April in National Volunteer Month. At AMAR, our volunteers are some of our most important fundraisers and advocates – donating their time, treasure, and talent to make our work possible. We are thrilled to celebrate some of our most devoted volunteers during this month, and are grateful year-round to everyone that joins us in our mission to rebuild lives!
Gary and Kathy Free (above at the 2017 Utah Gala), founding members of the AMAR Executive Committee based in Utah, got involved with AMAR in 2013 and their support for the mission has only grown from there.
Kathy felt “compelled and honored” to be involved in the AMAR cause when she first met Founder Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne. After learning about the history and the work of the organization, as well as AMAR’s focus on helping displaced communities, the Frees knew that they had to be involved.
Their volunteer work began with a joint project with the LDS Church and LDS Charities to provide wheelchairs to disabled Iraqis. To raise the necessary support to fund the wheelchair project the Frees coordinated the first ever AMAR Utah event at the Miller Motor Sports Park (below), where guests had a chance to take laps in a racecar! The event proved to be a huge success, yielding more than $50,000 for the project.
It was at the Miller Motor Sports Park event that Gary and Kathy’s daughter, Tara Bradshaw, was also drawn to the cause. The family, with the support of the members of the Utah Executive Committee, have gone on to organize charity runs, participate in community markets, and host four gala events for AMAR.
“What resonates most with me about AMAR is that everything is done with impeccable quality, integrity, accountability and sustainability,” said Kathy.
The Frees’ volunteer experience with AMAR have taken them well beyond Utah. Two years ago, they were able to see AMAR rebuild lives firsthand during a field visit to displacement camps in Northern Iraq. For Kathy, the experience provided her with a life-changing perspective.
“The reality of an entire community being uprooted and forced out of their homes, away from their schools and businesses, was powerfully displayed,” Kathy said. “Seeing the progress towards tolerance and towards self-sufficiency among the displaced people tells me that this effort – the AMAR effort – is effecting change. A very positive and sustainable change. This is what motivates me to continue to volunteer.”
For Gary, seeing the AMAR model in action further solidified his support for the organization.
“After visiting Iraq and meeting many of the doctors and government officials there, it became clear to me that, yes, we can win wars with armies. But to truly help individuals repair and rebuild their lives, we need the AMAR model,” said Gary. “It’s the most effective way to help those in need.”
Tara (below at an AMAR charity run) did not go on the trip with her parents, but her motivation to support AMAR’s mission is still deeply personal.
“Hearing about the progress of so many in the Iraqi camps learning new skills, getting access to education, and receiving the psychological support they need to recover and move forward motivates me,” Tara said. “What if their story was my story? Although I have not met them, I feel a sense of urgency to do all I can to help. If I were a displaced mother with several children in an AMAR camp, I would find comfort knowing another mother far away thought of me and did all she could to help.”
The Frees have a message for all of us. Whether volunteering for AMAR or for another worthy cause: Don’t be afraid to extend a helping hand.
“We should get involved wherever and whenever we can because we are all one family living on this tiny blue planet,” said Kathy. “Today it is someone across the world. Tomorrow it could be us. What better way to help than to reach out and lift our brothers and sisters in this far away land. It helps shrink the globe a bit.”