Kara Beckman

Why did you want to serve on this board?

I served in the Peace Corps in Nicaragua from 1999 to 2001. Coming back from that, I was already questioning the traditional structures and institutions that are set up to “help” people in developing countries, so I was digging into those questions in graduate school and through other experiences.

One of my acquaintances, Keith Olstad, was on the board of PML. We were talking one day about my questions, and he was talking about PML, and it seemed like a good fit. Working with PML was originally a graduate degree project, but I ended up on the board.

How do you see PML changing the people we reach in Minnesota?

I think PML helps folks clearly realize that people are people, and worldwide, our struggles are often similar. We all want our kids to be educated, and we all want opportunities to contribute to our communities, stable and steady job opportunities, and safe and connected communities.

I don’t think that’s a natural realization about other communities when you’re raised in our culture. We have a very strong cultural myth about poverty, that it’s somehow at least a little bit your own fault. Even the most liberal of us are still exposed to those messages and still have them ingrained in us. So we need some kind of experience in which we come face to face with that myth.

PML’s delegations give participants a chance to challenge the myth. That’s how we distinguish our delegations from mission/service trips. You can go on one of those trips and come face to face with people from other cultures, and they might watch you build the wall or watch you paint the school, but there’s never deep interaction.

PML has people stay in someone’s home for four or five or six or fourteen days. They get past the language barrier and begin to communicate. They get to have this experience that may challenge a lot of what they’ve been told about the differences between people who struggle with poverty and people who have lots of privilege. 

What are your hopes for the future of PML?

I think short-term that we get this relationship piece figured out. We have a unique take on some of these issues, and I think we’re small enough really to be flexible in trying to figure out what it means to foster relationships. So I hope we can play with that in an intentional way and learn. And then I hope we can really build on that and model a new way of interacting. 

What do you think you personally bring to the board?

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this. I also bring a very personal experience to thinking about this stuff. I married a Nicaraguan, and we are raising bi-cultural children. We think about the pieces from each culture that we want be sure we hold on to. So I’ve done it on a very personal level, and I’m trying to do it on this organizational level, too. I also enjoy the strategic thinking.

What do you most want people who visit PML’s website to know?

Ultimately, I would like them to be able to see that this is unique in its focus on relationship and not on “mission.”