2011 Interview (Outstanding Women and their contributions) Bett Martinez


Who are the women who have found in their 2nd or 3rd act a calling to respond to a need they perceived and quietly made a significant contribution that probably did not get recognition or the limelight?  The frontrunners who brought these contributions are featured here.

 Bett Martinez conveys with her eyes, her hands,  her being her journey, as she describes the progression from the healing work she has done first in response to her  own situation when she was told she would never walk again.   But her talents and her drive in the  health care field as a grant writer and program developer, originally writing the first HMO policies in the New Haven healthcare program in New Haven in ’71, had the challenge of her condition not only benefit her but she brought with that benefit contribution to others: “by cultivating well being by caring for self and others.”  www.possiblesociety.org   Bett worked with the Ed Roberts Center for Independent Living in ’77, the first and original group who brought policy and change to those requiring access and inclusion as physically disabled; the CIL transformed life for the wheelchair bound forever.  Her odyssey of  her own healing brought to her full recovery was through  Feldenkrist, chiropractor exercises, yoga, acupuncture which all served to benefit Bett, but it was Aquatic Qi Gong that she attributes her full physical recovery  and life beyond the wheelchair and cane, to fully functioning,

Aquatic Qigong,  using Native American influence, is a program Bett found on her path to healing and  has since brought this program to vets.  She refers to the book “War and Soul” by Ed Tick, and describes the process by which compassion and water movement for Viet Nam veterans in their 50’s and 60’s has resulted in spiritual and physical release and resolution.  The cleansing and purification of soldiers in order for them to reenter society is a ritual Bett sees as providing reintegration to human beings who have been put in the position of being a warrior.  “All ancient cultures knew when you send people to the edge, to see unspeakable things and to do unspeakable things, a ritual of cleansing and purification, is necessary for reintegation,” Bett says.

Aquatic Qigong for Vets

Bett’s  experience with the Viet Nam vets goes further, the final  healing is to contribute to to others and  to have these individuals become mentors for the Iraq/Afganistan returning veterans is the plan.  Training more mentors in response to the astounding fact of 250.000 homeless vets is the vision of Bett’s future work.

Aquatic Qigong for prisoners and Organic Farming

Providing a structure further of Qigong and healing to  to prisoners is another aspect of the work Bett and her associates look to in the future.  She envisions prisoners having their time of incarceration being trained in organic farming, and those gardens being used in the schools and for the poor. Her work with Ella Baker Center and Van Jones is implicit in her understanding of how this is not just a dream but can become a reality with just the awareness of the potential this would provide for both the prisoners and society, as opposed to the waste of human potential and extreme cost prison represents.  Green jobs and training and supplying a real need of food to those who need the food seems obvious in its value.

If you catch people at a turning point, and provide the possibility for healing and inclusion, anything is possible seems to be Bett’s vision for the world.  Vibrant, alive and full of enthusiasm, Bett is warm, accessible and highly interested in everything around her.  The marriage of philanthropy and social change to instigate and create the options of social benefit to one group benefits all in the true picture of life working, and it is this work that Bett and her associates quietly and consistently direct themselves on and on, day after day.


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