: Matthew McFadzean

When we opened Whitehope in January 2016, most members of the team were new to Care Visions, and to Residential Child Care. Eighteen months on, I find myself reflecting on our journey so far. I can see the challenges we have faced, and the ways we have grown by overcoming them together; both the care team and young people alike.

In the beginning, The Sanctuary Model was a completely new concept for our team. It seemed like another language, a huge and complicated system of strange terms; so we focussed on learning the basics:

  • Using the lens of “Safety. Emotions. Loss. Future.” (SELF) to build an understanding of our young people, and identify positive ways to help them process what has happened to them, and to grow beyond it.
  • Holding Community Meetings to understand what each of the component parts actually mean, and how they are important tools for development.
  • Using our Team Meetings meaningfully, with deliberate purpose and outcomes.
  • Learning how a Safety Plan truly helps to create safety.

We started looking in depth at the 7 Sanctuary commitments earlier this year, and this has led to some insights within the team about what we do and why we do it. There are no violent people within our team but we set targets to reflect on non-violence for a month, both at work and in daily life. The benefits may be subtle but they are there to see. A few days ago, a young person was swearing in conversation. The team member who initially went to tell them to ‘stop swearing’, changed tack, and instead asked what other word they could use. By replacing the aggression of a command with the engagement of a question, the young person didn’t feel threatened, and happily repeated the sentence another way.

A couple of weeks ago, another member of the team was trying to find ways to engage a young boy, with her shift partner. He said he didn’t know what he wanted to do. They were being met with frowns and “I’m not doing that”, “Don’t like that” with every suggestion, so they decided to try a different approach. They went off to the living room, set up a board game and started playing it. Within a few minutes, they were joined by the young boy and he played the game enthusiastically for the next couple of hours.

These examples made me smile, because they are such simple expressions of non-violence in action, and proof that this principle can allow us to navigate the defences built up by traumatised people. From there we can begin to form strong relationships, and go on a meaningful journey together.

Non-violence isn’t just about the big bad things that we don’t do; hitting, shouting etc. which would cause further trauma. The positive actions we choose to take are more important and young people should experience this from us. It’s one of our 7 Commitments, and it’s the key which opens so many doors….