The following is the first of many posts that we hope you will help contribute to. As we enter 2010, and celebrate 35 years serving our community, we want to highlight the many valuable relationships we have with our members, volunteers, partners, sponsors, funders and supporters. We invite you to join the conversation and to share your story with us.
I would like to welcome and thank Ben Ziegler, a volunteer and board member with Victoria Restorative Justice Society (VRJS), who has kindly offered to be our first guest “member” blogger to share how Volunteer Victoria assists his organization.
VRJS’s relationship with Volunteer Victoria…
Who we are
Victoria Restorative Justice Society (VRJS) is a small not-for-profit organization that delivers restorative justice programs, services and opportunities in the community. We work in close collaboration with other organizations, including Volunteer Victoria, our #1 community partner!
Our efforts focus on youth, young offenders, and first-time offenders. The majority of our workload is cases referred to us by police departments and Crown prosecutors. Cases are referred to us where, and when, they (and we) see restorative justice as an appropriate alternative to court-based actions.
VRJS consists of 40+ volunteers, a full-time coordinator (Geanine Robey), ad-hoc contractors and a Board of Directors.
The Restorative Justice way
We follow the Restorative Justice approach to conflict resolution; an approach based on a belief that crimes are a violation between people and relationships, rather than a violation against the state, as in the criminal justice model.
Restorative Justice brings offenders face-to-face with their victims in a process that aims to give victims (including the larger community harmed by the offence) a voice, and provides offenders with an opportunity to take responsibility for their crimes. The process is largely derived from aboriginal healing circles.
It is this focus on relationships, and the larger community, that led to our collaborations and relationship with Volunteer Victoria.
More about our relationship with Volunteer Victoria…
VRJS became a member of Volunteer Victoria in 2007. As a result of this relationship, a range of opportunities were created:
- Volunteers (of all ages) are recruited by VRJS. We recruit volunteers, through Volunteer Victoria, into our community justice programs. Volunteers range in age from youth to seniors.
- Volunteer Victoria’s member agencies provide community service opportunities for VRJS clients. As an outcome of (restorative justice) conferencing circles, a client (e.g., youth offender) is typically required to provide a community service. Volunteer Victoria directly assists with placing that client with a suitable Volunteer Victoria member agency, in order for the client to fulfill their community commitment.
- Volunteer Victoria directly supports VRJS clients. VRJS youth clients in need of additional support (e.g., to overcome social, emotional and/or physical barriers to volunteering in the community) often work with a Youth Volunteer Connections Program (YVCP) staff member and/or volunteer to find a successful volunteer placement to fulfill their community service. In fact, Volunteer Victoria staff help volunteers of all ages and abilities to get connected to their community and make a difference.
- Volunteers help out in VRJS programs. VRJS provides opportunities for youth, and volunteers of all ages, to participate in VRJS programs; including conferencing circles and community outreach projects (e.g., Circles in the Stream theatre project). These opportunities are provided to volunteers wanting to build their conflict resolution skills, and promote positive modes of engagement with others.
Here’s a diagram I created to help me to better understand these relationships; of us working together on community programs, coordinated by VRJS, in response to needs out there in the community…
Building a stronger community… together!
Through our relationships, we are re-connecting people and community, and building individual and community capacities in accountability and conflict resolution.
In November 2009, the VRJS moved its office to 620 View Street, renting space from Volunteer Victoria. The physical proximity benefits both organizations. And looking ahead, my guess is that this closeness will facilitate new conversations, ideas, innovations and opportunities that will continue to serve the community well.
On a personal note…
I got my first taste of Volunteer Victoria in 2001. Browsing Volunteer Victoria’s database I spotted a volunteer opportunity that matched my interests (conflict resolution) with an opportunity with the Victoria Parole Board. For the next year, I gained some great experience as a volunteer with the federal Restorative Justice Options to Parole Suspension (RJOPS) project. Although RJOPS has long since wrapped up, I’m still involved in the Restorative Justice community. My own restorative justice journey owes much to Volunteer Victoria, and my guess is it’s typical of what many volunteers experience.
A big thank you to Lori Elder for providing me with the opportunity to write this article. I learned new things about my own organization, VRJS and about our valuable relationship with Volunteer Victoria!
Learn more about VRJS
To find out more about us, please visit the newly created VRJS blog. The Restorative Justice Infonet is a good source of information about Restorative Justice happenings in the broader Capital Region, including VRJS. We also invite you to drop by our new office – you know where we are!