Initiatives of Change (IofC) Nigeria, on the invitation of ‘God First Children International School’, Lagos, delivered a Creators of Peace Circle to the female staff of the school for three Fridays between 22 June and 6 July at the school premises.
‘God First Children International School’ is an education institution in Lagos State that has faced reduction in enrolment, lack of commitment, internal rancour, unethical behaviours and lack of trust among members of staff. However, some of their female staff have had the opportunity of attending some IofC programmes, hence the invitation to deliver Peace Circle sessions.
The three-day Peace Circle afforded participants the opportunity to explore the concept of ‘peace’ as it relates to individual persons, how they can experience inner peace and understand what it feels like. The women described peace as “a detox that cleanses every unnecessary burden and contamination to mind spirit and soul” or as being “that soothing balm that heals like a miracle and freezes all worries and hatred”. Although they had a deep understanding of what peace is, the group recognized that they were battling with how to live peace in their work and personal daily lives. The group being a collection of teachers, it was obvious that the much unmet expectations from the school had cascaded to unhealthy competition, gossip, strife and jealousy.
Mrs Sandra Owoseni facilitating a session.
During the sessions on ‘What destroys peace’ and ‘Forgiveness’, most of the women realized that they were victims of past incidences which they had allowed to rule and govern their relationship with people. After admitting that living with a heavy mind, jealousy, unforgiveness, enmity or suspicion could be responsible for abandoning their unique gifts and values as teachers, mothers, peace makers and leaders, the participants made a commitment to purifying their hearts and forgiving themselves and anyone they might have offended or whose peace they might have destroyed. They pledged to be known in their work place, community, home and family as peaceful, compassionate, forgiving, caring and empathetic.
The various ‘gathering points’ during the Peace Circle were able to help them reset their priorities and the understanding of their responsibilities that would impact positively on the reward system of school. A facilitator summarised the whole three days experience as insightful and challenging. The group saw the whole exercise as therapeutic and wondered why they had never explored this pathway in their lives before.
Ms. Temitope summed it up this way, “this Peace Circle has taught me that peace starts with me. I owe myself and my family the duty to be happy, I will guide it jealously with all the arsenal of the ten gathering points. Now that I know better I will never allow anyone to steal my joy”.
Mrs Benedicta Opara facilitating the second session.
Three months after the Peace Circle, follow-up conversations with participants have established a marked improvement in their outlook and approach to life.
Miss Adebimpe shared a compelling story of baggage she has had to carry within her since childhood, a deep hurt from her father. The session on “Forgiveness” helped her find the right motivation to forgive him. She has found healing and now enjoys improved rapport with her father.
Nigeria’s culture has evolved over the years. A few unsavoury aspects however remain. Mrs Nwana lost her husband last year. She faced degrading persecution from her in-laws and was almost becoming permanently mentally scarred from the experience. The Peace Circle helped her provision for peace within herself, call a truce with her in-laws and begin the journey of raising her children as a single parent with a more positive outlook to life.
Workplace targets and corporate pressure can drive individuals to the edge of sanity. Mrs Ayewole shared how she faced her everyday tasks at work grudgingly because she felt she was not being adequately remunerated for her efforts. Her productivity diminished as the days went by and the ripple effects affected herself and her family negatively. Since the Peace Circle, she confessed that her conscious positive investment has produced success in her workplace and earned her a salary increment – an incentive she couldn’t earn for years because she wasn’t meeting her targets.
“Each time I participate in these circles, I find yet another reason to believe in the impact of shared humanity. Participant testimonials provide me with more reasons to remain committed to the core vision of Creators of Peace”, Ms Cassandra, co-facilitator.
Group picture of all Teachers, Proprietor of the school and CoP Team.