Shimber Beris Students

First and foremost, Virginia Burden, an instructor in the Speech and Dramatic Arts Department at Fresno State College, conceived Shimber Beris as a place of healing and refuge for children and young people. She created it in tandem with her new husband, David Burden, a chiropractor and recently naturalized citizen originally from British occupied Uganda.

A sizeable portion of the students who passed through the school appear to have come from troubled families or a single parent looking for a suitable place to park their offspring while they dealt with personal matters. Clearly, most parents sent their children because they saw it as a benign sort of adventure camp that offered an opportunity to let go of negative associations and behaviors and to discover renewed energy with which to approach life. Such was the school’s propaganda, and such was the expectation of all when they first arrived.

Shimber Beris Staff


Up to eighteen staff and staff trainees participated over the years, some of whom were more participatory than others. The students they oversaw ranged in number from about fifteen to twenty-five at any given time.

In the early years adult teachers viewed Shimber Beris as a sort of "New Age Peace Corps" experience and volunteered their services. A student-staff group eventually evolved from a concept that began in the mid sixties with the creation of Doctor's Helpers or "DH's." Many of these staff came and went for extended periods over the years.

Some staff joined Shimber Beris as adult resident workers, while others who were enrolled when they were children stayed on. Expectations placed upon staff members were motivated and shaped by Dr. and Mrs. Burden’s hidden caste structured occult agendas, with which they intended to save the world.

The Burden's provided no real training in the tenets of child psychology or the proper "bedside manner" for handling students and were seen by some as heavy handed and insensitive.


A staff member's perspective:

“For a number of years, I was a member of the staff of an American-run school in Mexico, and later Guatemala. Had we known each other in another context, our ties would have been superficial, if anything. We were an incongruous group, from varying social, economic and educational backgrounds. But we shared a hunger for adventure, a thriving on challenge, and an idealistic orientation to life. These characteristics were nurtured by the director and his wife. They valued our youthful strivings and inquiries and were dedicated to providing a lifestyle in which they were encouraged. It was the foundation of the organization.”

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