Partera Blog

Changing the World, One Volunteer at a Time

Nov 26, 2011

YMCA Volunteers’ Recognition Conference Keynote Address
Saturday 26 November 2011
North York Civic Centre
Lee McKenna, 2010 Peace Medallist


Thank you so much for inviting me to be a part of this important event.  In preparation, I asked myself the following questions: Who were my influencers?   What were the ‘hinge’ or ‘crossroads’ moments that took me off in directions I had not imagined?  What are the characteristics in me, inherent to my make-up,  that made me more likely, rather than less likely, to take the road less travelled?  What are the characteristics I desired and cultivated that took me in the direction of the agent of change I wanted to be?  What were the obstacles I needed to shift or transform?

Here are some of the answers that emerged:

1. Colour outside the lines.

I think I always have.  I would also say that my parents likely would have called it something less benign, something like, ‘She breaks the rules.’

So before you think that I am counselling lawlessness, let me give you an example.  There’s a piece of training that I do in war zones called transformative initiatives.  It is one of the most provocative and effective things we do – it includes some stories and role plays in which the result is an overturning of the typical power dynamic, with the powerful and the powerless, the oppressed and the oppressor, in effect, changing places; the powerful is discombobulated and the powerless discovers a power they didn’t know they had, a force more powerful:  non-violence. 


Muslim-Christian Trainings
Mindanao / Philippines Conflict Transformation
San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico
Sudan third party non-violence intervention