Volunteer Spotlight: Krystal Wang

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.


Beijing, China / New York, USA

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

As a social media moderator of a Facebook group People Building Peace, I got to know about World BEYOND War since I was producing the #FindAFriendFriday posting series, which is aimed at sharing global networks of peacebuilding with the Facebook community. As I was searching for resources, I was totally wrapped up by WBW’s work.

Later on, I participated in the 24-hour Global Peace Conference “Weaving a Shared Future Together” with my Facebook team, in which we held a 90-min skills-based session titled “Discover Your Peacebuilding Superpower”. Lucky me, it was just in that conference I met with Dr. Phill Gittins, the Education Director of WBW.

Since then, my engagement with WBW was furthered by the collaboration with Dr. Phill Gittins in other programmes, such as the International Youth Day Webinar at Human Rights Education Associates (HREA) where I worked as a student intern. With the shared belief in education as an effective way to build sustainable peace and social justice, I am highly motivated to join WBW’s efforts to make a contribution to the antiwar/pro-peace efforts worldwide.

What kinds of volunteer activities do you help with?

My internship at WBW covers a range of volunteer activities, centered around the Peace Education and Action for Impact (PEAFI) program. One of my roles on the team is communication and outreach through social media, participating in developing the social media strategies for the PEAFI program and potentially other peace education projects at WBW. In the meantime, I am supporting the monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of the PEAFI program, helping with the development of the M&E plan, data collection and analysis, and preparation of the M&E report. Also, I am a volunteer on the events team, working with colleagues to update the WBW Events Calendar page regularly.

What’s your top recommendation for someone who wants to get involved with WBW?

Just do it and you will be part of the change everyone wants to see. What is amazing about WBW is that it is both for experienced anti-war activists and for a newcomer in this field like myself. All you need is to see the problem that disturbs you and have a feeling that you want to do something to change it. Here is the place you can find strength, inspiration, and resources.

A more practical recommendation would be to start your journey in advocating for peace by taking a peace education online course at WBW, which may help you build the knowledge base and related capacity for either your personal passion or your professional development in the social change work field.

What perspective does being from China and the U.S. give you on the demonization of China that’s been growing in the U.S. government and media?

This is actually a question that disturbs me for a long time and that I have to wrestle with almost everyday in my life. It seems really hard to be somewhere in between, with the tension going on between China and the U.S., the two countries that are both so important to me. Not many people are exempt from the influence of the ever-popularized hatred. On one hand, my decision to study in the U.S. has been deeply doubted by people in my country, as they would doubt everything else related to that imagined enemy. But fortunately, I have support from my family and my best friends. On the other hand, as a Human Rights Education student in the U.S., it is a torture to see human rights attacks on China, both in the U.S. media coverage and even in academic case studies. But fortunately, at the same time, I can find hope from the growing counter-narratives in my school community and beyond.

More often than not, we seem to get used to blaming political agendas for everything. However, we may need to debunk a myth by ourselves that “belongingness”, the definition of who we are, has to be premised on “otherness”, the self-perception of who we are not. In fact, healthy patriotism is much more than being blindly proud of who we are. There should be a critical orientation attached to the love for the motherland, which differentiates constructive patriotism that fosters unity, from destructive nationalism that fosters segregation.

As I am writing a peace curriculum in the post-conflicts contexts, with a focus on human rights and youth activism, I have been thinking about how to draw a link between peace and activism, the two concepts that look somewhat contradictory in the tones. Now, reflecting on the critical addition to patriotism, I would like to share a quote from my lesson plans to conclude the response – peace is never about “everything is OK”, but more of the voice from your heart that “I am not really OK with it.” When the majority is not OK with what just is, it won’t be far away from just-ice. When the majority is not quiet any more, we are on our way to peace.

What keeps you inspired to advocate for change?

To learn, to network, and to take actions. These are the top three things that keep inspiring me to advocate for change.

First, as a graduate student, I am very enthusiastic about my concentration in peace education and eager to take this volunteering opportunity to enhance my understanding and thinking about sustainable peace, cross-cultural communication and international development.

As a believer in social media and communication, on the other hand, I am highly motivated to get engaged with the wider community of peacebuilding, such as WBW’s network. Communication with like-minded people, like the young peacebuilders in the PEAFI programme, always makes me refreshed and energized to envision positive changes.

Finally, I deeply believe that peace and human rights education should be oriented towards “hearts, heads and hands”, which not only entails learning about knowledge, values and skills, but most importantly, leads to actions for social change. In this sense, I hope to start from the “micro activism” by every individual person in the world, which we often overlook inadvertently, yet is so constructive for broader and deeper transformations around us all.

How has the coronavirus pandemic impacted your activism?

In fact, my activism experience just started amid the COVID-19 pandemic. I began my masters study at Columbia University by taking courses virtually. Despite the great challenges of the quarantine times, I have found quite a lot of positive energy in the unique experience of moving life online. Led by a course in peace and human rights and the research study of the professor on youth activism, I changed my concentration into Peace and Human Rights Education, which really gives me a brand new perspective on education. For the first time, I got to know that education can be so influential and transformative, rather than just replicating the social hierarchy as I used to perceive it.

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic has made the world smaller, not only in a sense that we are all bound together by this unprecedented crisis, but also as it shows us tons of possibilities of how people can get in touch with each other for the common purposes of peace and positive changes. I joined a lot of peace networks, including as a student coordinator of the Peace Education Network at my college. At the beginning of the semester, we organized an event, inviting members and peers at school to have a conversation around “what changes do you want to make in the post-pandemic world”. Just within one week or so, we heard back from people’s video responses from every corner of the world, sharing completely different experiences and concerns during the pandemic and a shared vision for a preferred future.

It is also worth mentioning that I am co-authoring a pandemic curriculum for a human rights education NGO based in the U.S., which has been piloted in secondary high schools around the globe. In the current work on the extended modules, I am focusing on climate change and pandemics, and vulnerable girls in the pandemic, both of which allows me to highlight social justice issues in the context of the human health crisis, leading young students to take the COVID-19 pandemic as a great chance to reflect on the world and become change-makers.

Posted November 16, 2021.

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