27 Years of Conflict




“A lot of conflict is just misunderstanding. Through mediation, they learn that the other person is not Satan incarnate, but somebody with their own perspective.”

Paul Ferrari knows something about conflict.

Born in Kincaid, Illinois (population 1,533), Paul’s father was a coal miner and his mother served as a nurse. Paul and his wife settled in the Seattle area in 1980 after years in St. Louis. In 1993 he began volunteering at VOA’s crisis line, when the manager brought up a mediation opportunity. After over 27 years of volunteering, Paul is VOA’s longest-serving volunteer Mediator, having worked to resolve hundreds of conflicts in Small Claims Court and between landlords and tenants, divorcing parents, and warring neighbors.

“They come in screaming at each other, or certainly very angry. And, they leave with a settlement they can live with.”

Paul remembers his very first mediation, between a landlord and a tenant who couldn’t pay his rent but also couldn’t afford to move. They worked out an agreement where the tenant would work off the hours, and Paul was hooked. “It’s totally involving. There’s no time for distractions, because you have to be completely present.”

One of his favorite mediations involved furious former business partners. “They came in calling each other crooks and how ‘he should be in jail.’ They left with plans to have dinner in a couple nights and talking about a new business venture.”

Thank you to Paul and each of our dedicated Mediators. The world is a more peaceful place because of your work.

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Paul’s story is one piece of our 2021 Volunteer Appreciation campaign. To learn more or discover how you can give back, visit: voaww.org/volunteer.


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