How working for the United Nations led to Big Sky
New executive director Marybeth Morand and new name for WIA: Wellness in Action
Making the most of the transition, the local nonprofit Women in Action (WIA) recently changed their name to Wellness in Action (WIA) and the board hired a new executive director. MaryBeth Morand, who replaced Jennifer Reed, started as executive director on Feb. 1.
MaryBeth first came to Montana in 2002. She was a teaching artist for the Art Mobile of Montana and lived in Whitefish. Through the job, she traveled to remote corners of the state like Yaak and Rapelje.
“I made like $11 dollars an hour driving this rattle-thrapple janky van all over Montana to rural schools with this wonderful exhibition that I got to curate of contemporary Montanan artists, professional artists, and of the 30 pieces in it, ten of them had to be from Native American artists,” said Morand.
Marybeth signed up for the Peace Corps in Kenya out of college and started her career in the international humanitarian realm. After Kenya, she moved onto work for the UN Refugee Agency for 20 years, then additionally worked with Mercy Corps, and the International Rescue Committee in emergency refugee relief.
“It was through those work experiences that I really interfaced with the field of mental health and psycho-social support,” said Morand.
Years ago, MarbyBeth actually spent Christmas in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. The Russian invasion of Ukraine is set to become the largest refugee crisis in Europe in a century, according to the United Nations.
“One of the things I’ve learned during my career with refugees is that a lot of people look at that dynamic and think we need to send blankets and food and water and some first aid supplies. But what people are going through, what the Ukrainians are going through, what the Afghans have just been through, when they are fleeing or going into exile or their country is being invaded, they also need psycho-social support and they need it for a while.”
“The interesting thing is… what we found was that it’s not necessarily the critical incident like fleeing your home or watching the house across the screen blown up… it’s the knock off effects, the long term chronic stressors, that compound after… maybe if you are a refugee and you were an engineer in your home country and then you go into another country and the best job you can get is driving a bus. It’s those long-term chronic stressors that really impact people the worst.”
Morand recommended donating to UNICEF, the UN Refugee Agency, International Rescue Committee, or Mercy Corps to help support folks impacted by the Ukraine-Russia conflict.
Other than the name change for WIA, MaryBeth introduced a new model for behavioral health services in Big Sky. She also recognized substance abuse and suicide as two major issues.
“I’m curious how the institutions that exist across the community, from hospital to schools to sheriff 's department to church to the non-profits to the foundations, how do we figure out who is left behind and who is not sitting at the table?” said Morand.
Morand is hoping to expand WIA’s space, create more counseling services through the MSU master's program, solicit volunteers as community health workers, introduce the sliding scale, incorporate more education and awareness programs and design a babysitter curriculum.
“We will certainly be reaching out to the community and leaning into the community because I think that’s fundamental for a homegrown grassroots organization like WIA to keep that feedback loop alive,” said Morand.
MORE ABOUT MARYBETH
MaryBeth grew up in Illinois outside of Chicago. Her ideal birthday, which takes place at the end of November, involves a good ski and getting together with friends.
“Other than my dog? Well, I guess I am probably his possession... I would say it’s my oil paints. My plein air easel... I saved all of my Michaels’ coupons so I could get it for $50 bucks. It’s probably the heaviest plein air easel out there. I didn’t want to spend a lot of money because I wanted to make sure I was going to actually go and paint outside. I do it and every time I do it it’s my happiest place.”