Announcing the Recipients of the 2019 Peace Builder Awards

We are pleased to invite the community to join in honoring eight remarkable individuals, projects, and organizations who have helped build peace in Whatcom County. 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 2019 Peace Builder Award winners will be recognized at the 17th Annual Peace Builder Awards Gala, presented by Peoples Bank, on November 15th, at Bellingham Technical College’s Settlemyer Hall.

The recipients of the 2019 Peace Builder Awards are:

Collaboration Award: Whatcom Youth Pride Coalition
For bringing the community together to support and celebrate LGBTQ+ youth

Community Award: 2019 Paddle to Lummi Tribal Canoe Journey
For promoting unity, honoring culture, and inspiring healing, generosity, and connection

Environment Award: David Roberts and Kulshan Services
For engaging the community in dialogue to reach clarity and consensus on challenging issues

Healthcare Award: Marcela Suarez Diaz and the Sea Mar Promotores Program
For creating connections and partnerships to support migrant farmworkers and their families

Inspiration Award: Peace Wizard
For spreading the message of peace wherever he goes

Public Service Award: Incarceration Prevention & Reduction Task Force
For strengthening our justice system through cooperation, innovation, and action

Volunteer Award: Ann and Pug Edmonds
For using creative problem solving and collaboration to meet community members’ basic needs

Youth Award: The Upstanders United
For creating a more inclusive, connected, and caring school environment

At the Peace Builder Awards Gala, in addition to the awards ceremony, guests will enjoy dinner, a silent auction and dessert dash, live music, and poetry readings by the winners of the 2019 Youth Peace Poetry Contest. Tickets are $70 and may be purchased online or by calling 360.676.0122.

Faces of the WDRC - Board Member, Kirsten Drickey

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Take a little peek into what inspires and energizes board member, Kirsten Drickey, about the work we do and her service toward our mission:

1. How long have you served on the Board at the WDRC? Do you serve as a volunteer for any other organizations in Whatcom County? If so, where?

I have served on the WDRC Board since March of 2017. I also volunteer with the WSU Master Gardener program here in Whatcom County.

2. What inspired you to become a board member for the WDRC?

I am continuously inspired by the WDRC's mission and by the thoughtful dedication that everyone affiliated with the organization brings to their work. I took the 40-hour mediation training about 5 years ago, and that course had a deep impact on how I approach my personal and professional relationships. Serving on the board feels like a concrete way to contribute to an organization that serves our community with such skill and professionalism.

3. What energizes you about your service as a board member and the work that the WDRC does in the community?

The thing that most energizes me is the WDRC's vision of what's possible. So often, we're tempted to take the easy way out, by being overly critical or impatient or just not listening. If we instead approach conflict with curiosity and humility, we have the opportunity for learning and for genuine human connection. Through the WDRC's work in our community--youth programs, family mediation, various kinds of trainings and facilitation services--we have the opportunity to take those personal connections and parlay them into something bigger. As a community of people committed to this kind of practice, we can build systems and programs that are more effective and more inclusive. It is deeply satisfying to be a small part of that.

4. If you could share any conflict resolution or communication advice, what would it be?

Breathe, then listen.

WDRC Supports Upcoming Whatcom Museum Exhibit

At the WDRC, we strive to stay relevant and ensure that our services meet the community’s ever evolving needs. Recently, we’ve had a chance to do just that, working with our neighbors at the Whatcom Museum. Supported by a Whatcom Community Foundation Project Neighborly Grant, the Museum recruited the WDRC to participate in preparations for an upcoming exhibition, “Wanted: Ed Bereal for Disturbing the Peace.”

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Opening on September 7th, “Wanted” showcases the artwork of Whatcom County based artist Ed Bereal. The exhibition features six decades of his work, from Bereal’s never before exhibited early journal sketches and self-portraits to his symbolic assemblage to his radical street theater work of the 1960s and ’70s. Many of Bereal’s more recent paintings and installations examine racial inequity, gun violence, corporate greed, and political power structures.

The WDRC has the privilege of supporting the exhibition in two ways. First, we provided basic conflict resolution training to the museum’s frontline staff and volunteer docents. Anticipating that the provocative themes in Bereal’s artwork might evoke strong responses from visitors, the museum wanted to equip its staff and volunteers with some active listening and de-escalation tools. Over 20 museum staff and docents participated in the training in August.

Secondly, the WDRC will support the museum in facilitating “Art, Politics, and Community: A Conversation Inspired by Ed Bereal’s Work”. The public is invited to join the Whatcom Museum and the WDRC for an exciting and collaborative conversation inspired by “Wanted”. Community leaders, including WWU Political Science Professor Vernon Damani Johnson, and Bellingham Chief of Police David Doll, will join artist Ed Bereal in leading a roundtable discussion focused around art, politics, and their impacts in our community. Participants will break out into smaller groups allowing for constructive conversation that promotes tolerance, respect, and non-violent communication. Taking place from 4-5:30 PM on September 21, the event is free, but advanced registration is required.

Partnerships like the one with the Whatcom Museum are essential because they give WDRC staff the opportunity to think about our curriculum from a different perspective, draw new connections, and expand awareness of our mission and services. Plus, they give us the chance to step outside our area of expertise and learn about things like curating art and what it takes to be a museum docent! 

About the Whatcom Museum
Located in Bellingham’s cultural district, the Whatcom Museum, a non-profit organization operated jointly by the City of Bellingham and the Whatcom Museum Foundation, offers a rich variety of programs and exhibitions about art, nature, and Northwest history. The Museum’s collection contains more than 200,000 artifacts and art pieces of regional importance, including a vast photographic archive. The Whatcom Museum is accredited nationally by the American Alliance of Museums, is a member of the American Association of State and Local History, and is a Smithsonian Institution Affiliate. 

The Whatcom Museum has two buildings with public hours: Old City Hall, 121 Prospect St., and the Lightcatcher building, 250 Flora St., both open Wednesday - Sunday, noon – 5 PM. The Family Interactive Gallery, located in the Lightcatcher, is open Wednesday - Saturday 10 AM - 5 PM; Sunday noon - 5 PM. More info at www.whatcommuseum.org

Welcome to our new Supervised Visitation Program Manager, Janne Sleeper!

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Janne has had the privilege to sample a number of career options over the years. She has been a newspaper reporter/editor, a horse trainer/riding instructor, retail manager, Red Cross volunteer and most recently a provider of services to people with Developmental Disabilities.

It’s a wonderful blending of experiences that has given her the chance to see how people manage the world from many different vantage points.

Janne has lived in Washington state nearly all of her life. She moved to Bellingham 10 years ago and considers it the jewel of the Northwest. She and her husband bike, hike and take their three dogs to Hovander Park and on the occasional brewery tour. They have two adult daughters – one residing in Encinitas, CA and the other in Bellingham.


Check Out What We are Reading!

Every book you purchase from Village Books through our website, helps the WDRC earn a portion of online sales. Get started today by tuning in to what we are reading. Click each link to be directed to more information and how to order each book through Village Books.

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Resolving Conflicts at Work is a guide for preventing and resolving conflicts, miscommunications, and misunderstandings at work, including dozens of techniques for revealing how the inevitable disputes and divisions in the workplace are actually opportunities for greater creativity, productivity, enhanced morale, and personal growth.


Getting to Yes offers a proven, step-by-step strategy for coming to mutually acceptable agreements in every sort of conflict. Thoroughly updated and revised, it offers readers a straight- forward, universally applicable method for negotiating personal and professional disputes without getting angry-or getting taken.

Farewell and thank you to board member, Morgan Sicilia!

With gratitude, we say farewell to board member Morgan Sicilia. Morgan served on the WDRC Board of Directors for over 2 years, bringing her background in social work and supporting healthy families to advance the mission, values and vision of the WDRC. Her wisdom and experience were essential in helping the organization navigate its first capital campaign, A Permanent Place for Peace. We appreciate your service Morgan!

Reflections on a Year of Service

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE, rEBECCA!   YOU WILL BE MISSED!

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE, rEBECCA!
YOU WILL BE MISSED!

By Rebecca Hargraves, AmeriCorps Youth Program Specialist

I have been serving as the AmeriCorps Youth Program Specialist at the Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center since September 2018. Before taking on this position, I had volunteered for a year with the Youth Program while I was finishing up my bachelor’s degree at Western Washington University. When I heard about the Youth Program at the WDRC, I was eager to be a part of it!

I was excited about being in the AmeriCorps position here, because it would give me the opportunity to learn more about conflict resolution, and to work with youth of all different ages, backgrounds, and from many different areas in Whatcom County.  While in college, I loved working with youth in schools in Bellingham, and being in the role as a mentor for youth. In this position, I have been able to continue that work as well as develop skills as a facilitator in both classroom and small group settings. Also, I love that the position is focused on helping others shift the ways they see conflict - from something negative and overwhelming, to something normal and natural that can lead to positive change.

One of my favorite parts about serving in the Youth Program, has been connecting with youth, and especially helping youth realize that they are not alone in dealing with difficult conflicts and there are ways we can learn to handle conflict so it can help us rather than hinder us. Youth often come to our classes feeling that some conflicts cannot be solved. Through asking the right questions, and guiding youth to begin opening up and talking about these issues with each other, they usually can come up with amazing reflections and solutions to problems all on their own! I love the moments where youth feel heard in our classes, when they open up, when they have their profound realizations, when they realize they are not alone in their suffering, when they learn to connect with each other in deeper and more authentic ways, and when they realize there are ways they can figure out conflicts that felt once hopeless. I love when I see youth leave our classes with what looks like a weight lifted from their shoulders.

What has been difficult, is that by asking youth hard and vulnerable questions about conflict, we often hear about some really big conflicts youth may have going on in their lives, whether that’s conflict at home, with teachers, or with peers. It always breaks my heart to hear from some of them that they might not have the support they need at home or school to have figured this out, and they feel there’s no way to solve it. As a teacher only working with these youths for three to eight hours total, I can’t always be there for them. I see this as a sign that we not only need to talk to youth about how to deal with conflict, but teachers, counselors, school staff, and parents need to continue listening to youth and role modeling healthy approaches to conflict for youth every day.

                Though this magical and dynamic service is often difficult, I think I have made a big difference in my community. In these ten and a half months, I have reached about 750 youth in Whatcom County. With our workshops, it is not only the number of students we reach, it’s about how we are making the tools we have to share important, applicable, and fun to learn about! In our workshops, we play games and try to have students up, moving, and having discussions with each other throughout the class. Conflict is hard to talk about, and moving our bodies and connecting with others in both fun and serious ways helps us feel more comfortable sharing. We also focus on helping students start a dialogue with each other about how to solve some difficult and tricky issues. We get them talking so that when we leave from our short time with them, they can continue these conversations amongst each other now that they’ve broken the ice. This year, I also focused on developing some materials in Spanish for youth who speak Spanish as their first language and are still learning English. I have created many new worksheets, and dozens of conflict scenarios to add to the program. Most importantly, I helped keep this important program alive the entire year to reach the hundreds of youth in Whatcom County who need it!

                As they say, you need to practice what you preach. Teaching about conflict resolution skills every day, and encouraging youth to try new and different techniques to solve their problems, it is only natural that I would be trying to use these skills every day, too. Through learning about conflict resolution all year, I feel much more equipped to deal with any conflicts at work or in my personal life. It has helped me keep relationships healthy and happy. I am also much better at advocating for myself than I used to. Many people think that being direct is always being mean and pushy, but it is actually really important to feel comfortable being direct – and you can do it in a kind way!

                The most valuable skill I learned this year, was how to listen to people and hold space for them. The youth we serve often have many great ideas and struggles all at once. By asking the right questions, and then listening attentively, youth have been able to find the answers to some of their most difficult conflicts on their own. At the end of the day, youth just want to feel heard and seen. With the skills I have been learning and developing here at the Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center, I think I have been and will continue to be the extra support youth sometimes need to feel confident facing some of the scarier conflicts in their lives.

It is with so much gratitude that we say goodbye to Rebecca as she embarks on her next journey. Thank you for all that you have given in your year of service at the WDRC. We will miss you and wish you well!

Check Out What We are Reading!

Every book you purchase from Village Books through our website, helps the WDRC earn a portion of online sales. Get started today by tuning in to what we are reading. Click each link to be directed to more information and how to order each book through Village Books.

Conflict Across Cultures
Cultural differences among members of any group-be it a multinational business team or an international family-are frequently the source of misunderstanding and can lead to conflict. With powerful techniques for resolving or at least reducing conflicts, scholars and teachers from around the globe demystify the intricate and important relationship between conflict and culture.


The Joy of Conflict Resolution
The rapid rate of change in the workplace and among families often leads to conflict and confrontation which can undermine productivity and poison relationships. The Joy of Conflict Resolution helps readers understand conflict and why it arises through the lens of the "drama triangle" of victims, villains and heroes. In an accessible, engaging and light-hearted style that uses stories and humor to explore potentially emotionally charged situations, it provides proven and practical skills to move beyond confrontation to resolve conflicts collaboratively.

Sharing Our Stories - Restorative Conference Model

By Emily Machin-Mayes

Here at the WDRC, we talk a lot about restorative practices, but we rarely stop to explain what that means. If you've ever wondered what we're talking about, read on!
Restorative practices are an approach that the WDRC provides as part of our comprehensive youth program. There are many processes which can be used to resolve conflicts and address harm. This story illustrates how one situation at a local middle school was resolved using a restorative conference model.

Manny and Lukas are in many classes together. What started as minor annoyances between the two had begun to escalate over time. Following another argument, Manny shoved and held Lukas against the wall in the school hallway. Staff intervened and after each student had some days apart, the boys and their families were given the option to talk about what happened and how they were going to set things right.

Manny and his mom were the first to arrive and were immediately greeted with a warm smile from the math teacher, “Manny, nice job on that test today, I can tell how hard you’ve been working, does your mom know how well you’ve been doing?” Manny gave a small smile and shrugged. When Lukas and his mom arrived, he is similarly greeted, “I saw part of your game yesterday, you made some great shots, how did the rest of the game go?” That initial positive connection with each family seemed to help ease the nervous uncertainty for both families.

We sit on an assortment of couches and chairs forming a circle. Each person gets a chance to speak about what they hope for, what the incident was like for them, and finally what needs to happen to re-establish safety. Lukas’ mom, with tears in her eyes shared how scary it was to get the call that something had happened at school, and that her son was hurt, having only recently switched from homeschool. Manny’s mom spoke next and immediately apologized; she said she knew what that feeling was like. During elementary school, Manny had come home bleeding after getting beat up by older students, the experience had terrified her and hearing that her son was involved now in hurting someone else was particularly difficult. Manny offered his own apology and that he’d felt awful since it happened.  

With apologies offered and accepted, the group discussed how to keep something similar from happening again. The math teacher chimed in, “I hope you both know you can check in with me if you are feeling upset or stressed, you know that right? You can ask to talk with me after class or write it down.” Both boys agreed they could talk to him or another person at the school. Both families had come with their own histories and fears, but hearing and having the time to share their own experience had helped. Towards the end of the time, I checked in about how people were feeling, and the shared answer was relief and reassurance. By highlighting the needs and experience of those involved and using a process to help people connect, these conversations carry the potential for understanding, empathy, and with that, finding safety again.

Restorative practices are an effective way to ensure accountability and resolve conflict among youth.  At the WDRC we offer many approaches, including facilitating community building circles, impact competency education and victim offender meetings.

Conversations with the YMCA Youth Institute program

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My name is Rebecca and I have been serving as the AmeriCorps Youth Program Specialist at the Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center.  This spring, Emily, the Youth Program Coordinator, and I had the honor of working with the YMCA Youth Institute. The Youth Institute is a program for teens in Whatcom County to gain skills in college and career readiness through a comprehensive summer program. The group of youth we met with had participated in the Youth Institute last summer and were a part of the Youth Institute’s after-school leadership program. They met every two weeks during the school year to prepare themselves to be leaders and mentors to new Youth Institute participants this summer.

The youth in the after-school program were fun, thoughtful, and authentic. On our first day with them, we introduced them to conflict styles, as well as triggers. The group knew each other so well, they were able to be honest with each other and truly reflect on who they are and what challenges they have.

On our second day with the Youth Institute, we focused on communication, conflict resolution, and traits of a great leader. We discussed some of the most difficult conflicts they had last summer, including making new friends and working on projects together. To get to the root of their issues working on projects, we talked about different assumptions people might make of others’ leadership styles while working together. A solution they arrived at was that understanding of differences is important, even if they don’t know why someone is doing something a certain way. Also, asking more questions and taking a more collaborative approach to projects could make them more cohesive and potentially have less unspoken conflict.