Volunteer Spotlight: Susan Smith

Each month, we share the stories of World BEYOND War volunteers around the world. Want to volunteer with World BEYOND War? Email greta@worldbeyondwar.org.

A headshot of Susan Smith wearing a purple winter coat


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

How did you get involved with anti-war activism and World BEYOND War (WBW)?

I am a long time anti-war advocate. In the late 1970s, I joined the Peace Corps as a way to work for peace and against war. As a teacher, I helped students understand what was happening in the world around them, emphasizing the need for dialogue and cooperation. I’m a member of various organizations, such as WILPF (Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom) Pittsburgh and Stop Banking the Bomb, and I participate in local protests and actions. In 2020, I became actively involved with World BEYOND War; the pandemic forced me to look for new ways to be engaged. WBW enabled me to do that.

How has the coronavirus pandemic impacted your activism?

Covid got me more involved with World BEYOND War. In 2020 I was looking for ways to be active with causes I believe in and discovered World BEYOND War courses. I had known about WBW and attended some events, but the pandemic got me involved more actively. I took two courses with WBW: War and the Environment and War Abolition 101. From there I volunteered with the Peace Education and Action for Impact pilot program in 2021. Now, I follow WBW activities and events and share them with others in my Pittsburgh network.

What kinds of WBW activities do you work on?

I am now actively involved in the WBW/Rotary Action for Peace project “Peace Education and Action for Impact (PEAI).” I had heard about this program to build young peacebuilders’ skills, but had not paid much attention since I am not young any more. In talking with WBW’S Education Director Phill Gittins, though, he explained that this was an intergenerational program. He asked if I would mentor the Venezuelan team since I speak Spanish. When I found out that there was a Cameroonian team, I volunteered to mentor them as well, since I had lived in that country for several years and speak French. So in 2021 I mentored the Venezuelan and Cameroonian teams and became a member of the Global Advisory team.

I am still on the Global Team helping with planning, consideration of content, editing of some materials, and implementing changes suggested by the evaluation of the pilot. As the 2023 PEAI program starts, I am mentoring the Haitian team. I believe strongly that PEAI enables young people to become peace builders through an intergenerational, global community.

What’s your top recommendation for someone who wants to get involved with anti-war activism and WBW?

Everyone can do something to advance anti-war/pro-peace activism. Look around your community. Who is already doing the work? In what ways can you participate? Maybe it is to attend rallies or maybe it is behind the scenes donating time or money. World BEYOND War is always a viable option. WBW provides a wealth of information and resources. The courses are fantastic. Many areas have WBW chapters. If your city/town doesn’t, you can start one, or you can encourage an existing organization to become a WBW affiliate. Pittsburgh has no WBW chapter. I am active in WILPF (Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom) Pittsburgh. We hosted an event with WBW using their Zoom platform and advertising reach. WILPF Pgh now regularly reports about WBW events and activities and we have been able to share ours with them. Peace begins with cooperation!

What keeps you inspired to advocate for change?

I see such need around me and around the world. I must do my part to make the world a better place for upcoming generations. At times, I get discouraged, but working with networks like WBW and WILPF, I can find inspiration and support to continue to move forward in positive ways.

Posted February 9, 2023.

2 Responses

  1. Thank you, Susan, for inspiring me today to keep up the effort! I hope to investigate WILPF in future, in hopes I can take some actions online. My age, 78, limits my activism now, since
    energy is not what it used to be!?!
    Sincerely, Jean Drumm

  2. I also got more involved with WBW by taking a course during the first Covid lock-down (That’s what we call them in NZ — I think in the States they used the term “shelter-in-place”). Reading your profile has given me ideas as to what sort of additional things I could do. I like your whakatauki – “peace begns with cooperation”. Liz Remmerswaal is our New Zealand WBW national representative. She also inspires me!

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