Two years ago, I enrolled in a mediation certificate program with University of California Extension Service called Common Ground. I will receive my certificate next month. To enrich what I learned in the courses, I also decided to volunteer for the City of Davis, California Community Mediation Services or CMS. CMS has one full time staff member and 40 volunteer mediators who work on a rotating basis serving as members of a three person panel for each mediation.
Especially during hard economic times, it is important for people to have a place to go to be able to resolve disputes, whether it involves getting your rent deposit back or leaving in a dispute-free neighborhood, without having to resort to small claims or other courts. Because Davis is a University town (University of California, Davis), we handle many tenant/landlord disputes. I feel it is important to help serve low income members of the community who would feel helpless and intimidated by the idea of small claims court. And, typically, students can be very low income.
Having served on several mediation panels, I find it an almost addicting feeling! You have two people walk into the room who can barely stand to look at each other, and several hours later they can at least understand the other's position and come to an agreement. They may never be best friends, but they can interact well enough to resolve their issues. I believe it is advantageous to any community when you can resolve disputes for no or low cost in a non-intimidating atmosphere. Imagine students fuming about what they consider the injustice of not receiving their deposit back, which can be a substantial amount of money, and not wanting to approach a court-type situation. I like being able to help people resolve their differences. With reports from all over the country about courts being backed up with cases, I also like to think that I am helping clear some of that backlog.
I would like to continue to volunteer to serve the community, but would also like to assist my employer with any skills I am developing. I can see myself in the future volunteering to assist in a shared neutrals program or other type of mediation program offered to employees. On a personal level, I am considering taking mediation one step further and volunteering in the future as a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate).
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