Keep Yurt Distance

ST. JOHNSBURY-Since the pandemic started the Community Restorative Justice Center has been holding all gatherings online. But wanted to find a more comfortable way for victims to share their stories.

Community Restorative Justice Center Is all about resolving harm, crime, and conflicts in the community. The CJC holds gatherings with victims that have suffered from trauma, and give them the opportunity to express why they feel harmed. Thus, the CJC assist these people with finding solutions to repair that harm.

Executive Director, Susan Cherry started doing some research on how to conduct meetings in a well ventilated space. The staff and volunteers thought a yurt would be the perfect solution. Zoom meetings were not proving to be effective, mainly due to victims feeling uncomfortable sharing their concerns over a video camera.

"When you're actually in person, you pick up the empathy vibes. You pick up how people are feeling, and if somebody is talking about the worst day of their lives. It's a little easier to distance yourself from the community if you have a screen in front of you," Cherry explains.

Cherry said that the center believes in-person meetings provide more of a safety blanket. "If people are in their living rooms, or in their own homes, they have family members around. They start talking about a hard time, they may not tell you what they would tell you if you were sitting in person," Cherry said.

While the justice center was looking into the idea, the state of Vermont was offering some funding to keep the center in operation. "We were asked by our legislators, what can we do to help? I pitched the idea, no pun intended of building a yurt," Cherry explained with a laugh.

The yurt took a while to be delivered to the center, as it had been ordered back in early 2020, it was finally put up in February. "Transportation issues were halted, manufacturing issues were delayed because of covid. We had hoped to get it up last summer, it actually arrived in January," Cherry said.

The staff came together to build the floor in Cherry's garage. While another volunteer, Brant Schreiber of Mountain Logworks brought in a team to build the structure of the yurt. "I've got a crew that can put this up for us," Schreiber said.

The center is looking forward to using this new space, as it can fit over 15 people in the space. Other community organizations are more than welcome to use the yurt, if they make an appointment through the phone. If you wish to contact the Social Justice Center you can visit them at their website.