MMC Project Report

Wrapping Up

My time here in the USA is drawing to a close for now whilst my attention turns to going to the UK to complete my Certification for CNVC.   I’m taking this moment then to celebrate some of the achievements that I’ve made so far and mourn some of the things that I wished I had been able to do but haven’t yet.

What did I do?

One of the primary objectives was to support Wes to be effective at introducing key aspects of NVC to the staff. I primarily imagined that I could provide an empathic presence in his life so that he wasn’t alone in rough moments. From the positive feedback I’ve gotten from Wes, I provided much more than this – I’ve been an active part of planning the curriculum, engaging with the staff during the classes as well as in the work environment, and debriefing to harvest our learning from the events. I also got to contribute in many ways outside the hospital, working in the Blueberry Hill community where Rhonda lives, sharing NVC in prison, and doing lots of pet-sitting. One of the unexpected ways I got to contribute was offering to edit all the audio recordings produced during Miki Kashtan’s Fearless Heart teleseminars.

Another key objective was to learn as much as I could while I was there. I have had so many opportunities to learn – most completely unexpected. Working alongside Wes planning, executing, and debriefing the classes has really helped me get a much richer picture of sharing NVC within a large organization. Shadowing the staff while they work has opened my eyes to the challenges of working long hours in a continually stressful environment and convinced me that healthcare professionals would be so much happier if we could help them learn nonviolence. Other learning opportunities included visiting a local prison and getting to listen to why prison inmates valued learning NVC, helping practitioners of Focusing learn NVC while I learned Focusing, and getting to work alongside the hospital security staff and learn how they engage with disruptive behavior.

One of the other major gifts of being here was being with family and friends. It was so close to my birthplace, I could spend most weekends with my mother and her partner, hanging out and sharing my love of watching ecologically conscious movies together. And my mom could see her grandkids for the first time in 5 years. I also got to hang out face-to-face with my closest friend from school and his family for the first time in 15 years. And I also made loads of new friends.


Working side-by-side with Wes was the hilite of this project. I was pretty sure I’d find a way to be helpful but I was expecting to be mostly observing or participating. From almost the first day Wes has had me by his side, introducing me to the entire staff of the hospital and introducing me as: “This is Jason, he’s joining us here for a while,  his background is similar to mine in Nonviolent Communication and he’ll be offering you his own perspective on this material at various times during the class.” Wes held my ideas and intuitions with a great deal of respect and regard during the planning, execution, and debrief of our work.

Working at Mercy has given me my first insight into the challenges of sharing this material in a large organization as well as the great need for it. The Mercy project has also given me a huge range of experiences of health care professionals and the stresses and challenges they live with day to day and the way they suffer because they lack access to regular empathy and they lack the skills to be empathic to others.


There is so much more that could be done in this project. I’m taking a break at a time when the staff of the Emergency Department are increasingly concerned about their Safety and Security. The message of class II was – Safety through Connection – and although it was helpful it showed how much more was needed. Many staff expressed pain and frustration because they don’t trust they can protect themselves emotionally and protect their human dignity against the most challenging patient population. That means many of them work in constant anxiety or fear.

The project I am most excited to work on is the idea I call: Empathy Angels in the Trenches. Creating teams of volunteers trained in empathic listening to work in hospitals and other high-stress jobs offering listening to staff and others.

Mercy Project Financial Update

I’d like to share with everyone how my expenses have matched the projected budget we had.

Projected Budget

Here was our best guess about how much it would cost me to be part of the project back in Nov 2012:

Item Unit Cost / Time Time Total Cost
Travel to US $400
Travel to UK $400
Food / wk 50 16 $800
Fuel / wk 80 16 $1,280
Other Travel / month 100 4 $400
Phone / month 30 4 $120
Sundries $250
Clothes $250
Total: $3900        £2412        €2963

How much we’ve raised so far

As of April 4, 2013 the total received is $2,459, which is about 2/3 of the projected budget.

Update: as of April 10, the total is $3,190 or a little over 80% of what’s needed.

Expenses to Date

I’d like to take the time and share how well I have been able to live within the means of what was provided as well as how well the projected budget matched reality. First, here are the actual expenses I’ve had since leaving the UK:

One thing to point out is still running. We had orginally budgeted for 16 weeks, but by the time I leave the USA on April 26 I will have been here for a total of 20 weeks or 25% more than expected.

We overestimated the amount of driving that I would do each week, so fuel costs have been less than we budgeted, and I’ve been giving a lot of support with food, from free lunches at Mercy, community meals at Rhonda’s community, and dinners every weekend at my Mom’s. Also, I’ve lived simply and frugally (beans, rice, and tortillas go a loooong way when you supplement them with some organic chipotle salsa and fresh avocados 🙂

Other costs including clothing and sundries have been pretty much what we expected.

On the down side, we underestimated by a lot the cost of the return trip to the UK, so it will be double what we estimated ($900 instead of $400). Luckily because of a £200 voucher from British Airways, it brings this cost down to around $600. Also the cost of having a phone here in the US was more than twice what I thought it would be, and because I travel so much it has been a critical part of staying in touch with everyone.

So given that the length of stay is 25% longer than expected and that we’ve just about raised 65% of what we budgeted and that I’m happy and healthy, I think we’ve done an amazingly good job, don’t you?

What’s left?

I still have to support myself for the remaining three weeks in the US as well as purchase my plane ticket to the UK so I can complete my CNVC trainign over the next few months before returning and picking up things here.. Also, my two kids, Isa 20 and Adam 17, will come visit me for a week before I go.  Luckily I have an amazingly generous supporter who is willing to match any donations I get from others with an equal amount of his money up to $1000!! I have already matched $600 of the matching funds, so I can still get access to $400. This makes any donations you give twice as effective! As my supporter said: “I want other people to experience the fun of supporting this project – I don’t want my offer to donate to stop others from also donating and miss out on the experience.” So, now you can double your fun 🙂

Fear and Terrorism Overthrown in Iran

(This story was taken from Fifty-Two True Stories of Nonviolent Success, the War Resisters League 2002 Peace Calendar.)

For 25 years, from 1953 through 1978, the U.S.-installed Shah of Iran, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, ruled with absolute power. The secret police, SAVAK, created a climate of fear as it tortured and killed dissidents.

Opposition leaders were forced into exile, but resistance grew through the 1960s. By 1977, religious leaders were fully involved in the resistance, and through their networks they wer able to distribute detailed instructions for boycotts, strikes, and other protests. The Ayatollah Khomeini led the nonviolent resistance from exile in Iraq.

In 1978, sparked by propaganda against the Ayatollah, public demonstrations spread throughout the country. Citizens were killed at every demonstration for a year, and more demonstrations followed funerals. Up to 60,000 resisters died during the revolutino, but bloodshed might have been limited had it not been for the ongoing influence of the United States. In September 1978, immediately following a demonstration at which 3,000 unarmed civilians were gunned down, then-President Jimmy Carter called the shah to offer his “full support.”

When Iran’s oil workers called a general strike and shut down the oil industry in December 1978, the Iranian economy came to a virtual halt. Within weeks the United States finally advised the Shah to leave the country. In reaction to the corruption of the Shah and Western influence, Ayatollah Khomeini turned to Islamic fundamentalism and ushered in an era of oppression with a different face. Still, the Iranian revolution offers a clear examply of how mass nonviolence succeeded in overthrowing a ruthless, well-organized government.