A Message from Moonwater

Dear friends,

It feels as if every day a message in one platform or another is shared about violence in our own community, across our nation, and throughout our world. Just in the past few weeks alone, our Whatcom County community has been rocked by a random violent homicide on a local trail, and by a domestic violence homicide and a suicide within a home. Within the past few days we've learned of the atrocious murders within a synagogue in Pittsburgh, and another school shooting. There are others, as well. 

It's overwhelming and it's horrifying. Each incident is like a jolt of fresh pain, or an unearthing of an old wound. I can see that it wouldn't feel to hard to slip into a state of despondence and despair, and let a heaviness pull us into a dark place. I'm working hard in a lot of different ways to stop that from happening, and I feel a deep sense of obligation to ensure that it doesn't.

So what is the alternative? I think we need to create space to grieve for the pain and injustice, the trauma, and the hurt that that exist within our respective communities, while at the same time take action to stop its perpetuation. So how do we take action? As I reflect on this question, the answer feels like both a personal commitment, and a community wide responsibility.

One thing that I know to be true is that we need to remember, acknowledge, and carry forward our shared humanity. We need to stay connected, across our differences and throughout our communities. When we maintain and nurture connections among one another we create space for empathy, curiosity, and learning. When we are connected, we can share in one another's grief, and inspire one another's healing.

Let's remember to listen carefully, lean in to discomfort, live and breathe our values, and find ways, both big and small, to take positive, productive steps to strengthen our community. 

What does this look like? I was struck by the Jewish nurse and hospital president who compassionately greeted and served the person who had just taken the lives of so many innocent people. I was moved by hearing about so many people participating in recent local showings of "Dawnland" - a documentary examining a recently formed Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Maine in response to the harm done to indigenous peoples.  And today, I am inspired by the staff and volunteers here, at the WDRC, working each and every day to hold space for difficult conversations, to build skills to stay present and engaged with one another, and to facilitate connection and compassion.  

I feel fortunate to live and work in a place with such deep capacity for care and community. In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., "Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal." I am honored to be on that journey with each of you. 

Executive Director

Congratulations, 2018 Peaceful Poetry Contest Winners!

The WDRC is pleased to announce the winners of the 2018 Youth Peace Poetry Contest. This year’s winners will have the opportunity to read their poems aloud at the 16th Annual Peace Builder Awards Gala, as well as at a Youth Peace Poetry Reading at Village Books in December. Check out the winning poems below!

Lily Patterson, 9, Silver Beach

At the end of August every year the tips of my fingers grow red-cold as i pluck pearls off a bush each little sapphire heavily guarded with gold leaf they have diamond branches each lapis lazuli sphere precious to pie. The synchronized plop of a berry, then a drop of liquid silver from the heavens. drop, drop each berry i pluck makes me richer, but then, i spend it all for the pleasure of pie some find joy from licking all of the frosting off of their cupcake or eating only the pie filling, but i enjoy a crisp crust. I sit on the couch with no book to read, or pencil to draw with but i find peace with the scent of pie

Giana Mendoza, 10, Alderwood Elementary

We’re volcano’s, we erupt, and we explode, But we mean much more to the earth. If you look at us with peace in your heart you see a beautiful hill, covered with grass, flowers, and much much more. But if you look us with a cold, broken heart you see a pile of ash to be thrown away. We stand there and think about how we see others.

The Puzzle of Peace
Moana Peterson, 12, Cascades Montessori Middle School

Peace is a puzzle
A complicated puzzle
And we are the pieces

We each have a piece inside of us
A piece of peace
We need to join hands
And start making our puzzle
Join hands with friends and neighbors
Join hands with family and relatives
And maybe have a open hand
Open your hand to the plants
Who bring us of life
Open your hand to animals
Who bring us hope
Open your hand to your ancestors
Who bring us determination
Open your hand to other people
Who bring us friendship
But the only way we can do that is

Peace is a puzzle
A complicated puzzle
And we are the pieces

Through the Window
Amelia O’Connell, 15, Explorations Academy

This is coming from the one who said that if anyone talked about what happened that day one more time, I would throw a computer printer through the window.
This is coming from the one who jumped up and ran from my chair yesterday to investigate a loud noise downstairs.
Once I was completely unaffected.
Then one day, it all hit me like a freight train.
A student like me should pay attention in class and learn.
A student like me should not have to spend class strategizing their plan of escape from the classroom in case of emergency.
They should not have to figure out how to throw a computer printer to break a window.
They should not have to figure out how to run to the bookstore downtown while partially incapacitated.
They should not have to leave class ten times a day to make sure there is not a man with a gun in the hallway.
I don’t care if you think that this is their fault.
It’s not.
I don’t remember how many times I read or heard that it happened again.
Every time I would seriously consider skipping school and walking into town instead.
One day I heard that there was a shooting in my state.
That day I had to babysit for the neighbour kids.
They caught me sitting by the window, crying, and asked me what was wrong.
I said that my goldfish died.
People ask me why I don’t have opinions.
I tell them, yes! I do!
I tell them I have an opinion and a half.
If only they knew how much I want to yell at the top of my lungs.
That I want to jump onto that stage and preach with them.
To say “Listen up! Lives are being lost and we need a change!”
But when I get anxious, my voice fades out and I can’t talk.
Sometimes I can’t move.
Sometimes I faint and fall onto the ground.
But I still have hope for the future.
I have hope that someday not only will our laws change, but our mind-set will change too. This is what our country needs.
Not just the voices of congressmen or newscasters, but the voices of the people. People like me, who have never spoken up before.

WDRC Youth Program Welcomes New Faces

This fall, the WDRC Youth Program has had the privilege of welcoming two new faces. Rebecca Hargraves joined us as our new AmeriCorps Youth Conflict Resolution Education Specialist, and Alana Patterman joined us as a Youth Program intern.


Meet Becca

Rebecca is very excited to begin serving as the AmeriCorps Youth Program Specialist at the Whatcom Dispute Resolution this year! She just recently graduated from Western Washington University with an interdisciplinary degree from Fairhaven College in Psychology, Youth Development, and Social Justice. As a student, she loved volunteering to work with youth throughout Whatcom County, and she can’t wait to continue that work by serving in this position.  She originally is from Santa Cruz, CA and enjoys that Bellingham also has plenty of trees and a beautiful waterfront!

Rebecca loves the Youth Program and the WDRC’s focus on promoting healthy and open communication. She also has a passion for poetry and is excited to help with this year’s Youth Peace Poetry Contest. For fun, she loves writing, listening to music, going for long walks, cooking with friends, and catching up with her family in California.


Meet Alana

Alana Patterman is a student at Western Washington University in the Human Services program. She came to the Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center for an opportunity in an internship after attending Western Washington University’s Internship Fair in winter quarter of 2017, and immediately gaining interest in what they do. She also registered for a very specific class at Western that would help her gain more knowledge in conflict resolution.

She will plan to eventually attend the mediation trainings upon graduating from Western, and hopes to continue her work within the WDRC to serve them and the community.

She possesses a strong drive for helping others, and also innately possesses a passionate desire to resolve problems. She wishes to be of great value to the WDRC and its community by helping everyone involved in it, and very much hopes to be able to use her skills to build trust and offer many resources to others.

Announcing the 16th Annual Peace Builder Award Recipients

The Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center (WDRC) invites the community to join in honoring eight remarkable individuals and organizations who have helped build peace in Whatcom County. The Peace Builder Award winners will be recognized at the 16th Annual Peace Builders Awards Gala, presented by Peoples Bank, on November 16th at 5:00 PM, in Bellingham Technical College’s Settlemyer Hall.

Each of this year’s award winners represent unique and important efforts to build trust, promote healing, resolve conflicts, and contribute to a more peaceful community. The recipients of the 2018 Peace Builder Awards are:

Education Award: Jill Iwasaki
For partnering with families and communities in the Ferndale School District to address trauma, solve complex problems, and support healthy youth development

Organization Award: Skookum Kids
For connecting foster children in Whatcom County to safe and loving homes

Arts Award: Dustin Willetts and the Kulshan Chorus
For using music to “break the silence” about gender-based violence

Youth Award: Students for Action
For leading inclusive community conversations about safe school environments

Program Award: Page and the Northwest Youth Services Queer Youth Project 
For using education, counseling, and advocacy to support LGBTQ youth

Reconciliation Award: Satpal Sidhu and the Arch of Healing and Reconciliation Project
For memorializing the history, experience, and contributions of immigrants to Whatcom County

Healthcare Award: Micki Jackson 
For convening and fostering intergenerational dialogue about end-of-life and palliative care

Collaboration Award: Jared Jones-Valentine and the Unity Coal Mine Bridge Project 
For engaging community members in celebrating diversity and building neighborhood pride

On November 16th, in addition to the awards ceremony, event guests will enjoy hors d’oeuvres, a chef-inspired dinner, a silent auction and dessert dash, live music, and poems from the winners of the 2018 Youth Peace Poetry Contest. Tickets are $60 and may be purchased online or by calling 360.676.0122. Thanks to the 16th Annual Peace Builder Awards sponsors: Peoples Bank, Brett McCandlis Brown & Conner PLLC, Village Books and Paper Dreams, Rice Insurance, First Federal Bank, and Bank of the Pacific.

Welcome Janice Brendible, Supervised Visitation Program Coordinator

Mom's Picture.jpg

The WDRC is pleased to welcome Janice Brendible to the position of Supervised Visitation Program Coordinator.

Janice has always worked in positions where she is giving back. She is thrilled to join the WDRC because it offers so many opportunities for individuals in Whatcom County to be healthy if they choose.

Janice has been a resident of Bellingham for over 20 years. She comes from Southeast Alaska and is a Tsimshian, Raven Clan. She raised her family in Bellingham, where they thrived in the Birchwood neighborhood.

When she’s not at work, Janice serves as a board member with the Birchwood Neighborhood Association, and she can often be found at the Bellingham Public Library, where she has many items on hold.

Three Things Every Manager Should Know About Conflict

By Luke Wiesner, Mediation Program Manager

Conflict Happens
Here’s a shocker.  Conflict happens and it happens at work…a lot.  We are constantly sending messages to our co-workers, whether we mean to or not.  The unusual email punctuation, the short hello in the morning, missed eye contact in passing, or the delay in email response are all communicating a message.  But is the message received always the message sent?

Regardless of the intent of the message, the message received informs how people respond.  Over time, misaligned messages can develop into a pattern of responses that lead to misunderstanding, hurt feelings, and conflict.  Because messages are constantly being sent and received in workplace relationships, each person tells a different story about what happens in conflict.  Consider the situation with Liam and Shelia. 

Liam’s story starts with his being upset that Shelia didn’t invite him to her housewarming party that some other co-workers attended.  This led him to unfriend her on social media.  Shelia’s story begins with feeling hurt that Liam stopped asking if she wanted a coffee on his morning coffee runs, which he used to ask regularly.  She understood this to mean that Liam wanted to have a more professional relationship, so she didn’t invite him to her gathering.  Shelia would later find out in mediation that Liam overheard her saying a few weeks prior that she was trying to quit coffee and he didn’t want to tempt her.

In this story, both Liam and Shelia chose a different beginning of the conflict, which portrayed themselves as the protagonist of the story and the other as the antagonist.  This is a commonly known psychological trap called confirmation bias.  Confirmation bias explains that we tend to look for evidence to support our pre-existing beliefs.  Most of us believe we are good, reasonable people, and so we look for evidence to support that belief. 

The Cost of Conflict
Conflict is normal, yet it can be very costly to organizations.  Multiple studies estimate that managers spend anywhere from 15% to up to 40% of their time managing conflict.  That’s estimated to be over $700 billion per year in hourly wages nationally…at the low end. 


Workplace conflicts create dissatisfaction and stress for employees. In turn, dissatisfied, stressed employees may gossip in order to feel validated, which escalates conflict and leads to low morale, decreased productivity, proxy conflicts, increased sick days, and higher rates of turnover.  Let’s take that $700 billion low end estimate for wages spent dealing with conflict, and add in hours lost to gossiping and onboarding new employees, and we see that conflict can take its toll on organizations.

But it’s not all bad.  Conflict can be healthy if people are prepared for it. 

Tips for Managers
1.      Be Proactive and Intervene
We know conflict is going to happen, but it doesn’t need to be something that we shy away from.  Conflict can be a positive experience that increases morale and productivity.  Managers should be proactive with conflict and intervene appropriately.  Consider these three intervention methods:

A)    Prompt employees to address the issues directly and privately: 
Letting the conflict resolve at the lowest level possible can be a great option for mild conflicts and misunderstandings.  When employees resolve issues themselves it promotes responsibility, respect, productivity, and job satisfaction.  Invite them to sit down and work it out before formally intervening.

B)     Facilitate a discussion with your employees: 
Not all conflicts can be worked out directly.  Set up a time to meet with both employees and have a clearly defined agenda so they can prepare.  Allow each employee to have uninterrupted time to share their concerns and experiences in the conflict.  Identify the key issues that need to be addressed and assist them in working through those issues.  When you intervene as a manager you may be wearing multiple hats.  If possible, keep the employees’ issues and any disciplinary actions separate.  There is training for facilitating these conversations right here in Whatcom county.

C)    Call a third party mediator or HR: 
Some disputes may require a trained third party.  You may have an HR department who can assist you, or you might need to call a consultant or professional mediator.  The cost to bring in a mediator is likely a drop in the bucket compared to what you are spending on an unresolved conflict.  Some organizations operate on a sliding scale if you are a small business or community organization.

How do you know when is the right time to intervene?  You may be unaware that a conflict exists within your organization.  If you notice any sudden changes in behavior, verbal or non-verbal communication, or work attendance, you might want to start exploring what is going on within your team.

2.      Resolve Issues AND Interests
It is important to remember that employees are people first and then workers.  We all have needs, desires, and fears.  Most conflicts exist as the issue-level – having a differing position on an issue – and at the interest-level – having unmet needs or needs violated.  We can usually see the issues more easily because they are tangible, however interests are what fuels the conflict.  In the situation with Liam and Shelia, both of them felt disrespected by the other, which intensified their issue around professional and personal boundaries.

Issues are often symptoms of unmet or violated needs.  It is essential for managers to address both the tangible issues and the underlying interests when they intervene in a conflict.  If you notice conflicts reoccurring between the same employees, it might be a sign indicating that something at the interest-level is not being addressed.


3.      Train your team
Despite the cost of conflict in the workplace, and despite the fact that 7 out of 10 employees identify managing conflict as an important leadership skill, most managers have not been trained in conflict management.  A 2008 study indicated that conflict training was the most effective predictor for how workplaces interacted with conflict.  Ninety-five percent of people who received conflict training said that the training helped them interact positively with conflict. 

Many workplaces shy away from providing conflict training to their employees because of the upfront cost.  While, it is true that most conflict training has an upfront cost, the cost to an organization for not providing conflict training is much higher. 

Welcome New Board Member, Peter Ramey!

The WDRC is pleased to welcome Peter Ramey to our Board of Directors!

Peter spent the first 25 years of his professional career in sales, and training sales professionals, predominantly in the construction industry. He covered Whatcom County as part of his sales territory from 1995-2000 and fell in love with the area.

Peter returned to Whatcom County in 2017 to take a job with the Whatcom County Public Defender as a trial attorney. After living in Arizona and New Mexico, he is happy to be back in a place with greenery and open water!

Peter is attracted to the WDRC by the opportunity to be of service to community members with limited resources, and hopes to expand options outside the criminal legal system for our most marginalized citizens. When he’s not working, Peter enjoys cinema and gastronomy with his wife. He has two cats.

Peace Talk with Daniel Soloff

Daniel Soloff has served as the WDRC's AmeriCorps Youth Program Specialist since 2016. In an interview with Tim Campbell, the WDRC's AmeriCorps Outreach VISTA, Daniel reflects on his work at the WDRC. 

photo credit: Phil Montogomery

photo credit: Phil Montogomery

Tim Campbell: How long have you been with the WDRC?

Daniel Soloff: 1 year and 10 months.

TC: What brought you to the WDRC?

DS: I realized how much the curriculum focuses on my interests, such as the physiology of stress and conflict, decision making, and connection. I also had a big interest in facilitating groups. I was a volunteer while working with another nonprofit and I kept applying for this position because I thought it would be a great opportunity for personal and professional growth.

TC: Tell me about your background. 

DS: I went to Western Washington University and made my own degree through Fairhaven College.  The degree was titled Social Stewardship and was designed for helping groups of people relate more and collaborate better. It combines psychology and leadership studies, and turned out to be a really great fit for my current position.

TC: What programs do you tend to work with the most?

DS: I work with the Youth Program mostly, though sometimes I facilitate adult training as well. I also co-mediate Small Claims and Parent-Teen Mediation.

TC: What is your favorite thing about working with youth? What is the most difficult?

DS: My favorite thing about working with youth is the sense of accomplishment when the youth begin to accept you and they begin to share out. They become more engaged and it makes all the difference for achieving learning outcomes and enhancing the general experience of the class.

I'm very comfortable in my role, though when I first began the most difficult part was kids not engaging. The ones who sit in the back and just roll their eyes, but now I just see that as a personal challenge. I make it my goal that by the end of the presentation or workshop all of the youth will be interested and engaged. I'm relentless and it works most of the time.

The biggest difficulty that comes up is the temporary support these students receive. Many of these students need and even request ongoing support and conflict coaching. 

TC: What are some of your favorite trainings to give?

DS: I really like them all, but for different reasons. I like the Juvenile Justice Diversion workshop because it is a smaller group, allowing us to build a stronger rapport with them as well as the youth building stronger rapport with each other. Through this, these groups tend to have more insights and gain deeper understanding of themselves and each other. I also really love the classroom presentations. I enjoy showing the youth that there can be a sense of fun in learning. They are expecting to be taught about conflict resolution and they prepare themselves for a boring lecture. And then we go in with different activities and a positive attitude and it surprises them, and they begin having more fun.

TC: Describe what healthy and constructive approaches to conflict means to you.

DS: Something I ask in my Juvenile Justice discussions is "When do you think that conflict has gotten too far?" A couple of the common answers are "when people start yelling," or "when things get physical." What I think is that conflict goes too far when people stop listening to each other. From that point, conflict tends only to escalate. So I believe that a healthy approach to conflict is really learning to listen. Being able to hear someone else before speaking.

TC: What WDRC trainings from have you taken?

DS: Almost all of them.

TC: Any favorites?

The Professional Mediation Training. It just really resonated with me. It matched my intuition on what communication is supposed to look like.

TC: What is something that you have learned at the WDRC that you apply to your everyday life?

DS: Recently this idea of the cycle of violence. When we have needs that aren’t being filled, we often react by blaming others and sometimes even taking from one another to fulfill our own needs. Then the person you just took from will be in need and this cycle just goes on. So what needs to happen is that instead of this trend of blame and guilt, we need to flip it around and begin sharing/giving to make sure everyone’s needs are met. When a situation comes up, people should stop targeting each other and instead realize the situation is the problem and the situation can be changed. Then they will be able to work together and focus on the solutions rather than focus on problems.

TC: What is your favorite event that we put on?

DS: I definitely love Peace Builders. It is just so inspiring to see all of the good that these people have done and fills me with a sense of pride and hope.

However, I would also say that I love our Cribbage Tournament. I grew up playing cribbage. It was a pretty big game for my family and I just love seeing others enjoy it too. It’s a game that not very many people talk about, but when you find out someone plays it there is immediately a sense of kinship there.

TC: What’s been one of your favorite things about the WDRC?

DC: Definitely the staff. There is a sense of cohesion and centeredness that I haven’t experienced anywhere else. It’s the kind of staff you think you could only dream of. We’re always looking out for one another, and helping each other out. It’s like when you're in your twenties and have roommates that will never do the dishes and eventually give up hoping they will do the dishes. The staff here would be the kind of roommates that would always be happy to help do the dishes, whether they are theirs or not. They remind me that the ideal is actually possible because this is an ideal team. In school I learned about a term called social capital, where the relationships between people determine the efficacy of that particular group or community. I would say this organization has a lot of social capital.

TC: What is something you find unique about the WDRC?

DS: We definitely have a very unique role in the community. Our services are very widespread and we work with a lot of different communities. For instance, the youth program works in all of the school districts in Whatcom County, the Juvenile Justice System, and other youth serving organizations. It’s a really special opportunity and we’re so glad we have the opportunity to reach out to so many.

TC: Are you able to see an impact with your service? What is it like?

DS: I do feel like we make a big impact. The impact may not be visible yet. Years from now the youth may not remember this guy that came to their classroom to teach about conflict resolution, but when they come across a conflict or other high stress situation there will be something in the back of their mind saying “Wait, let’s look at this situation. Why am I reacting this way? What is the other person saying?”

This kind of impact won’t necessarily show an immediate change, but will reinforce positive skills that they are already working on developing. It’s not that different from marketing, where enough exposure eventually leads to a behavior to buy. The more exposure that they have to these kinds of lessons and ideas, then the more they will be able to see the application of those lessons in the real world.

TC: What do you think is the long-term impact of your service?

DS: Down the line, I hope that these youth will teach their own kids these lessons and the message will just continue to spread. However, if we want to make a bigger impact we need to be teaching more of these workshops to parents. Instead of teaching a class to about 30 students we could teach a class to 30 parents. If those parents have multiple kids, then ultimately we would be able to reach a larger audience. That way the parents can  help the youth practice these lessons in the home and the children can keep the parents accountable.

Also I feel like we need to work on changing schools from just a place to learn into making it an active community of learners. Make schools such that the students are invested and families are engaged. Have there be more of a shared responsibility as well as a shared celebration.

TC: Any general advice for readers?

DS: Youth really need to be heard. They need to know that there are safe and supportive adults out there that will be willing to listen. Ask them questions. If you ask them how they are doing, don’t stop after they just say “I’m fine.” Keep asking even if they are just answering with one word responses. You have to annoy them into a conversation. They are looking for someone who cares enough to keep asking and not walk away as soon as they begin to talk.


Volunteer Perspective: Inside the WDRC's Youth Program

by Ali Raetz, Youth Program Intern


My time volunteering in the Youth Program this year has been one of the best, yet unexpected, surprises I’ve ever encountered. I first was introduced to the WDRC at an internship/volunteer fair at Western in the fall of 2017. Daniel (the WDRC's AmericCorps Youth Conflict Resolution Education Specialist) shared with me about how they work with youth to help them understand conflict and equip them with the tools to express themselves in healthy, constructive ways. I feel passionately about the importance of giving youth a voice and listening to their stories, and I discovered that the WDRC’s mission lined up with these passions. By the end of our conversation, I was practically throwing my resume at Daniel in hopes of getting involved in any way.

Luckily my enthusiasm didn’t scare him off, and a couple weeks later I was scheduled for my first class as an assistant. I’ve had the opportunity to assist in the juvenile court Healthy Choices for Girls classes, multiple conflict resolution classes at elementary and middle schools, and large group classroom presentations about understanding conflict. While I’ve enjoyed all of the different avenues I’ve volunteered with the youth programs, my experience with a small group of girls at Shuksan middle school stands out as the most impactful, challenging, yet enriching class I’ve helped out with.

There’s no denying that middle school is an extremely difficult time for everyone. Emily (the WDRC's Youth Program Manager) and I spent about a month spending time getting to know a friend group of middle school girls at Shuksan that experience the ups and downs of 6th grade together, including difficulties with friendships and following classroom rules. While they learned about conflict, communication and trust from our time together, I learned more about the importance of giving youth a space to be vulnerable and honest with each other. The same girls who in the beginning of our time together were strongly opposed to opening up or participating were asking tough questions and sharing experiences in our last few sessions.

The WDRC has also shaped and contributed to my studies as a human services student at Western. Restorative justice wasn’t in my vocabulary before my fall internship at the WDRC. However, this last quarter I worked on a quarter long research project focusing on shift in school discipline and benefit of restorative justice as a result of my time learning and teaching with the WDRC. I have discovered new passions and learned from Emily and Daniel, as well as from every student that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and working with. The WDRC’s Youth Programs is doing necessary work teaching the next generation empathy, compassion, communication and healthy conflict strategies. I’m honored and excited to be a part of such a life-changing program.