Profiles

Profile: Bunker Roy and Barefoot College

Bunker Roy

Photo Credit: PWPP

Bunker Roy discusses the founding and mission of Barefoot College.

Bunker Roy was born in Burnpur, West Bengal where he lived for the first fourteen years of his life. His father was a mechanical engineer and his mother retired as India’s trade commissioner to Russia. Roy also had an uncle who was the first chief of air staff of the Indian Air Force and who was a great influence on him. At the age of five, Roy started attending residential boarding schools called public schools. He went to the Doon School from 1956 to 1962 and attended St. Stephen’s College from 1962 to 1967. He earned his master’s degree in English. When he left college in 1967 he gave up the life he knew and decided to live and work in the villages of Rajasthan. From 1967 to 1971 he drilled and blasted open wells for drinking water. Without programs or money to offer, Roy started Barefoot College in 1972. He lived and worked among the villagers of Tilonia as a volunteer. His motivation was to work with the poorest of the poor in an attempt to minimize poverty. Roy met his wife Aruna in 1965 and they married in 1970. Like Bunker, Aruna has been an activist all of her adult life, most recently helping to force the Indian government to pass the Right to Information Act and the National Employment Guarantee Act. The Roys have no children and live on the Barefoot College campus in Tilonia.

Video Interview

Related:

Barefoot College

Tilonia

Schwab Entrepreneurs

UNESCO

Treehugger

 

Profile: Kimmie Weeks and Youth Action International

Kimmie Weeks

Photo Credit: PWPP

Kimmie discusses his early years in Liberia and the founding of Youth Action International

Kimmie Weeks was born in the West African nation of Liberia on December 6, 1981. Civil war broke out in Liberia in 1989 and he and his mother were forced to flee their home with no belongings. They found refuge in a school with many other victims of the civil war. Facing starvation and disease, Weeks was at one point given up for dead, but he survived and was determined to help others that were similarly affected by the war. At the age of ten, he organized a group to clean up the debris left by the war in local communities and also began volunteering in hospitals caring for sickly babies and children. Three years later, Weeks established Liberia’s first child rights advocacy and humanitarian organization run by young people, The Voice of the Future. It is a partner of the United Nations agency for children, UNICEF, works on several humanitarian programs, and provides health, informal education, and recreation for children in three Liberian counties. In 1996, Weeks founded the Children’s Disarmament Campaign and, with the support of UINCEF, was successful in disarming children who were lured to become armed in the civil war. At the age of seventeen, his life was threatened because he issued a report on the Liberian government’s involvement in training child soldiers. He was granted political asylum and came to the United States. He attended Amherst College from 2001 – 2005, graduating during May, 2005. Weeks continues his work through his organization Youth Action International, founded in 2002, and plans to continue improving the prospects for young people throughout Africa in the years to come.

Interview part I – Kimmie Weeks talks about his early years in Liberia

Interview part 2 – Kimmie talks about being a young peace activist in Liberia

Related:

Kimmie Weeks

Youth Action International

 

Profile: Xu Wenli – the life of a peace activist and political dissident

Xu Wenli

Photo Credit: courtesy The Watson Institute of International Studies

Xu Wenli is chairman of the Chinese Democratic Party in exile and senior fellow at Brown University’s Watson Institute.

Xu Wenli is one of China’s most recognized pro-democracy advocates. He spent 16 years in prison for his activities as a dissident. He was a leader in the Democracy Wall movement from 1979 to 1981, edited the samizdat -style journal April Fifth Forum. He was arrested in 1981 and sentenced to 15 years in prison in 1982. Released on parole in 1993, Mr. Xu continued his work on the formation of an opposition party and played a major role in establishing the Beijing-Tianjin branch of the China Democracy Party on November 9, 1998. twenty-one days later, he was arrested and sentenced to 13 years in prison.  Mr. Xu’s health suffered while in prison and, in reaction to his declining condition, international human rights groups, the U.S. ambassador to China, and Western officials called for his release. The Chinese government finally relented and released him on medical grounds in December 2002. He and his wife left China immediately for the United States to be reunited with their daughter, Xu Jin, who lives in Rhode Island. Xu Wenli is a Senior Fellow at Brown University’s Watson Institute of International Studies. He was the recipient of an honorary doctorate at Brown in 2003 and is affectionately known as China’s “Godfather of Dissent.” He was recently named chairman of the China Democratic Party as the party’s first global meeting, attended by over 40 exiled Chinese democracy leaders, came to a close.

Autobiographical Sketch

Related:

The Watson Institute

New York Times’ Coverage

NPR – All Things Considered

Human Rights First

 

Profile: Evan Lyon

Evan Lyon

Photo Credit: PWPP

PWPP Exclusive: Evan Lyon talks about working as a doctor in Haiti.

Evan Lyon on being a doctor in HaitiDr. Evan Lyon was born in Doylstown, Pennsylvania on August 14, 1971, and grew up with his parents and two sisters in the small, rural towns of Plumsteadville and Pipersville, Pennsylvania. His grandparents started an organization which succeeded in building many homes, schools, clinics, community buildings, and churches in Central America and the Caribbean. From the time Evan was 12 or 13, family vacations centered around this work. Lyon graduated Temple University with a degree in Biological Anthropology and during 1996 –at the invitation of a musician friend – he went to Haiti to teach music. He connected to Partners in Health through his mentor Dr. Paul Farmer, moved to Boston, where PIH is located, and became a volunteer researcher. Evan entered Harvard Medical School in 1999 and is currently in his final year of a four year, half–time residency at Brigham and Women’s hospital in Boston, MA. Since 1997, he has devoted most of his work to PIH projects including half-time work as a doctor in Haiti. He has also been devoting significant time to writing, researching, and speaking out against the war in Iraq. He lives in Massachusetts with his wife, Jill Petty. Jill is an editor and publisher at South End Press – an independent, collectively run, non-profit publishing house dedicated to political nonfiction and activist writing.

Evan Lyon talks about working as a doctor in Haiti.

 

Profile: Losang Samten

Losang Samten

Photo Credit: PWPP

Tibetan Buddhist monk and sandpainter.

Losang Samten was born in Ribuce Chang, Tibet in 1953. In 1959, he escaped with his family to Nepal and then to Dharamsala, India where many exiled Tibetans, including His Holiness the Dalai Lama, lived. He attended the Tibetan Institute of the Performing Arts and later the Namgyal Monastery. He became a Buddhist monk in 1967 and was the ritual dance master of the monastery. He also became the personal attendant to the Dalai Lama and was chosen by him to demonstrate the spiritual art form of sand mandala painting in the West. In 1989, Samten moved to Philadelphia and became the founder and spiritual director of the Tibetan Buddhist Center of Philadelphia. Other centers followed, including ones in Texas, Connecticut, New York, and Nevada. Samten gave up his monastic vows in 1995 and became a lay practitioner. In 1997, he worked on the Martin Scorcese film Kundun as religious technical advisor, sand mandala supervisor, and actor. He continues to travel extensively, teaching and demonstrating his Tibetan Buddhist spirituality by creating sand mandala paintings in public spaces. 

Video: Losang Samten sandpaints the Mandala at Colby College in Waterville, Maine.

Losang Samten talks about his early years and his family’s flight from Tibet.