Staff Spotlight: Mariana Batista

Volunteer Coordinator


A highly motivated and compassionate individual with a passion for travel and helping others along the way.

What is your favorite travel memory?

While studying in Mexico, I had the opportunity to travel with my classmates and with many of the locals we had befriended. One of my fondest memories is of a blissful Sunday afternoon visiting waterfalls. Here I had the opportunity to meet a little girl who became our tour guide. She was so full of life and eager to show us everything - she was quite literally a walking encyclopedia. She changed something inside of me, perhaps the ways in which I viewed the Mexican culture and people, but more so the way I would travel from thereon out.

After my experience in Mexico, I began to travel only with the locals, eating local foods, and visiting local sites.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

I have become much more aware of the heterogeneity of the migratory situation. Since I began working for SB OverSeas, I have become aware of the many needs of refugees and the challenges they face everyday that go beyond fleeing conflict. Having studied migration and conflict, I had a pretty good hold on the theories of these topics and how they should be studied. However, it became quite clear to me as I began working that the ways in which these theories are put into practice are not exactly as straight forward. Many challenges that permeate the everyday lives of refugees are not mentioned in the discourses but they are still a reality that they face and that we must address and find solutions.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

One of our volunteers recounted an incredible story of a little boy named Ahmad who despite all his hardships still had an incredibly large heart. This little boy changed the way in which our volunteer viewed the children she worked with. This young boy came to our centers for his regular class and, with him, he brought a bag of toys, toys that were his, toys that undoubtedly he could not replace. He brought them and distributed them to his friends in the classroom, without waiting for a response, without waiting for a thank you. This young boy was living proof that even children, living in absolute poverty, are willing and taught to share very little that they have just to make others feel a little better about the challenges they are facing.

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

As the Volunteer Coordinator, I go to our centers in Lebanon to evaluate and monitor our programs. However, if I could, I would go as a volunteer and spend four months working in our centers. The everyday experience of working with children and women and seeing their progression is one that cannot be created in a short amount of time. I would like to be able to foster relationships with the children and women we work with, be part of their education, and see them succeed in whatever they set their minds to.

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

Alongside our educational centers, we also run empowerment centers for refugee women and youth. In these centers, English classes are taught as well as vocational training classes. For many, this is the first formal training they have ever received. Our program brings in qualified individuals who run these classes. Once the program is completed, these women also receive certificates. For many, this is their first accomplishment in many years and a way to become autonomous once again. I am especially proud that our team dedicates their time to this part of the center as well because education comes in many forms and it can be taught to all ages.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

We believe that SB OverSeas is successful because we empathize with those who we work with. Our on the ground operations really allow us to see the day to day challenges our beneficiaries face. This allows us to come up with solutions that are directly related to the difficulties they face. We speak to the children, to their parents, to the communities and try to find out what exactly are their needs. Our programs reflect the needs of these communities and in many cases, we are bridging the gap for them. We can only do this if we sit down, understand what is going on, and put ourselves in their shoes. For this reason, we believe that SB OverSeas is doing groundbreaking work by working from the ground up.