Saturday, 6 August 2011

IPC ISS Part One

August 6, 2011
I haven’t blogged much this week because it’s been an incredibly busy week. Probably the busiest week of the summer here at Corrymeela. The above acronym stands for Irish Peace Centres International Summer School, and it was held here at Corrymeela from August 1-4. Today, I’ll explain a bit about the Irish Peace Centres and the volunteers’ role. Then in a second blog I’ll reflect a bit on some of the keynotes, content, and conversations that I experienced around the edges.
First though – just a note to say that as I write this I’m dead tired, but over the moon excited. In a few hours I head to Belfast, then to Dublin to meet Alana first thing tomorrow morning. We’ll be back at Corrymeela on Monday for a few days so I can show her around, visit the Giant’s Causeway, Rathlin Island, Ballycastle, etc. and then we’ll head back to Dublin for the weekend before she heads back to Canada. I am grateful that Corrymeela has given me the week off to enjoy my time with her, and also that Corrymeela welcomes guests and relatives of volunteers for short stays.
We’ve had almost a complete turnover of summer volunteers in the last 24 hours. All of the ones who arrived six weeks ago, the same day as me, finished their time yesterday and left Corrymeela, as well as most of the ones who began three weeks ago. They were also dead tired after a very busy week (and, some energetic dancing at the Central Bar on Thursday evening!!). There were tears and laughter as we saw the bus off to Belfast yesterday morning.
Last night at 7 pm the bus from Belfast arrived back filled with new people. Some have been here before. Four of them are former long term volunteers from last year. One young woman from Switzerland was a midterm volunteer last winter. I guess it’s impossible to stay away for too long ... Corrymeela gets under your skin I think. This week’s couple doing Cover are another couple that met here many years ago as volunteers ... “over the kitchen sink” as he put it in his introductory cover speech.
In my tiredness from the week, and after a 12 hour kitchen shift yesterday, I was tempted to skip the induction (orientation) session for the new folks last night. Then I reminded myself about one of my first blogs about the constant comings and goings of folks ... and how I felt when I first arrived, what seems like ages ago. It was time to step up and push through a little longer. I’m glad I at least went to the introductory session last night – by the time I’m back working in the community the week after next, they will be in full swing with duties and hosting groups.
Back to the Irish Peace Centres. This is from their promotional materials: “The Irish Peace Centres is a consortium of peace-building organizations working together to extend and embed reconciliation within and between communities across the island of Ireland. The consortium comprises Co-operation Ireland, a cross-border charity dedicated to promoting better relations and practical co-operation between the people of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, the Corrymeela Community, and The Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation, a non-profit, non-governmental organization committed to international peace building and reconciliation with a residential centre in Co Wicklow.
The consortium, established in 2008, is positioned within a dynamic network of groups, individuals and organizations that are committed to promoting reconciliation and good relations. Those involved in the programme include community groups, ex-combatants, faith groups, women’s groups, minority ethnic groups, young people, local authorities and government agencies.” For more information, you can go to
The Conference brought together over 100 peace practitioners, theologians, politicians, educators and community workers for four days. About 30 youth from Belfast also joined the conference on the first day. There were keynote speakers and workshops, and a wonderful group called The Thinkbucket Project (will talk more about them later!) that provided many creative moments and group activities.
All the volunteers, long term and summer, and two midterm volunteers, were divided into four teams which provided alternating shifts from 8 am until midnight. This included all aspects of hospitality for the group - from setting up workshop spaces, hosting breakfast, setting up breaks with coffee and scones, dinner and lunch setup and clean up ... it was huge. On our sessions off, we were welcome to sit in on plenary sessions and workshops, join in on conversations, etc. There was much to hear and take in ... which will be the subject of IPC ISS part two. Stay tuned!!

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