Al Fuertes Facilitates Understanding at Home and Abroad

NCC Faculty member Al Fuertes travelled to the Philippines to conduct the workshop, “Gender, Culture and Violence: Empowering Women through Healing and Wholeness.
NCC Faculty member Al Fuertes travelled to the Philippines to conduct the workshop, “Gender, Culture and Violence: Empowering Women through Healing and Wholeness.

For New Century College faculty member Al Fuertes, this has been a busy fall. In addition to teaching three classes (NCLC 314, 416 and 475), Fuertes put his facilitation skills to work when he delivered two international workshops and then received an award for his role in establishing the Centreville Labor Resource Center.

First, in October, Fuertes travelled to Burma where he and Mason professor Paula Gilbert co-facilitated a workshop called “Women, Ancestry and Heritage” in which participants explored the different scholarly approaches to oral history. The workshop was co-organized by the University of Oxford, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO), George Mason University and the local host Yangon University. 

At this workshop, Fuertes worked with 31 female Yangon University professors who are deepening their qualitative research skills. Fuertes asked each participant to examine one object that she regularly saw or carried with her (such as a piece of jewelry or photograph). Fuertes then lead participants through an exploration of what that particular object represented through different lenses and what the object could say about such topics as culture, history and politics. At the heart of this workshop, Fuertes wanted asked participants to recognize the importance of objects as triggers for memory.

He said, “I wanted them to see that one small object could bring them back to a bigger world where history, tradition and politics are all intertwined.”

One month later, Fuertes travelled to the Philippines to conduct the workshop, “Gender, Culture and Violence: Empowering Women through Healing and Wholeness.” At this four-day event, the United Evangelical Mission of Germany brought together women from all around the world. All participants are front-line practitioners working to help survivors of trauma including sexual violence, war and natural disaster.

Fuertes said, “I worked with the participants to help them understand their experiences, healing mechanisms and reflect on their own resilience and need for self-care so that they can continue their work assisting others.”

Finally, also in November, the Centreville Immigration Forum recognized Fuertes for his leadership to establish the forum and its related Centreville Labor Resource Center. Beginning in 2007, Fuertes facilitated public discussions about immigration issues in the town of Centreville, VA. At the time, an influx of immigrants from Central and South America concerned Centreville residents leading to picketing, and heated discussions about immigration, day labor and area residents’ reaction to changing demographics.

Through months of facilitated discussion, Fuertes was able to assist residents to form the Centreville Immigration Forum where all were welcome to discuss issues and feelings about immigration. A smaller subset of participants then developed a plan of action to address many of their community’s concerns regarding immigrants.

One offshoot of the Centreville Immigration Forum is the Centreville Labor Resource Center (CLRC), an organization that offers a variety of services to immigrants, and helps potential employers connect with those looking for work. The CLRC maintains a database of workers available to assist with a variety of jobs including construction, landscaping and cleaning services. The CLRC fosters clear communication of job details including salary, working hours and any required training. The CLRC offers language classes, job training and similar support to area immigrants.

Fuertes’ guidance and support were critical to the establishment of both the Centreville Immigration Forum and the CLRC, and his contributions were recognized at a Thanksgiving event hosted in mid-November.