At our Breaking Bread Volunteer Appreciation Brunch this month, we presented four outstanding volunteers with “Volunteer of the Year” awards. Our recipient of the “Young Path” award, Aqil Merchant, is featured this month.
Aqil is a local high school student and was moved by news coverage he saw about the refugee crisis. He wanted to take action, so he went to his classmates to ask them to join him in making a difference. Aqil is the founder and leader of the “Refugee Aid Club” at his school. After Aqil formed this club, he and his classmates began assisting New American Pathways with apartment set ups on the weekends.
Our team is amazed at Aqil’s willingness and eagerness to help in whatever way he can. He contacts our Service and Volunteerism team consistently, asking how he and his classmates can continue to be involved. He is reliable and passionate. Our Community Outreach AmeriCorps Member, Shanice Chesney, has this to say about Aqil:
“Working with Aqil has been an absolute pleasure. He is such a determined and hardworking individual who is passionate about refugee resettlement! From the first moment he reached out to work with New American Pathways, I could tell how motivated he was to not only learn more about the work we do but how he and his friends can also become involved too. I have enjoyed working with Aqil because I am confident he will continue to be an ally and advocate for refugee resettlement in the future!”
When asked why he volunteers, Aqil said: “As immigrants from Pakistan and India, my parents struggled to make it to where they are today and to provide me with a privileged lifestyle. Understanding that most immigrants and refugees consistently encounter such difficulties, I volunteer to take advantage of my privilege and use it to assist those with less fortunate circumstances.”
Aqil hopes to continue his work with refugees or in developing countries after he graduates, possibly in the public health arena. He had some wonderful parting words about the impact we can all make while volunteering.
“As long as you consider the needs of the individuals you are serving, there is no cut-and-dry method for effective volunteering. From spreading awareness about an issue to directly working with those affected by it, service can exist in all forms and achieve the impact that you intend to have.”
We are grateful for volunteers like Aqil who not only serve, but lead and mobilize others to come alongside them. From all of us at New American Pathways, thank you, Aqil!