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!
For Desiree Mortenson, a founding member and Secretary of AMAR’s Mid-Atlantic Supporter’s Circle, the reason she was drawn to AMAR was simple.
“The organization just does so much good!” Desiree said.
She first learned about AMAR’s work after hearing Founder Baroness Nicholson speak during a presentation at her church. Like many volunteers, her initial support to AMAR came in the form of a contribution inspired by Baroness Nicholson’s speech.
“At Christmastime, I wanted to make a family donation to a good cause,” said Desiree, who spent a long time considering the right project and organization to support. “I chose AMAR because of their powerful initiative to fund job skills trainings and start-up grants for internally displaced Iraqis at their INVEST Training Centers throughout Iraq.”
Her continued support for AMAR is motivated by personal experiences. Desiree has a deep interest in the Middle East, cultivated from courses she took in graduate school. Following her graduation, she went on an educational tour of Israel, Jordan, and Egypt where she gained an even deeper appreciation for that region of the world.
But it was when she returned home to the beginning of a stark recession that she truly connected with the hardships faced by many in the Middle East.
“I clearly remember how hard it was for my husband and me to keep our home, get adequate healthcare, and feed our family,” Desiree said. “The stress during that time was incredible and I can only imagine what it is like for displaced families in Iraq and elsewhere.”
With time, and with support from family and friends, Desiree and her family are firmly back on their feet. Driven by those experience, she was looking for ways to get more involved with AMAR and learned about a campaign AMAR was running to provide emergency relief during Ramadan. The appeal encourage supporters to host “My Baghdad Kitchen” dinner parties, inspired by cuisine from Iraq.
“I learned about the Ramadan Meal Appeal that had launched to raise funds for food boxes to give to hungry families in Northern Iraq,” Desiree said. “So, in the summer of 2017, I held a barbecue at my house and invited thirty people to come and eat, and to donate to the campaign. Only a handful of people came, but it felt great knowing that I had raised enough money to feed a handful of families across the world that were in need.”
Today Desiree is now an active member of the Mid-Atlantic Supporter’s Circle, helping to coordinate fundraising events across DC, Maryland, and Virginia, while also advocating for AMAR’s work.
“By being a part of AMAR International, people in the United States and other parts of the world have a way to lend a hand,” Desiree said. “This is a way to give your time and creativity to an organization that has an authentic commitment to helping people who are struggling to rebuild their lives and communities. Plus, we volunteers become more aware of what our neighbors in our global community are dealing with.”
To learn more about the Mid-Atlantic Circle, we invite you to join the Mid-Atlantic Circle Facebook Group.