“How do we redefine ourselves to be motivated to connect and share rather than shop and consume, replenish rather than extract? How does this transformation happen? … At the heart of this transformation is not technology but relationships, tens of millions of people working toward restoration and social justice.”
Betty Burkes has come to understand the world around her through relationships, through community. She believes peace is achievable through the hard work of honest dialogue and self-reflection.
Burkes grew up in a working class family in Ohio. After college, she joined the Peace Corps and went to teach in Ethiopia. She received a Master´s in early childhood education and teaching at the University of California, Berkeley. Later, she lived in England for many years where she studied art, dance and taught at the American School in London. In 1986, she returned to the US and opened Montessori Paradise and Summer Center on Cape Cod where she explored the world with pre-school children, developing their respect for nature, relational skills, and sense of responsibility, as well as teaching arts, crafts and music.
In the 1980’s, Burkes joined Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) and served on the national board and as its US Section President. Interviewed about WILPF on the television program Enviro Close-Up, Burkes discussed the “culture of power” in the US. She suggests that by investigating the history of violence and deception in the US we can better understand the attitudes and values that shape our lives and form the basis of our national policies. She believes that the way to affect change is to educate ourselves, open our hearts to the realities of those whose lives and views are different from our own, and to join forces with other people and groups.
From 2002-2005, Burkes worked for Hague Appeal for Peace, an organization whose goal is to abolish war and establish peace as a human right in collaboration with the U.N. Department of Disarmament Affairs. There she served as Peace Education Program Coordinator on projects in Albania, Cambodia, Niger and Peru, where she worked with in-country partners to design Peace Education curricula for national school systems and programs to promote local conflict resolution skills.
Currently, Betty coordinates programs for “Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools”. Rethink, a program that arose in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, encourages middle school youth to participate actively in the reimagining of New Orleans schools. As part of the program, the students develop leadership and critical thinking skills and work to build community.
Betty Burkes believes in a “beloved community,” where all life is valued and human interactions are guided by equality and compassion. She believes that structures of power can be transformed through nonviolence and education that promotes inquiry and investigation, patience and love. Wherever she is, Burkes works locally for global change, for racial and community justice, for the environment and to promote peace-building.
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