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Success Story 4: Restorative Circle- Turning Point for Relationships

We worked with a group of teenage boys to engage them during the school holidays. These youths displayed behavioural issues and required time and effort to engage and connect with. The first half of the programme allowed the youths to learn a new sport (Tchoukball), while the second half of the programme allowed the youths to learn values through experiential activities. During sports, the boys were generally well-behaved because they truly enjoyed playing sports with each other. However, during the second half of the programme, the youths became restless and it was not easy to manage them.

The situation became worse for one of the facilitators on a personal level. Some of the boys her by saying obscene things aloud and ignored her instructions during the session. They openly made fun of her because of her accent, being a foreigner, and were rude and defiant towards her. The disastrous climax was reached when, during an activity, the boys suddenly ran out of the classroom screaming. One student swung a wooden broomstick and knocked down a chair right next to her. Startled and disturbed, she ran away from him.

For the next session, all of the boys sat in a circle and another facilitator told the boys that they needed to talk about what happened during the last session. The affected facilitator shared that she was aware that the boys did not like her and had laughed at the way she spoke. She continued to recount to them what had happened during the last session and how she continued to feel nervous and disturbed when she went back to the office. She also shared that she had other job responsibilities, and did not have the energy to do other things.

The boys were asked to share their thoughts and responses. When it was their turn to speak, they shared that they meant no harm and didn’t realise it had affected her so badly; one student said that she looked too serious and had never joked with them. At the closing of the circle, many boys came forward and shook her hand and apologised. It was hard to tell what they made of the circle process then.

By the next session, there were positive changes seen in the youths’ behaviour. Some of the boys helped to set up the logistics for the group work, and volunteered to help put things together at the end. A few boys took the initiative to sit with the affected facilitator during meal time and showed interest in her overseas experience as a foreigner. It seemed as though they had become a different person overnight.