My children, living a world apart in Hoboken and Amman, find the same goofy YouTube clips, only to learn their cousins in California and England already hit those same sites. Today’s instant communication is marvelous to someone who remembers rotary phones and punched card programming.
I discovered Facebook page GreenWorldOne (GWO) on a single day when my daughter, in Jordan, hit me with links to cuddly endangered animals; a friend, in Spain, popped me a project to help Syrian refugees; and an old boss, in the USA, shared a clip on making fabric shoes for impoverished African kids. Three links to this unassuming little site all in one day. I peeked to see what was behind it and found GreenWorldOne. Read my interview with one of the team below.
GWO was founded by Gordon James in April 2011 as a Facebook page with a purpose: offering a global platform for independent actions towards positive change. Green Prophet had a chat with GWO Assistant International Director, Margaret Wilkie Büyükkurt.
GP: How did you get involved in environmental and human rights issues?
I was born and raised in a Scottish village. My father was a biology teacher, and my mother loved nature; this combination led to my love of both. I attended St. Andrews University where I studied Biology and Metaphysics, both of which influenced my life. Later, I taught biology in an international school in Athens where we started field trips, introduced ecology lessons and hands-on projects such as helping to improve the local zoo. I later moved to Antalya. I love this city where I live and I think Turkey, and the Middle East in general, are very misunderstood by Westerners. I’ve always wanted to correct that.
GP: Dundee, Scotland to Antalya, Turkey is an unusual relocation. How’d that happen?
While at University, I hitchhiked through Turkey with a friend and fell in love with it. Back then, this country was a very different place and foreigners were treated with suspicion (probably rightly so). After graduating, I went to work in Athens. I met my husband (a Turk), we married and came to live in southern Turkey. Now I’m an English coordinator at a kindergarten, where we’ve recently started an environmental program.
GP: How did GreenWorldOne come about?
GWO was just luck, or fate. I came across it one day online and thought I could use it to advance the West’s knowledge of Turkey and Middle East in a positive way. Discussed things with founder Gordon James, found we had similar dreams and ideas (we also have the same birthdate, so maybe that’s why?) and from there on just soared. I joined in October 2011 and convinced Gordon to start a Facebook page specific to the Middle East/North Africa (MENA).
Previously, there were only sites for Asia and Europe.
GWO has different subsites, each with a unique focus. The MENA site is more political, with a human rights focus because of what’s going on at moment. The students’ site raises environmental awareness, helping young people to link to specific activities, encouraging them to take an active role. I firmly believe that education is the key to a greener, safer and more spiritual planet.
GP: American awareness of the Middle East, and of Islam, is skewed by unbalanced media coverage. Do you observe the same preconceptions in the United Kingdom?
This is one of reasons I’ m passionate about GWO: it aims to enlighten people and put forward both sides of argument.
I was brought up as a Protestant. When I was a child, my Sunday school Minister gave me a project on world religions that wetted my appetite to learn more. I started questioning things, eventually converted to Islam (which had nothing to do with my future husband).
Americans do seem less educated as regards Islam than the British. Although I haven’t lived in the UK for many years, people there seem to have a basic understanding of the Middle East, probably due to our previous colonies in Pakıstan and India, and the high population of Muslims living in Britain.
GP: Any views as to what we ex-pats can do to improve things?
I think we must strive to tell our own stories, show both sides of any argument and never give up, especially with youngsters. I think every child should study all world religions. Knowledge is the key, ignorance is the danger.
GP: Is there a message you would like broadcast to Green Prophet readers?
We have so much work to do (animal rights, the environment) in this lovely area of the Middle East, and we must present ourselves positively, intelligently, without bias to the outside world. I think we play an important role in explaining and educating the West as to what’ s going on here, counter the brainwashing by politicians and news media. We have to open the book of the Middle East and get everyone to read it. It’s all about education.
GWO is a group of people with similar minds, aims, goals spanning a wide array of issues: animal rights, human rights, the environment, peace, and tolerance. We are all bound together, we are all connected.