Peace Corps Veteran and Social Justice Entrepreneur
Shane Townsend, B.A. 2000, has devoted his professional life to helping those in crisis or need all over the world. He played a role in recovery efforts at the two biggest disasters in recent American history, the September 11 terrorist attacks and Hurricane Katrina. He's also a Peace Corps veteran and a social justice entrepreneur.
After serving in the Peace Corps, Townsend wrote a piece entitled "The Boy from 'Kill the Cat'," which was picked up by Mississippi Magazine and several other outlets, and was awarded honorable mention in the Solas Awards by BestTravelWriting.com. In fall 2011, Townsend's piece was published in the book Gather the Fruit One by One, which is part of the Peace Corps' 50th anniversary celebration. Reviewer Dan Close had the following to say about "The Boy from 'Kill the Cat'":
I was stunned by the revelation of true unboundaried (not a misspelling) humanity in Shane 'Jose' Townsend's (Bolivia) "The Boy From 'Kill the Cat.'" This little diamond of a tale is just over two pages long. They are two pages everyone in the world should read.
The full review is available online at peacecorpsworldwide.org.
Townsend's Katrina work made a special impact on the Pascagoula native. "The human side of disasters always affects me, but the sight of destruction on the Coast was something new," he says. "I had to deal with it as a person who was from there. I don't have the words to describe it ... it was like Hiroshima. After that, I really had to try to separate myself emotionally so I could get the work done without being overwhelmed."
Shane Townsend and wife Abby traveling in the Philippines, 2011
Townsend left the coast in May 2006, but he continues to address disaster-related needs of children through his work with the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood, which has developed soon-to-be-released guidelines for addressing the needs of women and infants in disasters. Townsend also works with Campaign Consultation, Inc., which focuses on the advancement of community-building and organizational-development campaigns, with an emphasis on rural and Gulf Coast communities.
He says that through his studies at Millsaps College he was taught to challenge everything. "The professors really teach students to pay attention to the big questions and not to take things at face value. I majored in anthropology, and that gives an interesting perspective on society. It's a unique lens that allowed me to question the things that I was seeing and whether things could be different.
"We owe more than we deserve ... I really believe that. And I feel really fortunate to be able to do something I love. Not everyone gets that opportunity."