Heidi Mitton, PBI-Colombia volunteer
Peace Brigades international-Canada is helping to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Peace Brigades International-Colombia Project by sharing stories of volunteers from Canada who have accompanied human rights defenders through PBI in Colombia.
In this December 2015 Facebook post, PBI-Canada published an interview with Heidi Mitton who began 18 months of accompaniment in June 2015.
That post highlights, “Heidi is a Nova Scotian who has previously been an accompaniment volunteer in Guatemala; along with her background in counseling and education, this makes her a great addition to the Colombia team!”
In the interview, Mitton comments:
“[Accompaniment is] a different approach to issues that have their root in international inequality and in our economic and social systems.”
“Over the years I’ve been exposed to a variety of work in communities that’s a helping model. A lot of that work can be very valuable, but what I like about accompaniment is that it’s more of a solidarity approach.”
“I think the relationship building that comes with international accompaniment allows us to promote human rights globally while building networks across borders.”
“Humanitarian work is very valuable and it’s definitely a piece of things, but it depends on the relationship. Protective accompaniment promotes an equitable relationship with countries across borders.”
Several years prior to Colombia, the Truro Daly News reports that Mitton participated in a six-month internship in Cochabamba, Bolivia in 2007-08. Not long before that, major ‘water war’ demonstrations had taken place in Cochabamba between December 1999 and April 2000 in response to the privatization of the city’s water supply company.
And in May 2012, Mitton wrote in the Halifax Media Co-op about growing up in rural Nova Scotia and the Westray mine disaster (that killed 26 miners) and reflecting on those memories while accompanying a demonstration in Guatemala City by campesino and indigenous groups opposed to big development projects on their lands.
That article concluded, “It is crucial that we continue resisting the ideological hold that neo-liberal capitalism has on public discourse. Not only because of our responsibilities to humanity and to nature, but also because if we don’t, the number of casualties will grow, and the tragic crimes of corporate hegemony will continue to come home.”
In November 2018, the Nova Scotia Advocate noted, “Heidi Mitton is a mental health therapist originally from Truro. She has been living and working abroad over the last few years with humanitarian and human rights organizations in Jordan, Colombia, and Guatemala.”
That article featured a poem titled Vision by Mitton.
She notes: “The inspiration for this poem is hard to explain, but the attempted focus of most of my writing is perhaps best summed up by this quote from Alice Walker recently sent to me by my grandmother, who has been encouraging my writing since I was seven years old.”
Walker’s quote reads, “Poetry is the lifeblood of rebellion, revolution and the raising of consciousness.”