About Marney

My name is Marney McNall.

I have a passion for relaying stories of hope and perseverance. Statistics have their place, but I believe it’s through stories that we really learn to empathize with others.

“Books allow us to go into someone else’s life and step inside their skin, and see the world through their eyes. And that’s what makes us more compassionate people.” Ann Patchett

I began my writing career as a technical writer and have also authored a field manual on humanitarian operations for an agency in the U.S. government.

I have written a contemporary novel about intrepid expat volunteers that I hope to  publish. This is a major dream of mine. Writing has always been the best way for me to get my thoughts to coalesce and the topic of how and why people volunteer where they do, fascinates me. I can tell you, volunteers are a diverse bunch of very interesting people. I hear all the time how ‘it changed my life’… ‘had a huge impact’… ‘made me see things a whole different way’.  I’ve said all these things, myself. I have several stories of my own—starting with going on a Semester at Sea many years ago—and I’m sure they will filter through this blog—but actually, I’d really like to hear yours.

I volunteer, but I could do more. For several years, I worked in close cooperation with many nonprofits and the U.S. military in delivering humanitarian supplies to places all over the world. There are plenty of people with far more experience, but I’ve definitely done enough to know what an impact it can have on your life. It’s the paradox of giving: how much you receive in return.

Volunteering and giving in the middle of a busy life full of bills and responsibilities is not easy. But, it is possible. Better to do something small than nothing at all. Even if it’s handing out flyers or standing at the door, greeting people at an event. Still counts.

I currently volunteer for The A21 Campaign, which fights human trafficking…modern-day slavery. If you don’t know much about this subject, you should learn. It’s the fastest growing crime in the world. And seriously scary stuff… If you’re interested in the current State of Modern Slavery, check out the article I wrote for Relevant Magazine. I warn you, some of what you read in the article will be unsettling.

I am an avid reader. I read anything from classics to contemporary—fiction as well as non-fiction. I’ve heard it said that non-fiction is factual truth while fiction is emotional truth. I think they’ve got something there, which is why I read both.

English: amphitheater at Bryce Canyon National...

English: amphitheater at Bryce Canyon National Park (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I like to travel (at a minimum, vicariously). I was taught to be curious and go look for answers. I once asked my mom what made the rocks in Bryce Canyon, glow orange and magenta. She offered a perfectly acceptable answer, I thought, but within an hour, plonked a book on the geology of the national parks on my desk, in case I wanted to know more—which I did. Later, I went there to see for myself—a habit to travel that is repeated as often as I can manage. I’ve been to 32 countries and 46 of the U.S. states, but the more I travel, I realize, the less I know.

Travel has allowed me small windows into different cultures and ways of dealing with life. But something happens when you see what other people are going through to survive.

89 comments on “About Marney

  1. Hi Marny! You and I sound like we are cut from the same cloth 🙂 So happy you found my blog, since it has allowed me to find yours! Looking forward to sharing in your journeys!

  2. Dear Marny, I can think of no greater calling than that to serve and care for the welfare of our fellowmen. I am humbled and honoured to meet someone like you and what you stand for in life! Warmest greetings, Sharon

    • Sharon, you’re so sweet to say that, but you give me WAY too much credit! I try to live out what I believe, but don’t succeed nearly as often as I’d like. Great to meet you.

  3. Hey Marney, thank you for stopping by and liking my blog. I love what I’ve read so far on yours – I really admire what you’re doing 🙂
    All the best, Liz

  4. Fascinating blog concept. I’ve spent much of my life working with volunteers and I don’t think they never could be given enough recognition! how grand that you do that!

  5. it is always great meeting other people who feels the same way about volunteering! thanks for stopping by and leading me here! cheers to you! 🙂

    • Thanks Liz! Really sweet of you to nominate me. And congrats to you as well. Us creative types have to stick together! I’m enjoying the drawings on your blog…especially, as I’ve said before, the celtic knots.

  6. You are doing a noble deed. I used to do some volunteer work when I was back in my homeland, the Philippines. Have you ever been there? When I was in the US, I also volunteered as an Adult Literacy educator at the Los Angeles Public Library. I haven’t done any volunteer work here in Czech, but you have inspired me to do just that. Goodluck on your journey!

    • Hi Grace! Wish I could say I’ve visited the Phillipines, but I haven’t had the pleasure. Maybe some day. Funny you mention volunteering at a literacy center. That’s on my list of things to do, but I haven’t done it yet. So we can help inspire each other. Would love to hear how your volunteer experiences go in Czech once you find an area to serve that fits you.

  7. I am grateful that you stopped by my blog, thank you! And with that visit, I am thrilled to have discovered yours. I stayed here a while this morning, and not only have I learned things I didn’t know, I also found your writing very inspiring. I’ll be back, regularly, for sure.
    : ) Kathy

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  9. Love your blog Marney, and volunteering is definitely worthwhile for everyone involved! Thanks for stopping by my blog and liking a recent post!

    • Hey Meryl, it really depends on the nonprofit, but helping on awareness campaigns or their fundraising events could be a possible way to utilize your talents in photography. When you asked your question, it made me think of a colleague of mine who volunteers with me at The A21 Campaign. She recently put together an art installation (her section was photography) to show the journey human trafficking victims take from darkness to light. Her black and white photos were really moving. In fact, I might check if she’d be willing to let me do a post about it. Hope this helps. And thanks for stopping by.

        • Gail, I may be asking you sometime in the future about how you prep and train your volunteers. I volunteer with an anti-human trafficking NGO and the environments aren’t…the easiest. Can always use the voice of experience. What a great ministry you and your husband are doing. Love coming across strong, courageous people like y’all.

          • Thanks Marney. Fortunately and unfortunately, the way I support the ministry is to provide consistency for our boys. So I only get to participate every 6 weeks or so.

            When you are ready to talk details, I’ll try to help as best as I can.

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  11. Oh hey! I just heard about you through ames, and I’m glad. What a coincidence. I’m about to become a bit of an intrepid volunteer myself.

    Keep up the great work! It’s a pleasure to come across a curious, good hearted blogger 😀

    • Hey Ralph! Awh…you’re so nice to notice I haven’t been around for a while. Thank you. 🙂 I needed to edit my book and I’ve had a good bit of work to do for The A21 Campaign. Something had to give. BUT, I’m hoping to get back in the swing of things! Hope you have a great Christmas!

  12. Marney,

    I had never read this before. I am so glad I did, and thus learned a little more about you and what fuels your passion. Hoping this year stirs about many opportunities for volunteering and encouraging others to do more!

    ~ Cara

  13. Wow, you’re amazing. I have always wanted to do humanitarian activities, and have planned to do it in the next couple of years. There are a lot people in many places in my country that need help, so I guess after I succeed with my writing career I would just do it. Thank you for being another inspiration for me. 🙂

    Here I hope it is not too late to wish you a wonderful New Year. May 2013 bring you more happiness, love, and success. I would like to thank you because you continue following my blog. I hope my blog posts do not disappoint and that your visits in there have been a joyful ride.

    Thank you again, many blessings and much love to you. 🙂

    Subhan Zein

  14. Hi Marney,

    I just read your article in Relevant Magazine — astounding statistics and very well written! I wasn’t sure how else to get in contact with you. I wanted to see if you might be interested in writing an article for another magazine I edit for, called In the Community. If you email me back, I can give you more details.



    • Hi Shayna,
      Thank you for your kind words about the article! Really appreciate it. Writing for The A21 Campaign-East coast office keeps me pretty busy, but let’s chat. Your email didn’t show up in the post, so you can email me at marney(dot)mcnall(at)gmail(dot)com

  15. Hi there! I just was nominated myself, and now I’m nominating you for the Liebster Award. It recognizes up-and-coming blogs. Visit my blog for all the details, and thanks for inspiring me. Congratulations! —Jadi

  16. I love what you say, “…the more I travel, the less I know… Travel has allowed me small windows into different cultures and ways of dealing with life. But something happens when you see what other people are going through to survive.”

    I feel the same way. I haven’t counted the countries I’ve been to (not quite as many as you, I don’t think, but probably getting close…), but living in Asia opened my eyes to a world I didn’t understand… And yet it was on my same planet! If I could spend my entire life traveling, I would.

    Really neat blog. Lovely photos. Thank you, also, for stopping by mine.

    • Thanks for your kind words, Jessica. Traveling certainly does open a person’s eyes, doesn’t it? I enjoy blog, too. I’m interested to read more about your time in Asia.

  17. Thanks for “liking ” part of my blog and I hope some of the other posts there strike a similar cord with you. Mine is not really a blog, actually, more a place of quarantine for vagrant ramblings. In reading your “About” I noted some interests we share and I’m now following The Volunteer Fringe and look forward to reading more of your posts. I also noticed that your husband is in the military so please express my appreciation to him for his service. I was in the Navy, many lifetimes ago, and touch on that very important part of my life in my “Flying -an unnatural Act “post.
    Bob Cloud

    • Hi Bob! I will pass on what you said, to my husband. Thank you. And yes, I did read your post that references your time in the Navy! So let me return our appreciation for YOUR service.

  18. You can obviously tell that you are a natural born writer, I loved reading about you and your interests. Very well written. I love the volunteer aspect and, as you said, am trying to fit more into my life. My husband and I volunteer for a mountain rescue organization in Colorado and are kept extremely busy either with training or actual rescues. In college I translated for a medical mission trip to Guatemala and still feel it’s impact on me in many ways. I just told my husband today that I’m sure my calling is to help save elephants in Africa (or any animal really.) I will definitely check out your trafficking cause, as well. As you said, extremely scary stuff. Anyhoo, thanks for doing what you do with your post. Cheers, Lexi.

    • Hi Lexi. thank you for your kind words. Would love to hear more about your mountain rescue adventures…and obviously, I’d be interested in your time in Guatemala. The book I wrote takes place there for a decent portion of time.

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