The Beauty of THE BETES (& an upcoming event!)

There are certain initiatives, or organizations, or movements (or all three) that are so fantastic and beautiful and necessary that they make you want to knock on every door and tell every person about them.

You want to throw fluorescent flyers through hallways, like they do in every 90’s movie involving a big high school party, to make everyone aware of the events that are unfolding.

You want to grab the hand of each person you speak to and say, Listen. This is important.

THE BETES is one such organization.


Founded in 2013 by perfoming artist Marina Tsaplina, The Betes Organization’s mission is ‘to pave a path to joyful health for all people who carry chronic health conditions through creative and unique theater-driven programming.’

They are working in the emerging field of health (or medical) humanities, which focuses on the many roles of the arts in the realm of medical practice. There are so many aspects to health humanities, so many possibilities, that I find it difficult to give an all-encompassing definition. This field touches everyone: the medical practitioner and the patient, the person living with chronic illness and their loved ones. Art is an extremely powerful tool for empathy, understanding, communicating, coping and healing; the medical humanities embody that. The Betes embodies that, too.

What The Betes is doing is something I’ve never seen before. It is something I never knew was missing, until it appeared, and I thought, Of course. Where has this been all along? It makes so much sense. The arts have the unique power of helping make sense of senseless things… often in unexpected ways… such as puppetry.

Last summer, The Betes Organization visited several summer camps for people with Type 1 diabetes, where they delivered a program for teens involving puppets, aptly named Betes. They’ve also held arts and craft sessions where children create and interact with their own Betes puppets. (For a more visual example of their work, watch the video at the end of the post!)

Without personally having participated in any of these events, even just imagining my own Betes puppet has altered my relationship with diabetes. For me, the puppet puts diabetes into an entirely new perspective, making the experience of dealing with chronic illness more visceral. I wonder, what would my Betes look like? How would it act? How would I act towards it? This challenges me to view my illness and my relationship with my illness in a deeper way; the numbers fall away, the statistics disappear, and I am a human living with a chronic illness… a chronic illness that is also living with me. Each of us holding individual yet intertwined needs. This exercise brings reflection, acknowledgment and expression. It brings deeper awareness, thus a more informed ability to act and react to the challenges of chronic illness.

The Betes is currently working on a new project involving the topic of Type 1 diabetes and health complications. A tough topic, undoubtedly, which is all the more reason it needs to be further explored and expressed. The same goes for the topic of depression and diabetes. They tread difficult subject matter in an effort to de-stigmatize and delve further into the significant, sometimes scary conversations that must be acknowledged for our overall health. I look forward to seeing what they continue to create.



This launch event’s primary focus is to introduce the medical community to The Betes Organization and the important role of medical humanities in diabetes healthcare.

They ask, How do we solve the deepest problems in diabetes care?

And they answer, Culture. Creativity. Expression. Empathy. Story. …And Puppets (yes, really.)

The puppets will be there. Diabetes care providers, patient advocates, public health experts, business, community, and artistic leaders will be there. I, too, will be there, to listen and learn.

* Early-bird tickets to The Patient Voice: Bridging the Diabetes Gaps are on sale now, and can be ordered HERE.*

What The Betes Organization advocates is, appropriately, their tagline:

‘Healthcare is a Human Story.

It is our story. And such a valiant, complex, limitless story it is.


For more information on The Betes Organization and their upcoming event, The Patient Voice: Bridging the Diabetes Gaps, on March 20th in NYC, please visit their website, ! And watch this lovely video! :



  1. Avatar February 10, 2016 / 4:05 am

    Of course i have read this a few times over the last few days and I think it is amazingly well done. I liek it so much that i referred the item to the TUDiabetes new web page, Thank you for the beautiful blog and you wonderful work on behalf of “the Betes”..

    • Sarah V.
      Sarah V.
      February 10, 2016 / 6:34 am

      Oh, thanks so much, Rick! It’s easy to write good things when you’re writing about something as beautiful as The Betes 😉


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