Bridging the Gaps: Claire de Mezerville Lopez on Creating Restorative Environments in Costa Rica

Amidst the vivid backdrop of Costa Rica, an intricate tapestry of connections and disconnections exists within its communities. In a compelling presentation, Claire de Mezerville Lopez, a seasoned psychologist and restorative practices expert, shone a light on this tapestry to explore the prevalent disconnect between academia, civil society, educational institutions, and juvenile justice. Using her extensive experience, Claire highlighted the challenges and potential solutions to fostering healthier environments for the youth in Costa Rica.

For those unfamiliar with Claire’s credentials, her background is a testament to her dedication to restorative practices. A licensed psychologist from UCR, Claire also holds a Master of Science in Restorative Practices from the IIRP Graduate School. Her roles have spanned being a lecturer, therapist, researcher, and consultant, making her uniquely positioned to understand and address the intricate challenges Costa Rica faces.

One of the most poignant parts of Claire’s talk was the revelation of the “normal” disconnect between various stakeholders in the life of a young individual. It’s a situation where the youth, practitioners, community leaders, and government institutions, despite their best intentions, often find themselves working in silos. This lack of cohesive collaboration hampers most attempts to build restorative environments for the younger generation.

However, Claire’s presentation was not just about identifying challenges; it was also a platform to showcase possibilities. Drawing from over a decade of Costa Rica’s experience with the national restorative justice program within the Justice System, Claire highlighted the potential of restorative practices. She emphasized their role as a robust framework for fostering dialogue, not just within communities, but also between different institutional bodies.

One of the key solutions Claire proposed was the strengthening of intergenerational relations and promoting shared leadership. By bridging the age gap and fostering a culture where both the old and the young can lead and learn, it’s possible to cultivate a more inclusive community. Furthermore, she advocated for deliberate initiatives that weave efforts in youth work, essentially creating a network where stakeholders at all levels can collaborate more effectively.

Claire’s experiences in Costa Rica have not only been limited to her academic pursuits. Her active involvement in facilitating professional development processes with pivotal government agencies, such as the Justice System and the Ministry of Education, has given her firsthand insights into the practical challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. Through her collaborations with organizations like the National Psychologist Association and Peace Corps Costa Rica, Claire ensures that training opportunities remain accessible for those dedicated to ushering in a change.

As the presentation drew to a close, it was evident that while Costa Rica’s journey towards creating restorative environments has its fair share of hurdles, the path forward is not bleak. With experts like Claire de Mezerville Lopez leading the charge, there is hope that the disconnections can be addressed, and a more harmonious, restorative environment can be established.

In essence, Claire’s presentation was both a reflection on the current state of affairs and a call to action. It emphasized the pressing need to connect the dots, to ensure that the next generation grows up in a world where they are heard, understood, and supported.