Rebekah Carnes is a graduate student in Sociology at Kansas State whose main passion is activism. She is committed to a career in the field of social policy, and not only researches volunteerism for her graduate project but also serves in Manhattan herself. Currently she volunteers for the Manhattan Emergency Shelter, tutors for International Friends of Manhattan and is part of the Faith Evangelical Free Church in Manhattan. As her nominator Dr. Nadia Shapkina says, “clearly the choices that Rebekah makes in her life demonstrate that she is very passionate about and strongly devoted to the causes of peace, human development and social justice.
As the Outstanding Student Volunteer winner for the Celebrating People in Action awards, Rebekah is our guest writer this week talking about what volunteering means to her.
Volunteerism is a funny word. On the one hand, it can conjure up images of a quick hour shift in a Saturday fundraiser; on the other hand, it can be intertwined with a person’s true identity. My research has found that the lifestyle of volunteer work is one of the most powerful motivators for social change. Some people have a volunteer identity that runs deeper than any occupational or professional identity. At a party, they might introduce themselves, not as: “hi, I’m so and so, and I am a…(insert profession here)”, but as: “hi, I’m so and so, and this is what I really care about…” For these people, “volunteer” just doesn’t quite cover it.
Once, there was a pastor who also volunteered his time to organize people to peacefully protest against inequality. This volunteer, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. started one of the greatest movements for justice and equality that this country has ever seen. Once there was a nurse who also volunteered to organize other health care professionals to help with medical emergencies. This volunteer, Ms. Clara Barton, founded the American Red Cross and led it to profoundly impact people’s lives all over the world. Another volunteer, Mr. Art Palmer, was a volunteer firefighter in Manhattan, KS, and continued to save lives from behind the scenes at the Flinthills Free Clinic long after he retired. Yet another volunteer, Mrs. Joyce Marr, helps to rescue families from poverty in Manhattan, KS by organizing emergency bill paying from Shepherd’s Crossing. For these people, volunteering is not just how they spend their time, it is wrapped up in who they are. These people are volunteers, but the word is synonymous with “activist”, “missionary”, “visionary”, and “servant”. These are the people that inspire me to serve my community.