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FAQs For Potential Teamers

MPT International Peace Teams FAQs

1. Where do MPT International Peace Teams GO?
MPT currently deploys teams year-round to the West Bank, Palestine/Israel. We also deploy special peace teams to Gaza or the immediate area (please ask for more information if you are interested in Gaza Teams). Additionally, MPT will deploy a provisional Peace Team to Juarez, Mexico in Fall 2010.

2. Does MPT work locally, and what about past teams? 
MPT has been training and deploying Peace Teams domestically and internationally for over 16 years. In the past, we have sent International Teams to work with people in Haiti, Bosnia, Chiapas, and other areas. Closer to home, we have deployed teams during controversial events like GLBT Pride Parades, at protests during the 2008 Republican National Convention, during riots following sporting events, at the U.S./Mexico border, and on reservations of First Nations peoples in North America. Peace teams have been present at hate group rallies to deter inter-group violence. MPT provided a peaceful intervention in the local riots at Michigan State University's campus in 1998.

3.  What to teams DO? How does MPT's work differ from humanitarian or “conflict resolution” work?
MPT Teams act to reduce and prevent violence in war or conflict zones, where they are invited by one or more party to a conflict. Teams practice a specific type of conflict intervention work that MPT refers to a “Third Party Conflict Intervention” or TPNI, although there are many names for this type of action. TPNI actions include: protective accompaniment, observation/documentation, peaceful presence/modeling peaceful behavior and reaction, and interpositioning. Examples of each of these actions can be found in the next section.

Unlike conflict resolution/transformation, mediation or dialogue work, we do not seek to mediate or resolve the underlying conflict directly, or to broker 'peace talks'—although we may act to support one or all of these actions.

Instead, our Teams are focused on the front-line work of reducing violence and the threat of violence, in order to create some safe(r) space for everyone involved. Creating this space can then allow the parties themselves to determine the means and the terms of transforming/resolving the conflict. There is often a role for other conflict resolution and dialog organizations to work in concert with MPT.

MPT is not a humanitarian or charity organization; in general, we do not deliver aid or funds to the areas where we work. There are many organizations that organize relief and aid efforts or raise funds to donate directly to those in need, and many can do this much better than MPT. We believe our strengths and talents lie elsewhere, and that there is a real and demonstrated need for our unique contribution. 

4.  I'm not from Michigan, can I still be on a Team?  Is there a local Peace Team chapter in my state?
MPT is an international organization; we train volunteers from all over the United States, and increasingly, all over the world.  We are headquartered in Mid-Michigan (hence our name), but we long ago outgrew geographic limits; we accept team members from all states, and our  veteran team members are scattered from coast to coast.  MPT is a unique organization, there are no local chapters or affiliates in other states.

5.  Is MPT a religious organization, or affiliated with an religion?  Are team members required to be Christian/Muslim/Pagan/Hindi/Insert Any Religion?
No, MPT is not a religious organization, nor are we affiliated with any one faith tradition.  Team members are from all faiths or no faith background; some practice a religion and some do not.  
MPT is a spiritually-based organization, and we believe in the sacred interconnectedness of all life and the power of nonviolence.  Our team process, especially in the field, includes reflection and centering, and we often explore exercises from various traditions for these activities.

6.  What is MPT's International Team Training Process?  What if I live far away from your home office in Michigan?
Our intensive training process is rigorous, but it is designed to be completed by busy people with full time jobs and/or other commitments.
The 3-4 month International Team training process can be completed in large part from anywhere thanks to modern technology and independent reading/study.  Our remote training process includes team meetings over the phone (and in person if geography allows), team activities and assignments via email, journaling and reflection, independent reading and study, and regular one-on-one phone and email contact with MPT Staff and Trainers.  

Two on-site International Teams Training Retreats are required.  Usually these are three-day retreats, and teams often prefer to hold them on weekends (i.e. Friday at noon to Sunday at 5pm).   Most often, these are held in Michigan at our home office. Occasionally, teamers and trainers schedule one long retreat, but usually two shorter retreats separated by a few weeks or a month is ideal/advisable.  If it is impossible for you to travel to be at these on-site retreats, please contact us to discuss whether you can still be on a team.

Additionally, especially for those without a background in Conflict Intervention or Nonviolent Direct Action, a Basic Nonviolence Skills Training is strongly advised before beginning the intensive International Teams Training retreats.  Many team members who live outside the geographic area can complete this type of training with a local nonviolence/peace organization so they do not have to travel to Michigan; contact us to discuss this possibility.  Also, MPT travels all over North America to offer nonviolence trainings; if there is a group of at least 12-25 people in your area, organization, or group interested in taking our training please contact us to find out about scheduling a Basic Training or Special Training just for you.
Finally, there are sometimes opportunities to participate in Domestic Peace Teams here in the United States before an International Team Deploys.  This is not always possible, as Domestic Teams are scheduled on demand, and sometimes last minutes in response to threats of violence.  We do not require that potential team members travel to participate in Domestic Teams, but it is a unique and incredibly valuable opportunity to learn by being part of a team.  If the opportunity arises, we strongly advise team members do everything possible to participate.  You can contact us to ask about, or request, a Domestic Team for a conflict situation in your state.

7. What are the Qualifications to Apply for a Team? Do I need certain experience?
No experience is required as MPT offers a full training program, and there are no specific qualifications.   Experience with direct action, nonviolence work, nonviolent communication, teamwork, multi-cultural awareness, and consensus decision making are helpful but not required.  However, we look for applicants with the following traits:

- a commitment to nonviolence
- willingness and ability to work in a team
- willingness and ability to commit to the intensive training process
- willingness to engage in self-reflection 
- willingness to 'do the work' of teams, including not only direct action in the field, but:
       report writing 
       record keeping 
       living in community
       taking responsibility for preparedness/training/getting what we need to feel prepared
       self-care and reflection, centering, spiritual practice (whatever that means to you)
       Team follow up (debrief, evaluation in the field and with MPT, etc.)
       awareness/outreach work in our communities
       and sharing our team experiences, MPT's story, and the stories of those we meet on teams

8. Where do teams live in the field?
Where your team lives will depend on the conflict zone where you chose to deploy. Usually though, team members live in their own apartment or house in the field. For example, MPT maintains a year-round private home in the West Bank just for our teams, to serve as living quarters and an office/headquarters in the region.

Accommodations are by no means luxurious, but teams generally have running water and electricity, phones (and cellular phones), beds or mats to sleep on, a working kitchen and a western-style bathroom with shower and toilet at home. At our current home in the West Bank, we are lucky to have access to a walled olive grove, as well as separate men's and women's sleeping quarters and an office room with computers.

Sometimes teams are called to spend the night (or several nights) away because they travel to a remote area, or in the course of protective accompaniment, etc. In that event, teams most often stay with local families, and team members need to be prepared to sleep on the ground in a sleeping bag or similar situation.

9. What is Team life like?
Team members live and work as a team, and make decisions by consensus. Team money is drawn for a common pot for all expenses including food, housing and transport in country; the team will set a budget and determine reasonable expenses together. Teams track their expenses in our electronic ledger format. Teams are expected to equitably share the work of the team, from administrative and record-keeping, to direct action, to writing reports and posting them on our report website.

Between direct TPNI work, report writing, and living as a team, your team experience can be very intense with little 'down time.' However, daily team meetings and centering/reflection time are built in to the team process, in order for teams to plan appropriate activities, make group decisions, address challenges, and exercise self care. If you are in the field long enough, your team will plan appropriate days or hours “off.”

Our returned Teamers tell us that going on an MPT Peace Team is an amazing, life-changing, eye-opening experience. They often tell us they form very close bonds with teammates, and would trust (and have trusted) their team members with their life. That being said, many team members find that a significant aspect of their nonviolence work on a Peace Team is learning to live in community with their team. Team members may have very different personalities, expectations, living styles, requirements for cleaning/cooking/eating/sleep, etc. In the stress of living in a war or conflict zone, these routine 'roommate' problems can be exacerbated. MPT encourages and assists team members in exploring these issues before deployment with their team, building good communication skills, and to learning techniques for solving interpersonal conflict on a team.

10. What does it cost to go on a team?
It is possible to go on a team with no cost to you. Teams are expected to fundraise to cover the cost of their team deployment and airfare. Team members fundraise individually and as a team in their own communities, through letter writing campaigns, events, speakers (ask for an MPT speaker to talk to your event), and more. Fundraising is an important component of raising awareness and engagement in your community, and it is also important to teambuilding. Some team members chose to contribute also from their own funds, as well, and this is fine. We can give you a budget breakdown specifically for the region where you are interested in working. 

11. How are donations for Team costs handled? 
All donations to fund your Team deployment should be made directly to Michigan Peace Team; we establish an 'account' for each team, and will track any funds that come in earmarked with your name or for your team, and give you regular reports on your team's fundraising progress.

MPT is a nonprofit 501 c 3 and donations made directly to MPT are tax deductible; it is important for tax and accounting purposes that Team members track team expenses carefully and document them. When you team deploys, the appropriate amount will be issued by check from the Team Fund, and monies shared among the team members prior to travel. 

12. What about Safety on a Team? Can MPT Ensure I'll be safe?
MPT cannot guarantee the safety of anyone volunteering for a Peace Team.

Any venture in a conflict/war or occupation zone comes with inherent risks, and MPT cannot guarantee the safety of anyone volunteering with us (nor frankly, can any other organization operating in such theatres of which we are aware). The type of conflict intervention work Peace Teams do necessitates contact with potentially dangerous situations. It is up to each individual to weigh the risks associated with Peace Team work, and to chose whether to assume those risks and also to manage them with their team while in the field.

That being said, MPT considers Team safety to be paramount, and to such we devote extensive training/preparation time, as well as staff and volunteer time to supporting teams in this regard. 

13. What is MPT's history with regard to safety?
Michigan Peace Team has been training and deploying Peace Teams to do conflict intervention and nonviolence work in conflict/war zones for 16 years. In that time, we are happy to report that none of our 150+ peace team members have suffered life-threatening injury or death.  However, international volunteers in war zones can and are seriously injured or killed, and there have been deaths of international volunteers with other organizations in the West Bank/Israel Palestine (including Gaza) and Juarez, Mexico.

In the case of accidental injuries (sprains, digestive ailments, once a broken bone from a slip and fall, etc.) in Palestine, for example, medical care has been readily available and more than sufficient through Palestinian clinics, hospital, and/or paramedic services. There are also large hospitals fairly equivalent to United States standards in Israel proper if specialty care were required. In Juarez we are relatively new and still exploring options, but we understand that there are clinics for acute situations; US medical facilities across the Texas border are within a few hours driving distance as well.

14. How do MPT Teams Manage Risk?  
MPT has found that risk is best managed in five ways, which all of our team members are trained in and espouse:

1. Awareness of the potential situations and underlying issues one may come into contact with in the field is important, so that team members may effectively manage risk. This includes
  • intensive pre-deployment training with Michigan Peace Team over several months, including teambuilding and nonviolence skills training
  • directed reading and self-study regarding the conflict zone and history
  • opportunities to participate in Domestic Peace Teams in the United States prior to deployment overseas, when possible
  • additional in-country training and situation briefing with our sister peace organizations located in the field
Additionally, teams always include at least one veteran peace team member (the “Anchor”), who is familiar with the situation on the ground and with nonviolent conflict intervention work and MPT's values; of course, each team member also takes personal responsibility in each of these areas, and decisions are made by consensus. Each day, Peace Team members discuss potential activities as a team, including possible dangers, and chose by consensus only those activities which are acceptable. Of course, unexpected and/or emergency situations do arise, yet we train team members to check in with one another before acting, to stick to the guidelines outlined here, and to avoid or remove themselves from situations if necessary.

2. Acting as a team/“Affinity Team:” Peace Teams are usually 3-7 persons, and no one is to ever act alone in the field. Furthering the team dynamic, before each 'activity' or event on a daily basis, the team discusses personal roles and boundaries or concerns for the activity, and important points for safety. For example, the team might decide, “while attending this nonviolent demonstration, we will stand toward the back to minimize risk and increase our ability to exit. We will have 'affinity buddies' and maintain eye-contact distance and awareness of our buddies at all times. Also, two team members will stand several feet behind to monitor the 'big picture' and take photographs. If any one team members wishes to leave, we will all leave as a group... etc.”

3. Staunch adherence to nonviolence, nonviolent communication and conflict de-escalation techniques. We believe that our best safety measure is de-escalation of a potentially dangerous situation, for both team members and for the local populations. This work follows the teachings of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., and has been practiced with great success for many years by international organizations in addition to MPT, including Peace Brigades International, Nonviolent Peaceforce, and Christian Peacemaker Teams.

4. Strong relationships and connections in the communities where we work, as well as alliances with local nonviolence leadership and groups is key to MPT's work in the field. We follow local leadership when it comes to safety and security, and often look to them for advice on these matters.

5. Support from staff and volunteers here at home is also critical to our program. There is an experienced, trained cadre of staff and volunteers here at MPT which is dedicated to supporting our teams in the field with advice, counseling, assistance, a listening ear, and more. Also, all returning team members debrief with MPT's psychological professional trained in supporting those involved in work in conflict/war zones.

  • Engage in violence, seek to provoke violence, or respond with violence
  • Donate money to individuals or organizations
  • Deliver humanitarian aid (under usual circumstances)
  • Give out money or valuable gifts while on a team
  • Act singly or without their team members

Teams DO:
  • Maintain a commitment to their team, and consensus-based process
  • Remain staunchly nonviolent while on a team
  • Maintain a commitment to the mission and values of MPT, and TPNI work
  • Do the necessary research/study, record keeping, reporting/awareness and follow-up work to support and maximize their team experience
  • Raise funds as a team and individually for the cost of their deployment
  • Remain aware of individual power and privilege

We hope this information is helpful. Please do not hesitate to contact our Team Deployment Coordinator at NicoleR.MPT@gmail.com directly for more information, additional resources, or clarification.