Anne Milne - East Lothian Community Mediation Service
I have been fortunate to be a volunteer with East Lothian Community Mediation Service for 15 years now. You could have knocked me down with a feather when I was awarded a certificate for this.
It all started in the dim and distant past when I read an advert in the Brunton Hall looking for volunteer mediators. I phoned the number and a time and date was agreed to interview me, the Café at the Brunton Hall, brilliant as I got a free coffee. I explained that as a Housing officer for East Lothian Council part of my job was to mediate between neighbours that had disagreements and that I would like to further my knowledge on this and be able to become a volunteer mediator. I was thrilled when I was accepted and training started in Prestonpans Centre where the first Office opened. I remember my first eureka moment when I realised that Mediation was different from what I did at work, allowing people to make choices for themselves, something I was unable to do at work.
I enjoy mediation as a volunteer, it allows people to make choices and to solve their problems for themselves, which truly empowers them and hopefully allows any agreement to stand the test of time. Some can be more difficult than others but that is the challenge to stay with it and remind people of the positive steps they have taken already even if it is just to agree to a meeting, sometimes a difficult thing to do. When you end up with an agreement it is like winning the lottery big time. It takes time and effort but is worth every ounce of it.
I have noticed that as time has gone by more people are more willing to try mediation, although a few still think we are going to meditate with them. What seems very problematic to our service users often seems silly to us but we must go in with an open mind as we are there to help them. Even if a case does not go to full mediation you know that you have given people a chance to talk about their problems and possibly a better chance to sort things out with their neighbours, always a good thing.
I do remember one case where there was so much vehemence between the neighbours that my co mediator and I felt that this would be a difficult case. We organised many individual meetings between the parties to make sure they understood what was happening. In the end they would only agree to a shuttle mediation which went ahead, and back and forth we went for many hours trying to obtain some agreement between the two of them. The case was all about parties being held by the children when their parents were on holiday. In the end our last meeting ended with the client saying that “if there was any more of it he would just call the police”. Neither party would agree to anything. My colleague and I left the house and went straight to the pub and had a soft drink and a laugh - sometimes it is good to be reminded that it does not always work out.
I would love to see Sacro Mediation grow in many quarters as it could have so many uses in the world. I would certainly wish for it to be taught to all Housing Officers, selfish of me I know but knowing their difficult job I also know how much it would help them. I would hope that Sacro would continue with mediation as I know that it would be independent and this is such an important part of mediation I feel.
Lastly, for myself I would like to continue as a volunteer with the service, I know the brain is diminishing slightly but I keep a tight hold on what is left and plan to keep going till I am 100 - by then I should have a few certificates. I love being a volunteer and I love being a mediator. The team I work with is amazing and so very supportive to each other.