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VCNS East Coast Mentorship

Nova Scotia, June 2-5, 2011

- by Jill Kennedy, Australia

Unity In Harmony

Upon arriving in Halifax from New York City, I was taken by the relaxed atmosphere and the friendliness of the people. The airport is 30 minutes out of Halifax to avoid some of the fog which hangs over Halifax Harbour; the second largest natural harbour in the world behind Sydney, Australia. It is beautiful and dotted with Canadian Naval vessels, fishing boats, hovercraft, ferries, amphibious tour boats, historical ships and tug boats, including the famous Theodore Too, who wears his big red hat and smiley face, being famous for the children's books written about his adventures. As I sat by the harbour side enjoying a coffee I was entertained by two tug boats participating in a dance of Unity in Harmony, with water spraying all over the harbour. It was a delightful ballet and an omen of things to come.

On the afternoon of Thurs 2nd of June, I took a cab out to the Mount Saint Vincent University. The drive along the waterfront was beautiful. My accommodation looked over a large reflective pool showing the evergreen trees around the green buildings with their fresh white door and window frames.

A bright welcome banner greeted me. Inside, the nine ladies of the Virtues Connection Nova Scotia had thought of every detail and demonstrated friendliness, thoughtfulness and excellence in their orderliness. Beside the registration desk was a basket of toiletries for those who had forgotten something of importance. We received an abundant welcome pack and an invitation to tick our top 20 songs on a list of 40 titles to be handed in to the desk before the end of the night. The door to each of our room had its own creative door tag and there was even a chocolate, a Virtues Key Tag and water bottle on our pillow. It felt like coming home to a nurturing mother.

Kim Fielding repeatedly made trips to and from the airport to transport guests to their accommodation in her very identifiable Virtues Van, covered in magnetic virtues! Her service was excellent and appreciated by her many passengers.

I was blessed to be able to share with Linda (Kavelin-Popov) later that afternoon. She looked very relaxed in a mode of being rather than having to do. Virtues Connection Nova Scotia is a group with which she could easily relax, knowing that her beloved Virtues Project was in good hands.

We shared of our grief; the ongoing process, which takes its own, twists and turns regardless of what others think it should do. Linda recounted a little of her forthcoming book, A Slow Miracle, telling how it needs to proceed slowly, too, as each part takes her deeper into her own journey. For me, this sharing was a great gift as I felt my own grief was validated and respected.

As we sat and shared I observed dandelion seeds blowing around behind Linda. I was reminded of a carefully chosen card I had for her in my luggage, which contained that very image. We delighted in their flight and also in the progress of The Virtues Project, where seeds have flown around the world on the wings of Grace.

In the evening I reconnected with friends; Donna Wheatcroft from Calgary, Linda Brooke from Vancouver, Judy Dixon from Hamilton, New Zealand, Geri (Peak) from Baltimore, Grace Bower from New Zealand, Val Hilliker, the ventriloquist, and her beautiful daughter, Julia. It was a joy to meet her husband, Kelly and lovely Veronica from Honduras. We shared a nourishing meal in the student-dining hall before moving across to the area where our Opening Ceremony would take place.

Here, we stood in a circle around a grassed area, where Eva Marks-MacIsaac on behalf of Virtues Connection Nova Scotia welcomed us. We were then introduced to a beautiful elder from the Mikmaq Nation, who welcomed us all to traditional land by drumming a First Nations hooped drum. I was moved when she mentioned that we all feel familiar with the sound of the drum beat due to the fact that we have all spent 9 months in our mother's womb listening to her heart beat. Unity in Harmony, I thought.

We were then invited to take a pinch of tobacco from a pouch, in our left hand, where there is a direct link to our heart, and then quietly make a prayer for the days to come. A sage stick was lit to purify our intent, and then placed in an abalone shell in the centre of the circle. Each person stepped forward, stating their name, where they were from and silently placed the tobacco in a shell in the centre of the circle or they could throw it in the air with their excitement if they so wished. The smoke made its way upwards towards The Great Spirit.

The leader then broke the circle and welcomed the first person on her left and then proceeded around the circle with others following behind. This took a long time, as everyone wanted to chat and hug and catch up with one another.

Eventually Eva (Marks-MacIsaac) moved inside with the ladies from the Virtues Connection Nova Scotia so that we were hurried along for the next part of the Welcoming. We filed past a beautiful Sacred Table, where sacred objects from each member of the group were displayed. Founder, John Kavelin, was welcomed in spirit, as was Breagh, the daughter of LynnAnne MacNeil, a VCNS Committee Member, who had passed away in 2005 after a tragic accident. (June 2nd would have been Breagh's 20th birthday)

Christine MacAskill, another VCNS Committee Member, showed a lovely structure, which her husband had kindly constructed to display the flags of each province and country, represented at this Mentorship. On another round table was a glass bowl filled with coloured layers of sand surrounded by six small glass bowls with a tea light representing each of the countries with representatives in attendance. I was privileged to move forward and place the little tea light for Australia into the large bowl.

We were introduced to each of the VCNS Committee Members and given housekeeping details for the next 2 and a half days. Christine MacAskill shared with us her song, Unity in Harmony, which she wrote with help from her sister, for the VCNS Mentorship. Our Welcome Pack included a copy of the words and notes on the Nova Scotia flag, floral emblems and other cultural items such as recipes for Seafood Chowder and Oatcakes.

Dr. Dan (Popov) wished us an awe full time, stressed that it is now OUR project and stated that what people do with it is awesome. He pointed out that the 5 strategies are what make it unique. He said you either get it or you don't. There's no getting it right!

Mary MacDonald and Maureen Lagan reinforced the importance and uniqueness of the VP due to the 5 strategies. Before allowing us to break for tea and supper she demonstrated a Grab Bag activity to help us review the strategies. In a beautiful bag were 6 items, 1 for each strategy and a red herring. We were to work in groups to discuss which item represented which strategy and tell why or how. Mary then pulled an item from her bra! She said it was supportive, lifted you up, was worn close to the heart, seat of compassion, the 2 cups were side by side, detached. Others suggested that it offered cup-emptying opportunities and also had closure at the back. It had to represent The Art Of Companioning. It was an excellent way of making us think carefully about the qualities of each strategy: a great activity to recap strategies before undertaking the 3-Day Workshop or for summing up the 2-Day Workshop.

We made our way through the mazes of buildings uphill to our rooms for sleep in anticipation of more heartfelt connections the next day.

Early on the Friday morning Linda led us in a Guided Meditation before breakfast. The morning session began with an excellent and inspiring presentation by Judy Dixon, an extraordinary principal from Hamilton, NZ, who showed how the VP is used throughout her whole school to empower the spirit of all involved in the school community. Judy listens to her staff, students and parents and she believes in them. She lives the 5 strategies of the Virtues Project! There is now another band of Judy teacher groupies growing around the world.

Veronica Trochez, from the Honduras, shared simple exercises such as asking what was the first thing you did this morning or what you do on a daily basis, what challenges you find or what you enjoy doing mostly and then finding and acknowledging the virtues heard in the respondent. This reminded me how simple questions can bring forth responses allowing me to use the strategies of the VP in everyday life.

Barbara MacKenzie shared information about integrating the VP into a Father Involvement Programme for Building Children's Character. She noted that this required the changing of Spiritual Companioning to The Art of Companioning in order to have it accepted. Barbara stressed the importance of hearing everyone's story. She asked the question, "What is it about authority that can tip it into violence?" It is about authenticity when people bring their own voice to a programme. She encouraged a male and female to work together in Father Involvement programmes.

After a nutritious nutrition break, Zany Lane, a musical duo who perform for children, entertained us. Their simple messages were catchy and inspiring. For example, "Find your leadership or hero's gems within" [large gem shapes were handed out with virtues written on them]. "Potential roles models and leaders used in the wrong way make bullies." "To be the best me I can be I need to polish those gems by being of service to others." "We are more alike than we are different." "It takes a world of differences to make a difference in our world."

Dara Feldman then inspired us all to develop a new virtue of Geekiness by using technology to spread the VP. She led us through the wonderful new VPI website, which Dan so lovingly completed from John's design. She also presented us with a handout to help us negotiate this and another handout to inspire us to use a variety of technical tools for VP.

Barbara MacKenzie shared the importance of using virtues and the VP through the end of life process. This highlighted for me the rich growth that takes place in facing death and grief. The VP can help make meaning in the pain when questions do not have answers.

After lunch Linda (Kavelin-Popov) gave a talk entitled, "Be the Change You Wish to See in the World". She used the tartan theme to weave together many stories from her experiences with VP in sharing her wisdom.

She asked how to go from doing to being? What is my service now? She shared of John's journey towards death when he said, "It's not about fear or hope. It's about trust". Later Linda found herself suffering and John in pain. She needed detachment and trust.

Linda learnt to call on a virtue that was needed to hold her and carry her instead of asking, "What can I do?"  She also reminded us of that all-important question, "What is my life like when I am lead by my soul and driven by my ego?" She noted determination without discernment can be ego. When asking what is my YES at this season of my life, it may be a different weaving to what we thought.

This project will test us. It is important to trust and be open to grace. In one story she quoted from the bible, "There is no fear in love, perfect love casteth out fear," John 4, 18.

After this rich weaving of stories by Linda we were given a chance to tell our own stories in small groups. A delightful Puppet Show by ventriloquist, Val Hilliker, followed this. In the evening we enjoyed a Maritime Music Kitchen Party, led by Christine MacAskill. I was particularly moved by Christine's thoughtfulness, consideration and caring in asking each of us to tick our 20 favourite songs from a list of 40, when we arrived. Within 24 hours, she had collated the Top 20 and compiled a songbook with the words to all songs PLUS the focus virtue for each song with a brief description. It is a treasured resource to keep. That night we enjoyed good company in a good atmosphere and Nova Scotia oatcakes.

Before breakfast on Saturday we enjoyed a session of Tai Chi. Then LynnAnne MacNeil shared of the many virtues in which her family are given opportunities to grow through their involvement in sports, including dance. She showed how the body, mind and soul were involved in these forms of personal development. At the dance academy, students now aspire to receive the Breagh MacNeil Award of Character.

This was followed by an interesting talk by Maria deSouza, from Quebec, who used the book, "How Full is Your Bucket For Kids?" as a means to introduce the VP to a school where they were reluctant to use the term "Virtue". This was rich with ideas for me to explore and I recommend joining me in visiting www.bucketfillers101.com We were each given a virtues acknowledgement from a small decorative bucket and also given a shape of a raindrop on which we could write a virtues acknowledgement to fill someone else's bucket. In class there was one decorative bucket for everyone to fill for the class. They could see that they were filling their own bucket by filling the bucket of another this way. I likened the bucket to the receptacle for the soul.

To cap off a wonderful morning, Betty Doherty shared some of the wisdom she had gleaned as a grandparent using the VP. I love her idea of creating a Blessing Book for each grandchild and then adding a Virtues Shield and some acknowledgments or reflections each birthday.

Mary MacDonald led us in a fun activity to move and interact as we again reflected upon the 5 strategies of the VP. We were assigned to groups of approximately 7 people and asked to choose a strategy, then given a few minutes to create a tableau to represent it. Each group had a chance to perform and others identified the symbolism for the strategy.

Linda gave an introduction to the use of The 5 Card Spread to get direction and clarification regarding an issue. She noted that we need discernment especially when entering a new phase or at a crossroad. We can think about it by choosing the cards ourselves or we can trust by preparing with a prayer and "randomly" picking the 5 cards. Underneath each virtue she invited us to write the key phrase and then suggested that we write some action steps, with 90-day goals. Action and Reflection must not happen independently. Someone described this process as, "having the parent that I never had".

After being reminded that angels travel in flocks and virtues weave together in our lives, Dan likened the angel of virtue that was our Guiding Virtue as the one leading the team in the particular issue for which we needed clarification. The strength one is the one we can rely on through the issue. The challenge one is the one of which we have to be mindful. The sustaining one is the one that will carry us through the situation and then we come to the one that is at the heart of the matter, the core virtue. We can now do the 5 card spread on the VPI website.

Dan then gave one of his masterful talks on The Power of Unity. He described Unity as a very important virtue but in his opinion Grace was even more important. It was what chose the virtues in the virtues picks. We need to be open to Grace. He believes that the universe knows my name, my gifts and my unique part to play. It knows what song I have been given to sing. There are no "bit" parts, every voice is needed.

In Unity Dan said there needs to be a balance between individual initiative and shared purpose, goals and direction. Virtues are the light of the world. Their absence is darkness. People are attracted to the virtues as they are to light.

He described several types of unity and in his unique style he demonstrated these through types of music.

  • Unity Based on a Common Purpose. Independent action can make a big difference locally but will have limited effectiveness and efficiency overall. Light like a small flame can be seen from a big distance. It can burn down a building. Integrity lives with unity. It brings people close. Common purpose means common goals. Focused but still independent action can make a bigger difference on a broader scale but still has limited effectiveness and efficiency overall. Each of us is a photon of light from a flashlight.
  • Unity Based on Common Purpose and Goals with Coordinated Plans. This type of unity has focused, coordinated plan with priorities, objectives and actions. It can make a big difference overall in efficient ways but it limits independent action...It moves step by step at an agreed upon pace but with some constraints.
  • Unity Based on Common Purpose and Goals with Coherent Action. This is focused, coherent and independent action, which can make a big difference overall in an effective and efficient way without limiting independent action. It is like a laser.
  • Unity Based on Common Purpose, [Leadership], Common Goals [Management], Coordinated Action [Control] or Coherent Action [Agreement] Seeking agreement, at first, is like herding fish! The Virtues Project has Common Purpose [Vision], Common Goals [Strategies], Coordinated Action [Sharing e.g. Mentorship] or Coherent Action [Principles, Practices, Guidelines, Materials, and Support. It is "firm in principle, flexible in application". Grace will allow it to grow. My challenge is to be open to grace and to move with it.

To conclude this part of a wonder filled day, Maureen Lagan and Mary MacDonald lead us through The How and What of Companioning reminding us that it is NOT about YOU! You are there for someone else so when we ask ourselves if we are asking the right question, what is the solution or we are waiting for someone to say we did a good job, we are in our ego. It allows us and others to talk about the hard stuff. Be there in the moment, breathe deeply and keep in touch with compassion and detachment.

At this point we shared another storytelling session in our groups before being told to meet in the Town Square (Halifax Parade Square) in small groups before 7:30 with a camera in each group. We were given a map and asked to take photos of virtues in action. I had read of this before leaving home so it had been an excellent focus for my trip around eastern Canada and USA. However, another aspect was then introduced for we were given Virtues Pocket Cards and it was suggested that we give one to anyone we photographed using a virtue and that we give them an acknowledgement.

I enjoyed going into Halifax with Val Hilliker, her husband, Kelly and her daughter, Julia. After parking the car, we walked toward the square and a rather bold young woman asking me for money for food approached me. I like to help people but am very careful not to feed drug or alcohol habits so gave a pretty standard negative response to this woman. She then clearly and confidently admired what I was wearing. It was a confusing situation that didn't seem to ring true. Soon after, I sensed that Val, Kelly and Julia would have liked to have responded to her request and photographed generosity in action. I maintained my position. This was to become an interesting teachable moment for me the following morning!

Around the town square, a crowd was gathering. Linda (Kavelin-Popov) and Dara (Feldman) excitedly chatted to police. With my curiosity mounting, I asked a mother what was happening. She denied any knowledge and focused my attention on locating her son who had left her side.

As the town clock chimed 7:30 pm, music blared from the boom boxes and dancers moved to the square. Gradually more and more people seemed to shed jackets and jumpers revealing red and white tops to join in the performance. Virtues banners appeared and the square was alive with rhythm. At the climax, the dancers held up virtues signs and an announcement was made that Linda would give a public address, "From Violence to Virtues" at the University on the Sunday evening.

People gradually dispersed and we enjoyed an evening of chatting with friends as we made our way back to campus. This social time was appreciated.

The Sunday morning commenced with a lovely yoga session led by Wendy Mather. After breakfast we were given the chance to share stories from our experiences the night before in our groups. We were all moved to hear of someone who acknowledged a homeless man with downcast head covered in a hoodie, holding a small container with a sign asking for money for food. This enlightened teacher bent down and said, "I see your determination to get what you need". She then gave him a Virtues Pocket Card and told him that he already had all of these qualities and they would help him to get what he needed in life. Apparently, his head gradually lifted throughout this encounter until he made eye contact with her.

Barbara MacKenzie then shared with me her experience with Dara and Wendy, who encountered a very small young girl asking for money for food. Dara was first to want to offer money. Barb stood back, suspiciously observing a young man nearby, thinking that he may be an accomplice. I identified with her behaviour. As Wendy and Dara spoke with the girl, they learnt that she had been expelled from school and had to leave home. She was living on the streets with her older sister who was protecting her. Whilst this interaction was happening, Barb observed that the young man nearby was wearing chef's clothing and he entered the nearby restaurant and returned with a large take away container of food for her. She was deeply moved by his action and grabbed him by the sleeve and acknowledged his humanity and generosity then gave him a Virtues Pocket Card. The sister of the young girl returned and the ladies gave them a Virtues Pocket Card, telling them that they had the virtues that they needed too.

These stories were great lessons for me because I sometimes don't open myself to the stories of others to discern what it is they need. Do they need to be acknowledged for a virtue or reminded who they really are or called to use a virtue? I am now allowing myself to discern, open the door, and have compassion and detachment and trust. Often in this world, rich or poor people think they need money but they need to be reminded of their virtues, which will help them meet all of their needs and find their gifts they have to offer the world.

I thank all of the wonderful ladies of VCNS who took our Mentorship to the community and all of the beautiful people who taught me so much. I feel empowered.

There were many more amazing stories from the previous night. Eventually we moved on to being introduced to the new VPI Board Members. Linda told the story of her concern about the future of the VP after John's (Kavelin) death. John was the youngest of the 3 founders of the VP so she wanted to prepare for the future when she and Dan will not be here with us. After much concern, Dan suggested that they extend the VPI Board. This simple answer seemed the way to go so Linda and Dan independently wrote down the names of 4 people who they felt would serve it well. Being a Canadian organization, only one person was allowed to represent countries outside Canada. The two lists contained the same four names. They are:

  • Eva Marks-Isaac from Truro, Nova Scotia, who will prepare agendas for the boards, work with NGOs and gifting of funds.
  • Dara Feldman from Maryland, USA, who will head the Education initiatives, expand the use of technology, develop social networking and support the office creation behinds the scenes.
  • Donna Wheatcroft from Calgary, Alberta, who will take charge of Mentorship on a personal level and as we know it in the form of retreat style conferences.
  • Barbara MacKenzie, from Ontario, who serves as a rallier, responsible for the VPFE Google group and the Newsletter for Virtues Project Facilitators around the world.

With the help of Linda Brooke and Betty Doherty, Barb had completed the first VP Newsletter, which was launched that morning. It was emphasized that this is our newsletter with news from around the world. It can be sent to anyone and will be published quarterly.

Bags were then packed, we checked out of our rooms and assembled outside the dining room, where we were piped into a delicious Farewell Lunch by a handsome piper bearing a slight resemblance to Dr Dan, dressed in Nova Scotia tartan kilt. The room was decorated with exquisite colourful virtues banners quilted and appliqu'd by parents and children. It was a festive, grand occasion. The food was beautiful. The chocolate dessert was heavenly. Clearly, the catering staff had been moved and changed by our presence. We were so appreciative of their care, helpfulness and hospitality all Mentorship.

The generosity of the VCNS Committee continued. We were each presented with a CD of the Unity in Harmony song by Christine and a beautiful little bag containing treasures from the Nova Scotia sea and a chocolate shell treat. Linda and Dan received Angels in Nova Scotia Tartan and one was to be sent to Dan's mother, who had crocheted so many beautiful angels for us.

There were photos beside the cherry blossom trees and hugs all round. Linda surprised me by creeping up behind and blowing dandelion seeds all over me. I blessed myself with time in the afternoon to chat and reflect before walking with Donna to a local restaurant, where we enjoyed a seafood meal prior to attending Linda's public address at the university in the evening. During that time I was pleased to hear that Eva is now writing notes of advice for future Mentorships. Linda Brooke stressed the importance of debriefing after a Mentorship and I warned of possible grief after the realization of a dream. I am confident that this group will support each other well in the coming months. Their excellence is very much appreciated.

Well, I was especially lucky to have 3 more days in Halifax so I enjoyed the company of Judy Dixon as we ventured around land and sea and celebrated her birthday. Then we were joined by Mary (MacDonald) who so kindly took us to some of her favourite places, the Museum and also to Peggy's Cove with Dara and Donna. It is so special to have this beautiful Virtues Project family around the world. There are so many more lovely connections that I have not shared but they live in my heart. Thank you.

- Jill Kennedy, Australia, 2011

tabletbackground

VCNS - VIRTUES CONNECTION NOVA SCOTIA

Virtues Project - Virtues Connection

www.vcns.virtuesproject.com


Welcome!

Virtues Connection Nova Scotia was registered as a not for profit organization in the Province of Nova Scotia on 21st October 2006.

On a volunteer and non-profit basis, the society seeks to achieve the following objectives:

  • To serve humanity by supporting the moral and spiritual development of people of all cultures, by helping them to remember who they really are and to live by their highest values;
  • To provide empowering strategies that inspire the practice of virtues in everyday life through programs of excellence and simplicity which support people of all ages to cultivate their virtues -- the gifts of character;
  • To promote The Virtues Project throughout Nova Scotia;
  • To provide a support network for those who wish to promote the Virtues Project in Nova Scotia.

Board Meetings: The Virtues Connection Nova Scotia Board of Directors meet on a quarterly basis to manage the Associations activities. The Board also sells Virtues and Pace of Grace product lines at discounted prices to members of the Connection. Membership is free.

Connection Meetings: Virtues Connection Nova Scotia also hosts quarterly connection meetings (Via teleconference calls; Skype or in person) open to anyone who wishes to attend. These are informal gatherings where stories of Virtues in use in our home, schools, communities and places of work are shared, and where support is provided for a deeper understanding of the Five Strategies of the Virtues Project.

Membership is free. Contact us for more information below...

Board of Directors - Virtues Connection Nova Scotia

Chairperson & Recognized Agent

Eva MarksMacIsaac

Truro, NS

evammac@eastlink.ca  

902-895-9735

Product Sales Coordinator

LynnAnne MacNeil

Enfield, NS

sandalwood.ns@ns.sympatico.ca

902-471-1689

Secretary

Margaret Helpard

Enfield, NS

mhelpard@yahoo.ca

902-225-0459

Treasurer 

Kim Fielding

Truro, NS

kfielding@eastlink.ca

902-893-7060

General             Board Member

Carmella Zahara

Cape Breton, NS

carmellazahara@hotmail.com

902-270-6477

       

 

General             Board Member 

 

 

 

 

General             Board Member

Christine MacAskill

Enfield, NS

serenitylodge@eastlink.ca

902-883-9241

 

 

 

 

 

General             Board Member

Jennet Bowdridge

Dartmouth, NS

VirtuesNS@gmail/com


902-877-1230

 

VCNS - Master Virtues Project Facilitators:

Eva Marks-MacIsaac:
902-895-9735 ~~~ 902-957-2118                                                   evammac@eastlink.ca

LynnAnne MacNeil:
902-471-1689
sandalwood.ns@ns.sympatico.ca

Mary MacDonald, MEd:
902-396-3107                                                                               
virtues-workshop.com

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VCNS - Virtue Project Facilitators:

Kim Fielding, BScHH, BEd:
902-893-7060
kfielding@eastlink.ca

Denise Smith:
902-883-7022

Teacher, Enfield District School
towerview@hotmail.com

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"Leap of Faith" Power Point: The History of VCNS!

http://virtuesproject.com/Affiliate/AffImages/LeapOfFaith.pdf

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Memorandum of Association

http://virtuesproject.com/Affiliate/AffImages/VCNSMemorandum.pdf

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By-Laws of Virtues Connection Nova Scotia

http://virtuesproject.com/Affiliate/AffImages/VCNS-BY-LAWS.pdf


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Testimonials     Flash Mob Dance Video #1     Flash Mob Dance Video #2
 VCNS - VIRTUES CONNECTION NOVA SCOTIA

VCNS East Coast Mentorship

Nova Scotia, June 2-5, 2011

- by Jill Kennedy, Australia

Unity In Harmony

Upon arriving in Halifax from New York City, I was taken by the relaxed atmosphere and the friendliness of the people. The airport is 30 minutes out of Halifax to avoid some of the fog which hangs over Halifax Harbour; the second largest natural harbour in the world behind Sydney, Australia. It is beautiful and dotted with Canadian Naval vessels, fishing boats, hovercraft, ferries, amphibious tour boats, historical ships and tug boats, including the famous Theodore Too, who wears his big red hat and smiley face, being famous for the children's books written about his adventures. As I sat by the harbour side enjoying a coffee I was entertained by two tug boats participating in a dance of Unity in Harmony, with water spraying all over the harbour. It was a delightful ballet and an omen of things to come.

On the afternoon of Thurs 2nd of June, I took a cab out to the Mount Saint Vincent University. The drive along the waterfront was beautiful. My accommodation looked over a large reflective pool showing the evergreen trees around the green buildings with their fresh white door and window frames.

A bright welcome banner greeted me. Inside, the nine ladies of the Virtues Connection Nova Scotia had thought of every detail and demonstrated friendliness, thoughtfulness and excellence in their orderliness. Beside the registration desk was a basket of toiletries for those who had forgotten something of importance. We received an abundant welcome pack and an invitation to tick our top 20 songs on a list of 40 titles to be handed in to the desk before the end of the night. The door to each of our room had its own creative door tag and there was even a chocolate, a Virtues Key Tag and water bottle on our pillow. It felt like coming home to a nurturing mother.

Kim Fielding repeatedly made trips to and from the airport to transport guests to their accommodation in her very identifiable Virtues Van, covered in magnetic virtues! Her service was excellent and appreciated by her many passengers.

I was blessed to be able to share with Linda (Kavelin-Popov) later that afternoon. She looked very relaxed in a mode of being rather than having to do. Virtues Connection Nova Scotia is a group with which she could easily relax, knowing that her beloved Virtues Project was in good hands.

We shared of our grief; the ongoing process, which takes its own, twists and turns regardless of what others think it should do. Linda recounted a little of her forthcoming book, A Slow Miracle, telling how it needs to proceed slowly, too, as each part takes her deeper into her own journey. For me, this sharing was a great gift as I felt my own grief was validated and respected.

As we sat and shared I observed dandelion seeds blowing around behind Linda. I was reminded of a carefully chosen card I had for her in my luggage, which contained that very image. We delighted in their flight and also in the progress of The Virtues Project, where seeds have flown around the world on the wings of Grace.

In the evening I reconnected with friends; Donna Wheatcroft from Calgary, Linda Brooke from Vancouver, Judy Dixon from Hamilton, New Zealand, Geri (Peak) from Baltimore, Grace Bower from New Zealand, Val Hilliker, the ventriloquist, and her beautiful daughter, Julia. It was a joy to meet her husband, Kelly and lovely Veronica from Honduras. We shared a nourishing meal in the student-dining hall before moving across to the area where our Opening Ceremony would take place.

Here, we stood in a circle around a grassed area, where Eva Marks-MacIsaac on behalf of Virtues Connection Nova Scotia welcomed us. We were then introduced to a beautiful elder from the Mikmaq Nation, who welcomed us all to traditional land by drumming a First Nations hooped drum. I was moved when she mentioned that we all feel familiar with the sound of the drum beat due to the fact that we have all spent 9 months in our mother's womb listening to her heart beat. Unity in Harmony, I thought.

We were then invited to take a pinch of tobacco from a pouch, in our left hand, where there is a direct link to our heart, and then quietly make a prayer for the days to come. A sage stick was lit to purify our intent, and then placed in an abalone shell in the centre of the circle. Each person stepped forward, stating their name, where they were from and silently placed the tobacco in a shell in the centre of the circle or they could throw it in the air with their excitement if they so wished. The smoke made its way upwards towards The Great Spirit.

The leader then broke the circle and welcomed the first person on her left and then proceeded around the circle with others following behind. This took a long time, as everyone wanted to chat and hug and catch up with one another.

Eventually Eva (Marks-MacIsaac) moved inside with the ladies from the Virtues Connection Nova Scotia so that we were hurried along for the next part of the Welcoming. We filed past a beautiful Sacred Table, where sacred objects from each member of the group were displayed. Founder, John Kavelin, was welcomed in spirit, as was Breagh, the daughter of LynnAnne MacNeil, a VCNS Committee Member, who had passed away in 2005 after a tragic accident. (June 2nd would have been Breagh's 20th birthday)

Christine MacAskill, another VCNS Committee Member, showed a lovely structure, which her husband had kindly constructed to display the flags of each province and country, represented at this Mentorship. On another round table was a glass bowl filled with coloured layers of sand surrounded by six small glass bowls with a tea light representing each of the countries with representatives in attendance. I was privileged to move forward and place the little tea light for Australia into the large bowl.

We were introduced to each of the VCNS Committee Members and given housekeeping details for the next 2 and a half days. Christine MacAskill shared with us her song, Unity in Harmony, which she wrote with help from her sister, for the VCNS Mentorship. Our Welcome Pack included a copy of the words and notes on the Nova Scotia flag, floral emblems and other cultural items such as recipes for Seafood Chowder and Oatcakes.

Dr. Dan (Popov) wished us an awe full time, stressed that it is now OUR project and stated that what people do with it is awesome. He pointed out that the 5 strategies are what make it unique. He said you either get it or you don't. There's no getting it right!

Mary MacDonald and Maureen Lagan reinforced the importance and uniqueness of the VP due to the 5 strategies. Before allowing us to break for tea and supper she demonstrated a Grab Bag activity to help us review the strategies. In a beautiful bag were 6 items, 1 for each strategy and a red herring. We were to work in groups to discuss which item represented which strategy and tell why or how. Mary then pulled an item from her bra! She said it was supportive, lifted you up, was worn close to the heart, seat of compassion, the 2 cups were side by side, detached. Others suggested that it offered cup-emptying opportunities and also had closure at the back. It had to represent The Art Of Companioning. It was an excellent way of making us think carefully about the qualities of each strategy: a great activity to recap strategies before undertaking the 3-Day Workshop or for summing up the 2-Day Workshop.

We made our way through the mazes of buildings uphill to our rooms for sleep in anticipation of more heartfelt connections the next day.

Early on the Friday morning Linda led us in a Guided Meditation before breakfast. The morning session began with an excellent and inspiring presentation by Judy Dixon, an extraordinary principal from Hamilton, NZ, who showed how the VP is used throughout her whole school to empower the spirit of all involved in the school community. Judy listens to her staff, students and parents and she believes in them. She lives the 5 strategies of the Virtues Project! There is now another band of Judy teacher groupies growing around the world.

Veronica Trochez, from the Honduras, shared simple exercises such as asking what was the first thing you did this morning or what you do on a daily basis, what challenges you find or what you enjoy doing mostly and then finding and acknowledging the virtues heard in the respondent. This reminded me how simple questions can bring forth responses allowing me to use the strategies of the VP in everyday life.

Barbara MacKenzie shared information about integrating the VP into a Father Involvement Programme for Building Children's Character. She noted that this required the changing of Spiritual Companioning to The Art of Companioning in order to have it accepted. Barbara stressed the importance of hearing everyone's story. She asked the question, "What is it about authority that can tip it into violence?" It is about authenticity when people bring their own voice to a programme. She encouraged a male and female to work together in Father Involvement programmes.

After a nutritious nutrition break, Zany Lane, a musical duo who perform for children, entertained us. Their simple messages were catchy and inspiring. For example, "Find your leadership or hero's gems within" [large gem shapes were handed out with virtues written on them]. "Potential roles models and leaders used in the wrong way make bullies." "To be the best me I can be I need to polish those gems by being of service to others." "We are more alike than we are different." "It takes a world of differences to make a difference in our world."

Dara Feldman then inspired us all to develop a new virtue of Geekiness by using technology to spread the VP. She led us through the wonderful new VPI website, which Dan so lovingly completed from John's design. She also presented us with a handout to help us negotiate this and another handout to inspire us to use a variety of technical tools for VP.

Barbara MacKenzie shared the importance of using virtues and the VP through the end of life process. This highlighted for me the rich growth that takes place in facing death and grief. The VP can help make meaning in the pain when questions do not have answers.

After lunch Linda (Kavelin-Popov) gave a talk entitled, "Be the Change You Wish to See in the World". She used the tartan theme to weave together many stories from her experiences with VP in sharing her wisdom.

She asked how to go from doing to being? What is my service now? She shared of John's journey towards death when he said, "It's not about fear or hope. It's about trust". Later Linda found herself suffering and John in pain. She needed detachment and trust.

Linda learnt to call on a virtue that was needed to hold her and carry her instead of asking, "What can I do?"  She also reminded us of that all-important question, "What is my life like when I am lead by my soul and driven by my ego?" She noted determination without discernment can be ego. When asking what is my YES at this season of my life, it may be a different weaving to what we thought.

This project will test us. It is important to trust and be open to grace. In one story she quoted from the bible, "There is no fear in love, perfect love casteth out fear," John 4, 18.

After this rich weaving of stories by Linda we were given a chance to tell our own stories in small groups. A delightful Puppet Show by ventriloquist, Val Hilliker, followed this. In the evening we enjoyed a Maritime Music Kitchen Party, led by Christine MacAskill. I was particularly moved by Christine's thoughtfulness, consideration and caring in asking each of us to tick our 20 favourite songs from a list of 40, when we arrived. Within 24 hours, she had collated the Top 20 and compiled a songbook with the words to all songs PLUS the focus virtue for each song with a brief description. It is a treasured resource to keep. That night we enjoyed good company in a good atmosphere and Nova Scotia oatcakes.

Before breakfast on Saturday we enjoyed a session of Tai Chi. Then LynnAnne MacNeil shared of the many virtues in which her family are given opportunities to grow through their involvement in sports, including dance. She showed how the body, mind and soul were involved in these forms of personal development. At the dance academy, students now aspire to receive the Breagh MacNeil Award of Character.

This was followed by an interesting talk by Maria deSouza, from Quebec, who used the book, "How Full is Your Bucket For Kids?" as a means to introduce the VP to a school where they were reluctant to use the term "Virtue". This was rich with ideas for me to explore and I recommend joining me in visiting www.bucketfillers101.com We were each given a virtues acknowledgement from a small decorative bucket and also given a shape of a raindrop on which we could write a virtues acknowledgement to fill someone else's bucket. In class there was one decorative bucket for everyone to fill for the class. They could see that they were filling their own bucket by filling the bucket of another this way. I likened the bucket to the receptacle for the soul.

To cap off a wonderful morning, Betty Doherty shared some of the wisdom she had gleaned as a grandparent using the VP. I love her idea of creating a Blessing Book for each grandchild and then adding a Virtues Shield and some acknowledgments or reflections each birthday.

Mary MacDonald led us in a fun activity to move and interact as we again reflected upon the 5 strategies of the VP. We were assigned to groups of approximately 7 people and asked to choose a strategy, then given a few minutes to create a tableau to represent it. Each group had a chance to perform and others identified the symbolism for the strategy.

Linda gave an introduction to the use of The 5 Card Spread to get direction and clarification regarding an issue. She noted that we need discernment especially when entering a new phase or at a crossroad. We can think about it by choosing the cards ourselves or we can trust by preparing with a prayer and "randomly" picking the 5 cards. Underneath each virtue she invited us to write the key phrase and then suggested that we write some action steps, with 90-day goals. Action and Reflection must not happen independently. Someone described this process as, "having the parent that I never had".

After being reminded that angels travel in flocks and virtues weave together in our lives, Dan likened the angel of virtue that was our Guiding Virtue as the one leading the team in the particular issue for which we needed clarification. The strength one is the one we can rely on through the issue. The challenge one is the one of which we have to be mindful. The sustaining one is the one that will carry us through the situation and then we come to the one that is at the heart of the matter, the core virtue. We can now do the 5 card spread on the VPI website.

Dan then gave one of his masterful talks on The Power of Unity. He described Unity as a very important virtue but in his opinion Grace was even more important. It was what chose the virtues in the virtues picks. We need to be open to Grace. He believes that the universe knows my name, my gifts and my unique part to play. It knows what song I have been given to sing. There are no "bit" parts, every voice is needed.

In Unity Dan said there needs to be a balance between individual initiative and shared purpose, goals and direction. Virtues are the light of the world. Their absence is darkness. People are attracted to the virtues as they are to light.

He described several types of unity and in his unique style he demonstrated these through types of music.

To conclude this part of a wonder filled day, Maureen Lagan and Mary MacDonald lead us through The How and What of Companioning reminding us that it is NOT about YOU! You are there for someone else so when we ask ourselves if we are asking the right question, what is the solution or we are waiting for someone to say we did a good job, we are in our ego. It allows us and others to talk about the hard stuff. Be there in the moment, breathe deeply and keep in touch with compassion and detachment.

At this point we shared another storytelling session in our groups before being told to meet in the Town Square (Halifax Parade Square) in small groups before 7:30 with a camera in each group. We were given a map and asked to take photos of virtues in action. I had read of this before leaving home so it had been an excellent focus for my trip around eastern Canada and USA. However, another aspect was then introduced for we were given Virtues Pocket Cards and it was suggested that we give one to anyone we photographed using a virtue and that we give them an acknowledgement.

I enjoyed going into Halifax with Val Hilliker, her husband, Kelly and her daughter, Julia. After parking the car, we walked toward the square and a rather bold young woman asking me for money for food approached me. I like to help people but am very careful not to feed drug or alcohol habits so gave a pretty standard negative response to this woman. She then clearly and confidently admired what I was wearing. It was a confusing situation that didn't seem to ring true. Soon after, I sensed that Val, Kelly and Julia would have liked to have responded to her request and photographed generosity in action. I maintained my position. This was to become an interesting teachable moment for me the following morning!

Around the town square, a crowd was gathering. Linda (Kavelin-Popov) and Dara (Feldman) excitedly chatted to police. With my curiosity mounting, I asked a mother what was happening. She denied any knowledge and focused my attention on locating her son who had left her side.

As the town clock chimed 7:30 pm, music blared from the boom boxes and dancers moved to the square. Gradually more and more people seemed to shed jackets and jumpers revealing red and white tops to join in the performance. Virtues banners appeared and the square was alive with rhythm. At the climax, the dancers held up virtues signs and an announcement was made that Linda would give a public address, "From Violence to Virtues" at the University on the Sunday evening.

People gradually dispersed and we enjoyed an evening of chatting with friends as we made our way back to campus. This social time was appreciated.

The Sunday morning commenced with a lovely yoga session led by Wendy Mather. After breakfast we were given the chance to share stories from our experiences the night before in our groups. We were all moved to hear of someone who acknowledged a homeless man with downcast head covered in a hoodie, holding a small container with a sign asking for money for food. This enlightened teacher bent down and said, "I see your determination to get what you need". She then gave him a Virtues Pocket Card and told him that he already had all of these qualities and they would help him to get what he needed in life. Apparently, his head gradually lifted throughout this encounter until he made eye contact with her.

Barbara MacKenzie then shared with me her experience with Dara and Wendy, who encountered a very small young girl asking for money for food. Dara was first to want to offer money. Barb stood back, suspiciously observing a young man nearby, thinking that he may be an accomplice. I identified with her behaviour. As Wendy and Dara spoke with the girl, they learnt that she had been expelled from school and had to leave home. She was living on the streets with her older sister who was protecting her. Whilst this interaction was happening, Barb observed that the young man nearby was wearing chef's clothing and he entered the nearby restaurant and returned with a large take away container of food for her. She was deeply moved by his action and grabbed him by the sleeve and acknowledged his humanity and generosity then gave him a Virtues Pocket Card. The sister of the young girl returned and the ladies gave them a Virtues Pocket Card, telling them that they had the virtues that they needed too.

These stories were great lessons for me because I sometimes don't open myself to the stories of others to discern what it is they need. Do they need to be acknowledged for a virtue or reminded who they really are or called to use a virtue? I am now allowing myself to discern, open the door, and have compassion and detachment and trust. Often in this world, rich or poor people think they need money but they need to be reminded of their virtues, which will help them meet all of their needs and find their gifts they have to offer the world.

I thank all of the wonderful ladies of VCNS who took our Mentorship to the community and all of the beautiful people who taught me so much. I feel empowered.

There were many more amazing stories from the previous night. Eventually we moved on to being introduced to the new VPI Board Members. Linda told the story of her concern about the future of the VP after John's (Kavelin) death. John was the youngest of the 3 founders of the VP so she wanted to prepare for the future when she and Dan will not be here with us. After much concern, Dan suggested that they extend the VPI Board. This simple answer seemed the way to go so Linda and Dan independently wrote down the names of 4 people who they felt would serve it well. Being a Canadian organization, only one person was allowed to represent countries outside Canada. The two lists contained the same four names. They are:

With the help of Linda Brooke and Betty Doherty, Barb had completed the first VP Newsletter, which was launched that morning. It was emphasized that this is our newsletter with news from around the world. It can be sent to anyone and will be published quarterly.

Bags were then packed, we checked out of our rooms and assembled outside the dining room, where we were piped into a delicious Farewell Lunch by a handsome piper bearing a slight resemblance to Dr Dan, dressed in Nova Scotia tartan kilt. The room was decorated with exquisite colourful virtues banners quilted and appliqu'd by parents and children. It was a festive, grand occasion. The food was beautiful. The chocolate dessert was heavenly. Clearly, the catering staff had been moved and changed by our presence. We were so appreciative of their care, helpfulness and hospitality all Mentorship.

The generosity of the VCNS Committee continued. We were each presented with a CD of the Unity in Harmony song by Christine and a beautiful little bag containing treasures from the Nova Scotia sea and a chocolate shell treat. Linda and Dan received Angels in Nova Scotia Tartan and one was to be sent to Dan's mother, who had crocheted so many beautiful angels for us.

There were photos beside the cherry blossom trees and hugs all round. Linda surprised me by creeping up behind and blowing dandelion seeds all over me. I blessed myself with time in the afternoon to chat and reflect before walking with Donna to a local restaurant, where we enjoyed a seafood meal prior to attending Linda's public address at the university in the evening. During that time I was pleased to hear that Eva is now writing notes of advice for future Mentorships. Linda Brooke stressed the importance of debriefing after a Mentorship and I warned of possible grief after the realization of a dream. I am confident that this group will support each other well in the coming months. Their excellence is very much appreciated.

Well, I was especially lucky to have 3 more days in Halifax so I enjoyed the company of Judy Dixon as we ventured around land and sea and celebrated her birthday. Then we were joined by Mary (MacDonald) who so kindly took us to some of her favourite places, the Museum and also to Peggy's Cove with Dara and Donna. It is so special to have this beautiful Virtues Project family around the world. There are so many more lovely connections that I have not shared but they live in my heart. Thank you.

- Jill Kennedy, Australia, 2011