Volunteer Spotlight: Bette Benson

Bette Benson recently sat down to talk about how she helps Mano a Mano, how she got started, and why she finds the work meaningful.

Bette Benson

Bette Benson

What I Do for Mano a Mano

I help with office tasks. When I first started I updated the contact list.  I helped organize it to make it more efficient, so we can stay in contact with the great volunteers who come to help out. I also updated the donor list, mainly looking at larger organizations to make sure all the information is current.

Right now I’m looking for organizations, people, and grantmakers that have connections to Bolivia, or that do international work and are located here in Minnesota. We’re looking to build relationships, get in more volunteers, interest people in trips.

But I also help when there’s a need for an extra hand. For instance, I help out when the Boy Scouts or groups from St. Kate’s come in to sort supplies.

How I Got Started

I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison majoring in Political Science, International Studies, and Latin American, Caribbean, and Iberian Studies. I knew I wanted to do something that had an international focus and I studied abroad in Buenos Aries, Argentina so I had a little bit of experience living abroad. I thought of doing NGO work, living abroad, but my family is here. So I came back home and began to serve as an AmeriCorps VISTA with Minnesota Alliance With Youth.

I started to look for ways to get involved in international development locally. I discovered the Minnesota International NGO Network, which has a directory of locally-based international NGOs, and I found Mano a Mano. I looked at the website, ordered Joan Velasquez’s book, read it right away, and was so excited. I loved the model. It’s rare for an organization to put so much power in the hands of the communities that are being served.

I started coming in weekly. I’ve been doing it for about a year now. I put in three hours every week.

Why Volunteering Is Meaningful to Me

The work that Mano a Mano does helps lift communities out of poverty in a socially responsible way. It was important for me to volunteer with an organization that partners with the communities that are being served. I feel I’m helping to make a real difference because Mano a Mano as a whole makes a real difference. I can do something fairly simple here — look information up online or help sort materials — and know that it that makes a connection and could have a really significant impact in a community in Bolivia.

“I feel I’m helping to make a real difference because Mano a Mano as a whole makes a real difference.”

Bette at the Mano a Mano office.

Bette at the Mano a Mano office.

This interview and article were written by Mano a Mano volunteer Anthony Schmitz.

More Mano a Mano Volunteer Spotlights

Below are a few more interviews with Mano a Mano volunteers that are so crucial to everything that we do. Are you interested in getting involved? Please contact us!