Nienke van Bezooijen was born in the Hague, the Netherlands, just a mile away from the Peace Palace. Though she avoided going to the historic site dubbed the ‘international city of peace and justice’ – where wars have been resolved and peace has been negotiated for over a century – Nienke found that, eventually, all her life’s journeys led to the idea of peace.
This month on International Peace Day (September 21), as part of her Building Bridges Movement held globally over five weeks, the 54-year-old author and peacebuilder is organising an event that brings together art, music and think tanks in the former Royal Palace in Amsterdam hosting 50 changemakers and thought-leaders from all fields.
With the goal of connecting thousands of people who aspire to create a world that works sustainably at all levels, the Building Bridges Movement will identify, sponsor, educate and build five international projects to the next level of impact.
“Social injustice can only be solved if we all start to look within ourselves first, and become conscious about what we create in our minds and in the way we act,” says the public-speaking mentor and corporate trainer who lives along the riverside in Zutphen, the Netherlands.
“We need to become independent thinkers and doers. I believe in the power of Ubuntu: ‘I am because you are’. We cannot solve all issues individually, but connecting with one another isn’t enough either. Self-awareness and responsibility are crucial too.”
Born to a mother with physical disabilities and a father and brother with autism, Nienke was drawn to a life of service of others, and took up nursing. For the first 25 years of her career, she dedicated her efforts to healthcare.
In the 1990s, she had two children, and her daughter was diagnosed with autism too. “Their perspective of the world and their thought-processes are different. So, from a very young age, I was trained to see and listen to what is said and meant,” says Nienke.
At the age of 40, she got a qualification in business administration and became an entrepreneur with her own business Presentation-Master, where she uses the EASE method of training. “I do what I love. I coach and mentor people globally on how to share their story and further help others,” says Nienke who has coached almost 200 people from around the world so far on giving successful TEDx talks.
She also works as a mentor for several organisations such the Global Institute for Evolving Women, The Female Wave of Change, Conscious Togetherness, and The Business Plan for Peace founded by three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee Dr Scilla Elworthy.
Four years ago, when Nienke’s grandmother and ally died at the age of 99, Nienke dedicated a book to her, My Life with Emma, Moving Mountains In Silence. She has also authored several other books on her professional public-speaking method such as The Speaker Success Solution.
As a licensed HeartMath trainer, she helps people tap into the power and intelligence of their heart’s intuition – which awakens them to the best version of themselves. “As you bring your physical, mental and emotional systems into coherent alignment, you begin to experience increased access to your heart’s intuitive guidance. Tuning into your heart’s wisdom creates a profound shift that helps you approach situations with more emotional balance, compassion, clarity, and personal confidence,” says Nienke.
Nienke personally used the method when she had brain tumour surgery and the anaesthesia didn’t have any effect even when the surgery had started. “To the complete awe of the surgeons, I ‘breathed’ myself through the surgery. We all have the free tools of our heartbeat and breathing to align ourselves instantly and become resilient for all occasions in life,” she says.
The tumour left lasting damage in one ear and Nienke had to learn to cope with partial deafness, imbibing deep spiritual lessons in the process. “The heart never lies; it’s the mind that influences us with opinions and judgements about ourselves, others and the world. If we only would start with listening instead of speaking first. That’s why my next book is called Listening for Change: Inner Work to Outer Impact,” she shares.
Nienke’s latest project was inspired out of interactions with Dr Scilla Elworthy. Nienke had signed up for Dr Scilla’s Mighty Heart course in 2020 on conflict resolution, where she was not only coached by the senior peacebuilder but also had the opportunity to coach Dr Scilla back! (Nienke is now a co-facilitator on the fall 2021 batch of the course.)
For the Building Bridges Movement, Nienke has partnered with tech pioneer and changemaker Daphne Laan, humanitarian and happiness coach Asha Lalai, licensed HeartMath trainer Femke Ouëndag, and peacebuilder and blogger Carlijn Odijk.
All through September, they will release a series of inspiring interviews with bridgebuilders and connectors, such as Dr Betty Uribe, one of the most influential Latina business leader in the US; scientist Martijn Lampert; Kenyan refugee and activist Nhial Deng; and others.
Nienke is driven to bringing people together across man-made boundaries and social differences. “For me, it all starts with listening from our hearts, and reaching out to what we have in common rather than highlighting what separates us. I want to help people in developing their authentic, unique voice that connects people,” she says.
She goes on: “I believe social differences are learned, not born with. A toddler doesn’t see colours of skin or social status until she is instructed about such things and begins to copy adult behaviour. So, I see it as my task to walk the talk and listen, be open and work on my unconscious judgements, learn unconditionally from others and stay true to what my heart tells me.”