Why donkey coaxing?

We first arrived at the Fattorie Faggioli and began this blog almost 3 years ago now. Since then we’ve gone back and forth, posting about all kinds of things. What began as a tool for keeping folks up to date on our travels is now a record of the development of our life today, the realization of a dream.  So what better time to return to our name, “Donkey Coaxing” and explain what it means to us.

Some astute readers may have noticed the visual reference in our blog banner to this quintessential Quaker anti-war poster:

from the Library of Congress collection, American Friends Service Committee poster circa 1920

There are obviously several differences, not least of which that Clara and Alice are clearly donkeys, not mules.  But let’s take a minute to look closer:  In the classic poster, the first panels depict two mules straining against a single cord towards two disparate piles of hay.  To me, this seems like a 20th century dichotomy, the two powers straining for their singular and apparently opposing goals.

I would venture to say, in this modern era with our incredible powers of communication, transportation and interconnection, many of our cords are no longer visible, nor our piles of hay.  To me, the nation state today is much less relevant, as the international elite hold the hay and the invisible cords that bind most of us in all kinds of directions. And today too often we, like Alice and Clara, look off in completely difference directions, many of us in the first world rarely even feeling the strain of our bonds. We are often pretty committed to our viewpoints and our societies become more and more polarized as folks look further and further into opposing distances every day.

So that is Donkey Coaxing, understanding that we are rather stubborn in our ways. Understanding that we must coax ourselves into new ways of being, new ways of cooperating to meet our goals together And with that in mind, we are coaxing ourselves into a concrete next step:

Many of our readers may know that my mom, Leyla Welkin, worked for several years in Turkey on various trauma treatment projects. As a cross cultural psychologist, her work focused on helping survivors of violence recognize and heal from traumatic situations, often through unfamiliar languages, social norms and bureaucratic systems. Her final years in Turkey focused on work with Syrian refugees, where she not only saw an enormous need on the part of refugees for trauma healing, but also for refugee service providers.  She worked with a yoga instructor there who primarily served the aid community, helping folks realign themselves in their work and supporting their mind/body healing.

As Federica and I returned to the farm last fall, my mom suggested an idea that she’d been percolating for the last few years since her work in the refugee camps.  What if we offered a new kind of training for refugee service providers, set up in a new way that would offer an intercultural, international group mind body tools to bring home to their communities? Many folks are still doing the best they can to respond to the growing refugee crisis, but often with little training, little respite, and often very little opportunity to reflect on their experiences at all.  Mom suggested we consider offering a training here at the farm, considering our long term dreams for this place.

Enter UpUpA our (mostly) Italian action group that’s now been meeting and envisioning work together for over a year.  This group of friends is mostly made up of folks who’ve spent time together working in conflict zones with a volunteer nonviolent peace corps, Operation Dove.  Operation Dove itself has a project open right now with Syrian refugees in camps in Lebanon, and everyone agreed that understanding trauma, mind/body balance, and sustaining oneself to avoid burnout after years in the field were pertinent themes everywhere.   Last month, UpUpA decided to take on organizing the in-country logistics of a trauma prevention and intervention training for refugee service providers here at the farm in September. It’s all very new for us.  It represents a new way of thinking and working over oceans and technology, coaxing ourselves away from our comfortable cultural norms, work patterns and sometimes buried traumatic experiences of our own.  We hope this cooperative effort allows us to break some of the bonds that don’t serve us anymore, and offer a positive contribution to the world.

We’ve started a crowdfunding campaign to help make this training a reality, and we need your help.  We hope to raise the majority of costs for participants from Turkey, Italy and other places in Europe to stay at the farm for 5 days and learn about trauma prevention and intervention.  Click here to check out our short video and learn more.