The Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) was started by Quakers at Green Haven, a maximum security prison in New York, in 1975. Now, 24 years later, AVP workshops are operating in 45 states and in 25 countries across six continents. In New York alone, more than 400 weekend workshops are conducted in the prisons, schools and communities annually.
Violence is one the most serious problems in the nation. In the United States, the homicide rate is twice that of many developed countries. Violence is at the root of some of the most intransigent societal problems including domestic violence, child abuse, gang warfare and hate crimes. AVP seeks to change people, giving them more effective ways to deal with anger.
AVP operates on the fundamental belief that there is a power for peace and good in everyone and this power has the ability to transform violence. AVP builds on a basis of respect and caring for self and others. AVP helps people to develop positive self-images. Its growth and successes come from the empowerment it builds in the people who become involved with it.
AVP is a multi-cultural movement of volunteers offering experiential workshops that empower individuals to liberate themselves and others from the burden of violence. All the facilitators conducting these workshops must be volunteers. Paid staff is kept minimal in size. The number of facilitator volunteers numbers in the thousands, making AVP a totally volunteer driven organization.
AVP has three levels of workshops: Basic, 2nd Level and Training for Facilitators. The program grows by training new leaders. Consequently, each time the full series of workshops takes place, a new seed bed for the expansion of the program has been created. Manuals have been prepared so that the program can be readily replicated in new areas.
Many of the individuals leaving the prisons have changed their lives around and are now contributing valuable services to the communities in which they live. In schools, the program has significantly reduced incidents of violence and produced a better learning environment.