The Mid Shore Community Mediation Center’s AmeriCorps volunteer Alwinta Lake is fulfilling her own dreams by helping local families resolve conflicts peacefully.
A Caroline County native, Lake says she always wanted to give back to the community, but did not know how until she answered a Mediation Center ad. The organization was looking for an AmeriCorps volunteer to focus primarily on its Dorchester County service area.
Now beginning her second and final service year with Mid Shore Mediation, Lakespent much of her first year working with children and police.
She introduces at-risk youngsters in second through ninth grades to conflict resolution through an after-school program with New Beginnings Youth Center in Cambridge. “We teach children how to resolve problems with parents and peers without getting physical or yelling,” explained Lake. “It has been very rewarding to see how excited the kids are to learn these new skills.”
Lake also works with local police in a tear-off pad program. Police officers responding to calls that may not warrant an arrest or other official intervention carry pads of tear-off sheets with information on mediation. “This has been a great success and the police have been very supportive,” she said. “Sometimes, there is nothing the police can do in a situation if they can’t make an arrest. This gives them something positive to offer that can be of help.”
Building upon her first year’s work, Lake is looking forward to a new challenge of working with inmates being released and individuals recovering from drug and alcohol addiction to facilitate reconciliation with their families.
“The jail system can be a revolving door,” she explained. “The downfall may be the home situation.” By offering free mediation services to the individual and his or her family, all parties can be heard and participate. A voluntary agreement is reached and set down in writing. “It gives everyone some leverage,” noted Lake.
While helping those in recovery find new beginnings for themselves, Lake is using her AmeriCorps service to find her own. Her passion is to be a counselor or therapist, vocations for which she will be able to use the listening skills honed in her training to be a mediator.
Lake described that role as listening to the clients, reflecting their concerns in such a way that all understand, and calming emotions so that people hear one another. After mediating one divorce case, she smiled as she recalled the husband approaching her to say, “This is the first time my wife and I ever actually talked to each other.”
Besides the valuable skills learned in her work with the Mediation Center, she will receive an educational award after her AmeriCorps term ends, allowing her to go back to school and fulfill her own ambitions. “My next journey is definitely going to be for my dream,” she said.
Mid Shore Community Mediation Center serves Caroline, Dorchester and Talbot counties. For more information on mediation, to make a contribution, or to volunteer as a mediator, call 410-820-5553 or visit www.midshoremediation.org.