For Chicago-based Oxfam volunteer Megan Nakra, changing the world starts close to home.
How many different roles do you juggle every day? If you’re Megan Nakra, the answer is at least six: research scientist, teacher, licensed EMT, runner, music fan, and—last but not least—Oxfam volunteer.
Nakra, 25, is a lead organizer for the Chicago, IL chapter of the Oxfam Action Corps. These community volunteers, active in more than a dozen US cities, organize local events to help Oxfam right the wrongs of poverty and hunger.
As one of two lead organizers in Chicago, Nakra coordinates the efforts of more than 50 local volunteers of all ages. “By acting as a liaison and an involved listener, I find opportunities for our volunteers to conduct outreach and action,” she said.
She’s also become a spokesperson, meeting with local leaders and like-minded groups to help spread the word. “When you know the Oxfam message and you own it, it’s easy to get up in front of a room of 200 [people] and say, ‘hey, this is what Oxfam is, and you should get involved—you can make a difference,’” said Nakra.
Nakra said she was initially drawn to Oxfam because “as a scientist, I like to do things that are logical. At Oxfam they do so much research into different approaches of how to fix things. You can see the logic and the thought that goes into it.”
As an example, she cited the Behind the Brands campaign, which calls on the world’s biggest food companies to improve their policies on poverty and hunger issues. “A lot of people are concerned about the products they eat and consume. Oxfam takes that concept and applies it to the global food system,” said Nakra. “Behind the Brands reminds us that we have the power as consumers to make change on a global scale.”
Nakra showed her support for Behind the Brands last summer when she led Oxfam’s first-ever booth at the massive Lollapalooza Music Festival. She and her team of 11 volunteers collected more than 1,000 signatures for a petition calling on General Mills to be more transparent.
“A lot of other organizations sat in their booths, as if waiting for people to come to them. At our booth we reached out … and often started those crucial conversations,” said Nakra.
Though summer festival season is a highlight, the Action Corps organize events year-round. Last November, Nakra led a 5k charity team raising funds for Syrian refugee crisis relief. This month the group will host Chicago’s first Oxfam Jam, a benefit concert featuring local music artists. Nakra is also organizing a panel discussion with women leaders in honor of International Women’s Day on March 8.
Nakra admits that staying on top of all of these commitments can be a challenge. “When I get [too busy], that’s when I delegate to other volunteers,” she said. “It all goes back to giving people a platform to change something.”
But at the same time, she added, volunteering is a truly meaningful way to harness her energy. “My mind is constantly going,” she said, “trying to solve big problems by starting small.”