The Makings of a Community Building Circle: RJP Maine has gone virtual!

Contact Curve

    By Jenna Golub

    In an effort to restoratively contribute something to our community during this isolating moment in time, RJPMaine thought virtual community building across our four county area would be a good place to start. We invited folks from each demographic of the communities we serve into the planning process; Reentry (former MCRRC residents & staff), schools (teachers, admin & youth), and our court diversion program (youth & mentors).  It was also decided, as a way of making the most of our time together and encourage a bigger conversation, that the virtual pilot team would create a circle script that could serve a diverse group as a way to help maintain community conversations. Before long, the virtual pilot team was formed!

    The individuals we asked to take part in this pilot team were not only representative of each demographic that RJPMaine serves, but they are individuals who have demonstrated dedication to restorative practices and have had training and experience in community building circles.  RJPMaine only asked for a willingness to commit to being part of a planning process which hoped to move swiftly. 

    Along with RJPMaine’s Louise, Jenna and Sarah Matari, invited community members virtually “showed up” via Zoom for the first pilot planning circle on Monday, March 23rd. In planning for the circle script, Sarah, Louise and Jenna asked participants what they’re doing to make life seem normal and how they’re socializing with others in these times of physical distancing.  We also asked what felt important to talk about right now given the current climate.  These are a few of the things that came up for our participants during the virtual circle:

    -Supporting youth during this time 
    -Positive stories, Share ways to stay present and hopeful
    -Information, i.e.  Safe activities people can still do
    -How to help others creatively
    -How to deal with this transition, process, finding balance
    -How to care for oneself and the community at the same time 
    -Ways we carry on: Netflix, puzzles, Spring

    (We would like to ask you, the reader, how could you support your community (or even members of your family and close friends) in talking about these topics?)

    With an understanding of what our diverse group of virtual community volunteers wished to discuss, over the next week, RJPMaine’s Karin, Jenna and Louise, worked to finalize the script that the community participants helped create.  The script was then piloted with the same group of individuals during our second virtual circle on Monday, March 31st.  Below are excerpts from the script we collectively created:

    Check-In Round
    What’s going on for you right now?
    Round 1: Personal Needs
    What do you need? 
    Round 2: Tapping into Resilience
    What is a strength you have these days? What can you offer to those around you?
    Round 3: Tapping into a Broader Perspective
    Tell a story about life going on around you?
    Check Out
    What are you taking away from this circle?

    With this information, over the next week, Karin, Jenna and Louise, worked to finalize the script.  The script was then piloted with the same group of individuals during our second virtual circle on Monday, March 31st.  Below are the different veins of inspiration we shared with one another in closing this circle:

    Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros’ album Here
    Nils Lofgren’s song “Wonderland” 
    Video & Audio
    “Some Good News” Network — John Krasinski’s youtube video and interview with Steve Carell
    Fantastic Fungus — inspiring documentary
    Anne with an E — tv show about Anne of Green Gables on Netflix
    Teaching Podcasts
    The Character Strong Podcast
    The Google Teacher Podcast
    Hand-sewing, mending
    Getting outside at Solar Noon- show as much skin as possible, and soak up the sun! 
    Local Stories
    Teachers going on parade for their students
    Readings or Quotes
    Ross Gay’s poems and essays

    As intended, RJPMaine will be emailing the script to each of our institutional partners in the hopes that they may find comfort in connecting through circle during this time. To our trained circle keepers, we share this script as a way to create spaces for people in their own communities to connect.

    For those of you who are looking forward to healthier times and are interested in restorative practices, RJPMaine would like to share that we’ll be offering ‘Foundations in Restorative Practices’ this fall at the UMaine Hutchinson Center in Belfast.  Please click on the following link for dates and course specifics;

    ​In closing, RJPMaine would like to thank those who volunteered their time, their space, their hearts and their minds to this virtual community building project.  Sarah, Louise, Jenna and Karin are filled with gratitude and are actively brainstorming what comes next. We sincerely hope there’s more virtual circles to come and more stories to share