So, who the heck is Beche?

That’s a great question. Unfortunately for you, I have no idea how to describe myself in some black and white pixels on a computer screen. I will leave that all to an instance written in 3rd-person. Things I’ve done, places I’ve worked, been… all that aside, I’m just a person with a bit of desire to attain some sort of constant internal happiness. I like doing things that make my heart beat faster, going to beautiful places, meeting beautiful people, and a warm cup of tea. I of course am human, and like being cozy just as much as I like being exhilarated.

Perhaps a more relevant question is: why is this website here? It’s essentially a sort of online portfolio. It was not made in vain, but merely with a purpose of lending me a sense of life-organization and piece of mind. Also, if you’re wondering about “beche”: In Brazil, since no one could pronounce the “th” in “Bethany,” they started calling me “beche,” and the nickname sort of stuck.

If you want to spend some more time reading about me within the parameters of black and white pixels, a good friend of mine, Colette, recently asked me a few questions on her blog: Click here to read it! Or just read below:

“Bethany is one of the most inspiring, interesting and dynamic people I know.  We first met through a scholarship, which was given to us to attend college for our entrepreneurial ventures. During the mix of creative and intelligent innovators, we crossed paths because we represented the fashion businesses and the ones in New York. Naturally, two people who share the same interests and are wired to think the same way would normally gravitate towards one another. When we first met, both of us were amazed by the crazy mix of uniqueness and individuality we both possessed, along with how similar our stories are as well as our interests. It’s funny how I was the one that ultimately decided to pursue fashion/business on a deeper level and her sustainable development, social entrepreneurship and global initiative.

Since attending both Gallatin and Stern at NYU, Bethany, smarter and on a deeper level than most people ten years her senior, is proving to be more and more of a bold industrialist. Bethany is part of Net Impact, Clinton Global Initiative University, Business Today and strives to learn more about sustainable change than anyone I know. She has spent months in Thailand assisting NGO’s and foundations, while trying to encourage micro-finance to their poorer villages, as well as aiming to eradicate poverty. What she does and continues to do is something that I have always aspired to make my career one day and it makes her one of the most admirable people I know. Bethany goes through life with a great sense of balance and humility that I really respect. I think we can learn a lot from the people who take the time to change the world and care about the greater good. Here’s a little insight into her life & the incredible person that she is:

ZAZA: What initially did you find appealing about social entrepreneurship? Was there an “Aha Moment” that you can recall or were you always interested in helping others?

BH: Making money while doing good sounded sustainable. I was certainly interested in this before I knew what “social entrepreneurship” meant but, before I came to college, I had no idea I could form a career around it, let alone essentially major in it (The Gallatin School of Individualized Study at NYU, ladies and gentlemen). Although I didn’t always know where this inherent altruism came from, I knew that I wouldn’t be satisfied or fulfilled if I didn’t do something to foster it. I think life is about something substantially bigger than ourselves; our lives would be almost meaningless if we lived in our own bubble and didn’t work towards some type of greater good. I think my “aha moment” came when I was 7 and lost Bearsy, my favorite teddy bear, in an NYC taxi. It was at that moment that I realized Bearsy had done his duty with me and was out to make a difference in another kid’s life. I’d like to say that, at that moment, the transitory nature of humanity was instilled in me …but I was 7 and those words weren’t in my dictionary. More importantly, I gathered the simple notion that love existed and needed to be shared.

ZAZA: Bethany, what did you do on your first trip out to Northern Thailand?

BH: I went alongside my professor and two other students from NYU to assist in holding a training workshop for The Mae Fah Luang Foundation under Royal Patronage (Mae Fah Luang Foundation and Doi Tung) to learn about the findings of this development foundation who’s co-founder (along with HRH The Princess Mother, The King’s mother) was named the “Schwab Social Innovator of the Year” in 2009. We just went to learn and get involved, but were so inspired by their work that we later decided to collaborate on a short book publication called “Changing Lives, Changing Communities: How The Mae Fah Luang Foundation Inspired Us To Change The World.” I included a chapter on effective cross-cultural communication. I remained in Thailand for an extra month to produce a television pilot with two film students who graduated from NYU’sTisch School of the Arts.

ZAZA: What did you do on your second trip out there?

BH: Well, we originally went to encourage microfinance amongst a group of village women, but of course ended up doing something completely different. It seems that’s how it always works in international development. You just have to expect the unexpected and stay committed. With the basic goal of encouraging savings activity and a long-term mindset, my team and I visited village after village, searching for some kind of answer; a clue into their lives, a way to incentivize them to save. We went expecting to see cooperatives, but only found middleman models. In these villages, there was an apparent lack of collaboration (sometimes it was a trust issue), a large difference in income brackets, uncertainty of the future, and a very prevalent short-term mindset. However, we soon came to realize that these villages had a similar source of motivation: their children. So, we focused our efforts on high school students. We worked alongside two Thai university students to conduct a 3-week pilot program (for a greater 3-year plan) at a local secondary school (vocational) to teach financial literacy and begin to foster a long-term mentality of saving for their future.

ZAZA: What do you think the major problem is with assisting countries that are considered in extreme poverty?

BH: Not only are there significant cross-cultural communication barriers, there are countless flaws in execution. We like to boost our moral by donating a little money here and there, which in reality, makes a trivial impact and is sometimes even detrimental. Big banks and foundations often throw money at underdeveloped communities (sometimes just to enhance their corporate social responsibility track-record for their annual report) and rarely ensure the money is in the right hands. I think we fail to take the time to really understand the people we’re trying to help. Aside from this, accountability is almost entirely absent from the process. There’s also too much emphasis on giving and not enough on impact (foreign aid). Data is sexy and can reveal so much to us. Aside from that, we need to be real. Many who are passionate about making change on an international level, often get rewarded with fellowships and grants that tend to put their heads higher in the clouds. When they finally go abroad to work in the field, they are traumatized by the lack of resources and the pure difficulty of getting things done. The majority of the time, they return home distraught, bitter, and unmotivated to make change. The US is already so behind (to put things in perspective, we’re towards the bottom of the list in academics and first in confidence), and the problem continues to perpetuate and is utterly evident when we attempt international work. We need to get rid of our intellectual bias and preconceived notions, and learn how to balance our passion with patience.

ZAZA: What’s the best way that we can help and truly make a difference?

BH: Before we set out to better the world, I truly believe that we must first better ourselves. Real, sustainable change can’t come from our current state (which is relatively corrupt). The first thing that must change is our mindset. We’re a very ego-driven society and should consider teaching ourselves to be more empathetic. This would require us to understand ourselves a little better than we do now. I know it sounds preachy, but the answer really does lie within each of us. It’s easy to get lost and overwhelmed in the abundance of information out there. We can continue running around in circles, believing arguments made by people who are talented marketers, or we can spend time understanding our motives and strive to form our own opinions. In order to do that, we need to be willing and able to think in this manner. But, we have a problem: Our school system is clearly not working out. I think the type of thinking we should strive for should be fostered at an early age. I’m a big fan of Tony Wagner- he’s a guy who simply knows what’s up. A teacher himself, he embodies everything that he teaches about teaching style. He often cites this great quote by Einstein: “The formulation of the problem is often more essential than the solution” and further explains it in his “The 7 Skills Students Need for their future.” Great man: LinkLink. The bottom line: If you can make a real difference in yourself, you can make a real difference in the world.

ZAZA: What’s your motivation?

BH: That everyone on the planet should posses the simple luxury to think philosophically. I spend a lot of my time philosophizing about life. You know, the usual what’s-our-purpose-type of philosophizing. Some say: “Cut down on the thinking, just do it! Take action!” For many instances, this is true. However, all of this thinking has really grounded me and lead me to invaluable revelations about the world that have inspired some of my greatest ideas. It’s how true innovation is born. But thinking philosophically is a luxury. Many in underdeveloped countries are so focused on survival that they just don’t have the time for this kind of thinking. Right now, there’s a massive imbalance of power in the world. Innovation is only happening on certain portions of the planet. Imagine if we all had the luxury of thinking philosophically. Imagine the innovation that would be possible.

ZAZA: Which Economists economical views do you best relate too?

BH: Although they posses some contrasting opinions, I agree with bits and pieces of these economists’ views: Dani Rodrik, William Easterly, Jeffrey Sachs, and Joseph Stiglitz. While I find a great deal of relevance in Easterly’s argument, he spends the majority of his time criticizing Sachs. I think a little challenging criticism is of course healthy for any theory, but only is if a solid alternative solution is proposed. I also agree completely with Rodrik (who was influenced by Stiglitz) on the fact that there is no single recipe/model for growth; it varies from place to place. However, I only know the gist of what these economists believe and haven’t studied one of them in depth.

ZAZA: If you could sculpt out your career path, how will it look?

BH: I think part of the beauty in life is not knowing what your future will hold for you. 5-year plans always made me nervous… I thought they were crucial for success and it made me nervous that I couldn’t fathom what mine would look like. But now I think it’s silly, useless and even detrimental to “plan your life.” What’s more important is the mindset that you travel through this life with. You just have to trust yourself. Liz says something great at the end of “Eat, Pray, Love” that is definitely worth noting here. Yes, yes, I know it’s cliché… the typical self-help movie/book. But I think this quotes all too relevant: “If you are brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting and set out on a truth-seeking journey, and if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue, and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher, and you are prepared – most of all – to face (and forgive) some very difficult realities about yourself… then the truth will not be withheld from you.” So, in summary, I don’t want to sculpt out my career path.

ZAZA: Favorite location out of all your incredible travels?

BH: Fez (Morocco) was one of the most intriguing and beautiful places I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting. U2’s music video for “magnificent” does not do it justice. The people are incredibly hospitable and the pure vibrancy in every aspect of the culture is enthralling. The morning chanting over the loud speakers, the kasbahs, the riads, the souks, the belly dancing, the piles of rugs, the camel burgers, the mint tea poured 4 feet in the air… it is a beautifully unique place. But, beware- if you’re a female and plan on making a visit, prepare to receive more proposals than you’ve ever imagined. Oh and make sure you don’t eat the onion pizza.

ZAZA: Favorite Style of Décor?

BH: Right now, Moroccan décor is my favorite for a living area, Indian for a bedroom, Tuscan for a kitchen and perhaps something with stained glass for a bathroom. But sometimes, I really love clean, modern minimalist décor. To me, décor is all about complimenting your surroundings, so it depends on the location. Windows and sunlight are critical. Ideally, I would love to wake up every morning overlooking Manhattan and central park (you know, floor to ceiling windows, the whole deal). The best décor for me creates a comfortable, welcoming environment that fosters good conversation. If you know the atmosphere you’re trying to create, everything falls into place.

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