Volunteer Profile: Ben Kohler says, “I Can’t Do Everything, but I Can Do Something” | The Center for Victims of Torture

Volunteer Profile: Ben Kohler says, “I Can’t Do Everything, but I Can Do Something”

Ben Kohler
Tuesday, September 8, 2015

It was in the early 1980s that Ben Kohler read about Governor Rudy Perpich’s proposal to create a center for torture survivors. “I learned about the center before it was even a center.”  He remembers reading articles and letters in the newspaper in opposition to the idea and his sense of shock. “I just couldn’t understand how anyone could oppose something so good and so needed.”  It motivated him to start supporting CVT’s work shortly after it became a reality.

In 2000, when Ben retired, he began volunteering for CVT; there were several opportunities awaiting him. Each role led to something else, from driver to befriender to tutoring, to the speaker’s bureau, just to name a few. He became a part of supporting survivors. Although Ben had several roles, he says it’s the people he meets and the conversations he has that inspire him to continue volunteering. The connections that he makes with survivors are rewarding and delightful. Throughout all the roles he’s had, Ben states, “With every little bit that I do, I know the healing is happening. I may not always see it but I know it.”

With a background in education, he understands the importance of helping people create brighter futures. During his career as a high school counselor, he met a family in which a member had recently been tortured. Ben was aware of CVT’s work with survivors and was able to connect the family with the organization. It was through this family’s healing experience that Ben realized, “I can’t do everything, but I can do something.”

Each of his volunteer roles has given him a broader and deeper appreciation of CVT’s mission.  In tutoring survivors, he witnesses the joy in a survivor’s eyes as the survivor moves beyond chronic pain to being comfortable in American culture.  In speaking at more than one hundred events, he has seen groups ranging from school students to elders open their minds and hearts to the work of CVT.  And in painting the Dayton Avenue house, he learned about the importance of a home for healing.

He currently spends most of his time as a volunteer driver. Although he may not be in the therapy or counseling sessions, Ben understands the importance and necessity of being a volunteer driver.  “By transporting clients to their appointments, I help the healing happen.”

To this day, he continues volunteering as a driver for CVT. Yet this role does not limit him from seeking additional ways to help survivors. During the volunteer car rides, he realizes being in a personal setting allows him to understand, “there is more he can do for the survivors.” From the various skills that Ben has acquired, he can notice the difficulty an individual survivor has with speaking and perhaps take some time tutoring. He may also see the need to befriend a survivor who perhaps may fear interacting with others. For Ben, his time commitment to CVT is about supporting the organization and survivors so that both can successfully grow. Through it all, he acknowledges that his commitment to this organization exemplifies “a work of love, not of duty”.


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