Who we are

Our Board of Directors:

Betsy Jett, President
Bonnie Karet, Vice President
Barbara Quist, Secretary
Mark Karet, Treasurer
Cynthia Way, Director
Arleen LaBella, Director
Allison Annette Foster, Director
Bonnie Gardner, Director

Meet the Board

Betsy Jett

Betsy JettI took my first trip to Vietnam with Cynthia and Bonnie in 2010 out of a sense of adventure. I came back with an extended family of 24 kids that I care about deeply. Big Big World Project has a special mission, and I’m proud to be part of it. The impact that this organization has had on these children and their community is profound.

Since that first trip, I see a certain confidence in their steps, caring in their hearts, and a sense of the future in their eyes that is new. I love this work.

My “day job” is in the field of healthcare quality. I currently work at the New York Blood Center.

Other volunteer activities that have helped shape my experience and thinking over the years include the Baldrige Performance Excellence Award Program, the Maryland Performance Excellence Foundation, the Human Rights Commission of Montgomery County Maryland, and the Peace Corps.

I have two children of my own and live in New York City.

Bonnie Karet
IMG_1079I became interested in the futures of the kids at the orphanage when I met them all while
accompanying a friend on an adoption trip in 2008. I learned that the kids in the orphanage that I had become attached to had a very slim chance of having a normal life without an education. The possibility of these bright and beautiful children ending up in the sex trade or in hard labor was not something I could live with.

I have returned each and every year to the orphanage since then, and during the second trip, Big Big World was born to me and lifelong friend, Cynthia Way. Cynthia I have been friends since we met in Liberia in 1982. Of all of our adventures over the years, the Big Big World Project is the most profound and precious.

Big Big World now has a Board of 7 committed people, all working to create opportunities for children who are alone in this world. I know that this will be a lifelong passion for me, just as my children that were born to me are. I am married to the love of my life, Mark, and we have three amazing kids: Gage, Mackenzie, and Zoe. I own a pottery studio and ice cream shop in Florida.

Barbara Quist

IMG_2421I became involved three years ago with Big Big World thinking it was a way I could give back internationally. The mission was understandable and tangible and I have always been connected to children in my life and through my work. Then in the fall of 2013 I visited the Ham Tan Children’s Center, met the kids, saw where and how they lived and how much hope they have for the possibilities of their future because of our presence. That experience and awareness gave my work with BBW an entirely different meaning.

It is now a deep personal commitment. I was able to play with them, hold their hands, and  observe their creativity and above all witness their care and kindness toward one another. They have created a family among themselves where there was none. It is a privilege to be part of that family, to be embraced by them, to be appreciated by them. It is work that makes me glow and sing inside.

Cynthia Way
When Cynthia isn’t being a mom (locally or globally), she is principal of Way To Go! inc, helping leaders and teams achieve breakthrough results. While coaching, facilitating and training since 1991, Cynthia brings a unique background: working for the American Embassy in West Africa for two years, living in Mexico, teaching an empowerment course to women and children at a homeless shelter, a successful 13-year career within the Central Intelligence Agency, being an active volunteer in the Cambodian-American community and launching the Big Big World Project with her friend Bonnie (Vice President and Co-Founder) in 2009. Besides being on the Board for Big Big World Project, she also has served on the Board for the Society for Organizational Learning (SoL) and the SoL Global Coaching Community.

Arleen LaBella
Arleen LaBellaI’ve spent my career as an educator, a counselor and workplace consultant focusing on leadership and interpersonal skill development. Now that I am semi-retired I find myself
able and eager to help make a difference in causes that matter a lot to me. The opportunity to serve on the Big Big World board was a perfect fit. I care deeply about helping children and believe strongly that education is the best tool for self-empowerment.

BBW’s global reach spoke to me personally because my youngest child, now 25, was adopted from Korea when she was three years old. I remember when Cynthia Way asked me to be on the board she said many things that influenced my decision, but most impactful was her explanation of what happens to our Ham Tan children once they age out of the orphanage. She explained they are teenagers left alone in the world, with no home, no family, no money and no skills to earn a decent living – and consequently, in their most vulnerable state, they become the prey of the sex trade. It took my breath away. I couldn’t stop thinking of my own daughter in that horrific situation, and from that moment I knew I wanted and needed to keep as many children form that fate as possible. I greatly appreciate being part of an organization that knows where every dollar goes, knows every child by name, exactly how each child is doing and spends days every year at the orphanage personally giving help and hugs.

 Allison Annette Foster

Allison Annette FosterAllison is a new member of the to the BBW Board. She has been an enthusiastic supporter of BBW, leading a Zumba fund raiser event several years ago, and serving on the volunteer committee for the 2013 Gala. Allison works in the area of health – both at the community level and at the global level. Her global work takes her to some of the most underserved areas of Latin America and Africa, so she has a special place in her heart for the challenges that our Ham Tan kids face, and the potential that they can tap with just a little bit of help. Allison claims her Texas roots, and currently lives in Northern Virginia.

Bonnie Gardner

bonnieGI adopted my son in 2008 from Ham Tan Children’s Center, so for me the mission of Big Big World is intensely personal. When I was in Vietnam on my adoption trip, people would flock to us when we were out on the street, in restaurants, and stores, and to a person they remarked how fortunate my new son was to have a chance at an American education. That struck a chord with me, as I’ve worked most of my career in the nonprofit sector as an advocate for education, and I know the doors a quality education can open. After I returned and got settled in my life as a new mom, I started volunteering for Big Big World’s galas to keep myself connected to the orphanage and to help the wonderful young people I met there. As a new Board member, I am thrilled at the opportunity to expand my commitment to seeing that the children of Ham Tan become self-sufficient, independent, thriving adults.

I currently work in communications for the National Education Association. Previously, I worked for higher ed associations and have been a journalist. A Maryland native, I’m a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Johns Hopkins University. I live in Northern Virginia with my husband and son.