Bertha’s story:

Building on a family tradition

A photo of Bertha outside in downtown Calgary.

As a long-time United Way supporter and volunteer, Bertha Macwan’s philanthropic spirit runs deep. She works in regional operations at BMO and helps chair our Gen Next initiative, connecting and engaging local people in their 20s and 30s to give back and get involved in their community. Below, Bertha shares how she got involved with United Way, how her family influenced her values, and the impact volunteering has had on her life.


“Like a lot of people, the reason I got involved with United Way was my family. I was born in India, but we moved to Saudi Arabia when I was four, then moved to Calgary when I was 10.

Regardless of where we were, my parents have always been philanthropic—my dad is the first one to step up when new families move here, and my mom set a great example too. Giving back was just something my family did.

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Giving back was just something my family did.

Growing up, I could see the impact my parents were having and how they supported each other in making a difference. Even now, we’ll be out, and people will come up to say how much my family has helped them. That inspired me and I started to get more involved, too.

That’s why I jumped at the chance to get involved in a United Way campaign. My company has a long relationship with United Way, so a few years ago, I started working on our end-of-year fundraiser. That allowed me to meet more people in the organization and inspired me to keep volunteering even after our office fundraiser wrapped up. I love that United Way brings people together so they can pool resources and knowledge and make the best use of our donations.

That sense of connection is what most attracted me to United Way. Honestly, I feel like some of the people that I’ve met through volunteering are actual friends, not just the work colleagues we may have started as. I feel like I’m slowly starting to build connections the same way my dad always has. And it’s not just within Calgary or within my industry. It’s more wide-reaching than that.

During the pandemic, I thought a lot about my skills and my purpose. I realized I am a people connector—I love making connections, I love interacting with people. Soft skills are my strength. I began to feel like everything that I’ve been doing so far has led me to this work.”

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Adam SlaterBertha