Peacebuilders might enjoy positive and inspiring impressions due to their courage, commitment, and discipline to practice peaceful and non-violent ways of living: spreading positivity, kind gestures, and love. Yet, little might people know that at the back of that is a less known story of audacious steps to winning tiring and exhausting struggles in life. A conversation between Veds Kali and Karin Widmer from the CPS team Philippines.
Heart to heart talk with Veds…
Veds Kali, a Mindanawon peacebuilder and youth leader, admitted that he felt happy and warm thanks to the conversation, yet this could not take away his feeling of insecurity in how to cope with the situation. It’s not only that he had been in home office already prior to the pandemic – the CPS office had been closed months earlier due to a series of earthquakes and the need to comply with German standards for earthquake proofed buildings. But also, he is staying far from his family, whom he misses a lot.
“The holy month of Ramadan was so far the hardest struggle for me, as it came together with the pandemic. It was hard to connect with myself”, he revealed. He needed to embrace his vulnerabilities: “It’s important to recognize the feelings and to accept being vulnerable. We should not pressure ourselves on ending our day productive, but we should work at our own pace.” He looks at it as a long process of endless quest on redefining his own comfort zone in the “new normal”.
… and with Karin
“This is the time where recognizing our feelings is vital for self-care,” this is what Karin emphasized as she reflected her roller-coaster peace journey over the past 4.5 years. Wearing her multilevel hats as a friend, peacebuilder and advisor in a partner organization, she shared her enriching story of hope, recovery and resilience she faced in an unusual environment.
Currently stranded in her home country, Karin remained hopeful about the situation. However, she cannot take away the fact that the uncertainty brought by the pandemic is challenging. She admitted that she feels worried mainly for her local partners and friends in Mindanao. She offers spaces for conversation as a form of support. While she felt connected with her local partner organisation, she still feels “disconnected” as some partners especially in the communities have no access to internet. This adds up to the challenges that made her feel helpless about things she has no control over, such as her return to the Philippines.
On what keeps Veds happy and peaceful…
Veds emphasizes peer support as one way of self-care, that has an important impact on him. “What works in peacebuilding, can also be brought into our homes”, he reflected. Recognizing feelings and emotions – no matter how heavy they are – and checking on each other to him is an effective method of maintaining our mental health. Talking to someone – be it family, friends, or colleagues – about his insecurities and concerns works for him, he realized. It meets his needs of trust, transparency and care for one another: “Working out what works for us might be tiring, but then this is something we should hold on through. After all, we put ourselves to an unknown inspiring, motivating thing called hope.”
… and what keeps Karin inspired and motivated
Since Karin joined the CPS in the Philippines, she went through four relocations and spent almost one year in home office. It is draining to be transferred from one home to another. She may have encountered several battles in her life, that may either build or break her. Yet, she goes back to reminding herself to transform feelings of conflict into feelings of solution - to see inspiration and hope in dire situations. This is where her need for self-care comes in. To recognize and communicate her needs and feelings is important. Only if she achieves this, she can then extend help for the people around her.
The experience of multiple relocations strengthened her resilience and hope to continue holding on despite the prevailing insecurities. In a time where everyone is expected to practice physical distancing, it is important for Karin to still show efforts of social solidarity by listening and being present for those who feel alone in this unusual situation.
Veds and Karin agree that self-care is important. Yet, the way self-care is lived, is individual. What works for someone, might not work for another person. It is crucial to accept differences and to find own ways of getting inspiration and passing on inspiration. Nonetheless, we should be careful to not falling into the trap of “toxic positivity”. Resilience has different forms. Staying hopeful and supporting each other in this quest is as much an individual as a shared responsibility.
Note from MPI: This article originally appeared in the June 2020 issue of ZFDinfo Newsletter. Veds is an alumnus of MPI and Internal Alert's Youth Political Leadership Training and was an intern with MPI. Karin is an alumna of MPI's Annual Peacebuilding Training.