It’s Sunday and I’m at Railway Gardens, the community garden project I’ve mentioned in previous issues. The place is alive with families from across Cardiff. There is a single parents’ support group using the space today for a family fun day. It’s lovely to see and hear the gardens alive with energy and vibrancy.

There are also times when it’s pretty peaceful, besides the pitter-patter of the seagulls on the roof, or the sound and vibration of the trains moving along the track. Today, there’s a lot of laughter and playing. Adults are mingling. Children are doing their own thing.

I’m joined by two of them, who have put their heads around my shipping container door, to ask me what I’m doing here. They are soon fully engaged in mindful colouring and making use of my sofa. They are not shy about asking me what I’m typing. It’s a great opportunity for me to stop and listen to them. I explain that I rent the shipping container and that I am a counsellor. The young people both know what a counsellor is and tell me that they have counsellors at school. In Wales, school-based counselling has long been in place and can offer a safe sanctuary to children and young people of all ages.

It isn’t too long before the two young people start talking between themselves about a conflict they are experiencing. I curiously sit in the background listening to them as they try to work out how to deal with it. Conflict is an inevitable part of life, whatever our age or background, and it is troubling for anyone. It seemed to me that, with support, the conflict could be averted. 

Recently, I’ve been engaged in a community programme called ‘Changemakers in Turbulent Times’, facilitated by an initiative called Plan for Peace (www.planforpeace.org). The programme originates from the work of Dr Scilla Elworthy. She is a British peace activist, author, and educator known for her work in conflict resolution, peacebuilding and the prevention of war. She has been a prominent leader in the field of peace studies and global security.

The programme was delivered over a 10-week period linking individuals from Cardiff, Glasgow, Belfast, Newham, Slough, and Bradford. Both online and in person, we openly explored together what breaks our heart, how we communicate from a place of love, why befriending our inner critic is important, how we can know and connect with parts of ourselves and others, and finally, how to take a stand and be in service.  

The course offered so much more than I imagined, and if I had fully understood what I was about to embark on I might not have had the courage to do it. But courage was what the group had in abundance; as well as sorrow, grief and loss, humility, encouragement and inspiration.  

If there is one thing I am taking away with me from the course, it is that peace begins within ourselves.

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