Reflections from Precious Blood Volunteers: Marijo Gabriel

We asked the seven 2017-2018 Precious Blood Volunteers to answer three questions:

  1. What is/are some relationship(s) that have stood out for you during your time as a Precious Blood Volunteer?
  2. What are some of the experiences that have stood out for you during your time as a Precious Blood Volunteer?
  3. How have you grown during your time as a Precious Blood Volunteer?

Below is the answer from former Precious Blood Volunteer Marijo Gabriel.

2017-2018 Volunteer Marijo Gabriel

Some relationships that stand out to me are the ones with the adolescents and younger children. They are the ones that bring me the most joy and at times the most worry. With them I realize, the best gift I can give them is the attention and support they seek and a time to really be a kid. I think we can forget or dismiss children or just want to keep them occupied but this is when they need someone the most. They are at such an import developmental stage where they are absorbing the world around them faster than they can understand it, and where it’s easier to not take the time to critically think about consequences and situations. We have to meet them where they are.
Experiences that have stood out to me during my service year, are where I’ve been able to witness and be apart of building community and restoring dignity and worth. For example, when people say you never know the significance of a moment until it’s past is definitely true. The moment I’m remembering specifically is when we were celebrating one of the mayor’s mentoring initiative mentees birthdays. We were singing, eating cake, having a good time. Then the following weekend the birthday celebrant and his friend who was sitting next to him during the party were involved in a gun incident sending both to the hospital and one briefly to the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center. They both could have died.

Marijo at a Cubs game with some of her friends from PBMR

This year I’ve been able to grow more by experiencing God as Agape and connecting that with our human experience. Our understanding of what God is and what love is, is limited to our human capacity. Through interacting, witnessing and being able to encounter and be vulnerable to the joys and pains of realities of many people in our Back of the Yards community family I was able to catch the glimpses of God which are the moments, and emotions that makes us truly human. Its appreciating life, time and people through an Agape lens because it is more than a noun and a verb it’s a guideline on how to be truly human and being our authentic self.

Marijo is currently serving as a Precious Blood Volunteer at Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation in Chicago and will finish her term of service at the end of July 2018. She is a graduate of Creighton University. 

To learn more about becoming a Precious Blood Volunteer go to www.preciousbloodvolunteers.org

Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation

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Reflections from Precious Blood Volunteers: Martin Echtler

We asked the seven 2017-2018 Precious Blood Volunteers to answer three questions:

  1. What is/are some relationship(s) that have stood out for you during your time as a Precious Blood Volunteer?
  2. What are some of the experiences that have stood out for you during your time as a Precious Blood Volunteer?
  3. How have you grown during your time as a Precious Blood Volunteer?

Below are the answers from former Precious Blood Volunteer Martin Echtler

Martin Echtler serving dinner at the Bishop Sullivan Center


The former US-Basketball star Michael Jordan said back in the days “I can accept failure, but I can’t accept not trying”. I read this quote at the wall of the dining room at the Bishop Sullivan Center and it inspired and accompanied me during my time as a Precious Blood Volunteer. It stands for a lot of experiences I had during my time in Kansas City.
The Precious Blood community received me with open arms and with an unbelievable kindness. The life within the flat-sharing community at the Gaspar Mission House with Father Garry, Father Dick, Juan, my fellow Volunteers Lota, Alia and John (and not to forget our dog Buddy) was marked by mutual respect, helpfulness and friendship. In addition, I had the chance to build up a lot of relationships at my volunteer placement, the Bishop Sullivan Center. Above all, I need to name Doug, the director of the Center, who took care of me in a very kind way. He showed me how to build up relationships with my co-workers and also the clients and visitors of the Center. But even more, he connected me to people who like German culture, especially soccer. It ended up that we met every Saturday morning to watch the matches with a lot of awesome people. But all these would have never been possible without Tim. He was always there as a helper, motivator, inspiration and friend. We all walked a part of our way through this life together and it doesn’t matter what will happen in the future – you’ll all stay in my heart as friends & I hope we’ll meet us again someday!

Martin Echtler shows off his yoga skills


This climate of friendship helped me to try – try to help people. At the Bishop Sullivan Center I had the chance to work in different fields of social support. A central part was the food pantry, where people get a certain amount of groceries depending from the family size every month. A further part was the soup kitchen which serves hot meals every night from Monday till Friday to people in need. Everybody is welcome to come, chat and eat there. My time at the pantry and the kitchen was not only an inspiration – it showed me a deeper value of food. Our daily bread is not a matter of course! But I have not started to see only food from another perspective. During my work with assistance-applications it concerned also other basic needs like water, electricity and gas. I saw people struggle with their daily life in a tough way. To help these people was not always easy, because I had to deal with different limitations. Sometimes I was not able to provide the kind of help I wanted to and this can be a heartbreaking experience. But I also learned that “help” doesn’t always mean to provide physical goods – it means sometimes just to be there and listen. This awareness had a sustainable impact on me. It filled my heart with great pleasure to walk with people in need…even if it were only a few steps!

2017-2018 Volunteers Marijo Gabriel, Martin Echtler and Alia Sisson with staff member Lucia


My time as Precious Blood Volunteer was not limited in building up friendships and trying to help people – it also helped me trying myself to grow. It’s not easy to bring these into words, because I see my personal growth during my Volunteer time as a mosaic, a composition of many smaller and bigger experiences which influenced me in a variety of different ways. Retrospective I’m sure about that conversations to people had the largest impact on me. Ordinary and extraordinary talks with a variety of different people about life, God and religion, family, friends, work, culture, problems, politics, sports & many other topics showed me a great number of different perspectives and made my life so much richer.
In the end I want to come back to the quote of the beginning. My time as a Precious Blood Volunteer made me more courageous to try. Trying is so important, because without trying we will never know about so many things. Of course there’s always a risk to fail, but a life without risks is not possible – so let’s try. Again and again and again – I’m sure we won’t fail!  
Martin served as a Precious Blood Volunteer at the Bishop Sullivan Center from September 2017-February 2018.

To learn more about becoming a Precious Blood Volunteer go to www.preciousbloodvolunteers.org

 

Reflections from Precious Blood Volunteers: Hector Avitia

We asked the seven 2017-2018 Precious Blood Volunteers to answer three questions:

  1. What is/are some relationship(s) that have stood out for you during your time as a Precious Blood Volunteer?
  2. What are some of the experiences that have stood out for you during your time as a Precious Blood Volunteer?
  3. How have you grown during your time as a Precious Blood Volunteer?

Below are the answers from former Precious Blood Volunteer Hector Avitia.

2017-2018 Volunteers: (L-R) Marijo Gabriel, Lota Ofodile, Alia Sisson, Hector Avitia, and Leah Landry at the 2018 Assembly


The relationship that has stood out the most to me is the one I developed with Aldena, a grandmother and student in our Education Lab. Prior to joining PBMR, I had worked with teenagers and young adults for over ten years. When I chose to volunteer at PBMR I knew that I would be working with the same age group, so making a connection with an African American grandmother came as a surprise. Aldena and I have very different backgrounds, and, on the surface, it would not make sense why we would connect. Through the Education Lab, we found common ground. She already had some knowledge and tons of potential, but needed someone who could help her bring that potential to life. I had no experience tutoring, but somehow we understood each other and fed off the other’s energy. I would get excited to see her pick up a new skill in math and when she would receive her good grades, while she enjoyed my patience and consistency with her.
One of the best experiences I had as a volunteer this year was when I helped a young man get his driver’s license. He had taken the written test about a year ago, but he felt really nervous about trying again and failing. He and I went over a practice test to make sure he was as ready as possible to pass the written test. He was really nervous going to the DMV, and his concerns were only exasperated by the obstacles we encountered at the facility.
 When we first arrived, there was a line out the door. A lot of people were complaining about having to wait outside in the cold. This fueled him a little and he took part in the complaints. We made it in, and after having his documents checked, we had to wait in another line to have his picture taken. With only two more people ahead of us, the DMV announced that we had to wait in line while the staff went on lunch! He just about lost it and almost walked off. At this point we had stood in line for about an hour and a half. After the lunch break he was able to finally get his picture taken, but the clerk had him retake his picture six times because the facial recognition technology was not capturing all the points on his face. At this point, we were tired of standing, tired of waiting, and hungry, but we were not done.
It was time to take the written portion of the test. The tests are administered on computers, and when he got up from his station I gave him two thumbs up, gesturing “Yes? You passed?”, to which he replied with his own two thumbs up and a big smile. We finally had something in the win column. The final obstacle was the actual driving test. I don’t know which of us was more nervous. He had overcome so much and only one more test stood between him and his license. He jumped into the vehicle with the instructor. Again, I felt helpless because I could not even stand by him to provide support. After pacing for what felt like hours, he walked into the waiting area with another big smile. On the ride back to PBMR he kept looking at his temporary license and began to do something I have rarely seen in these young men. He was able to talk about his plans and goals in such a way that sounded like they were within his reach. He would go on about getting auto insurance, getting a job, and not being scared of getting in trouble for driving without a license. The sky was the limit for this young man. When we arrived at the center he made sure to let everyone know that he got his license. Like a medal of honor, he flashed the small paper to everyone around. His expressions around the other youth were subtler than the ones I saw on the ride back to the center. I knew right then that I got to see a part of this young man that doesn’t always get the chance to see the light. And for that, I am extremely grateful.
I have grown in several ways this volunteer year. The biggest change that I have noticed about myself is how much better I have gotten at not judging individuals who do not think or act like me. Last year, I was one of those people who would ask myself “Why can’t they just work hard like me? Why can’t they just get their act together? Why do they do X, Y, and Z knowing that it will lead to A, B, and C?” when referring to those in the margins of society. I was too quick to judge one person’s morals and who I thought they were based on one event. I had little empathy and patience for those who were given opportunities and would not take advantage of them. I felt like anything that was said in their defense was just an excuse for their laziness and inability to act like an adult. I always believed that I had more challenges in my life than most Americans, and so there was no reason why anyone couldn’t achieve what I had achieved.
Part of being trauma-informed is recognizing that when a person who has experienced extreme trauma acts out or behaves in such a way that most of us would consider immature or unreasonable, that those behaviors have been influenced by an intense negative experience. Once we judge someone and assume too much about him or her, we lose patience because we believe that the only thing missing for this person to succeed is drive. We also assume that drive is directly linked to that person’s self-worth and morals. By thinking this way, we no longer feel like there is anything to do except for that person to “grow up”. In our trainings, we learned how the brain is affected by trauma, especially in younger people. One traumatic experience is enough to change the development of the brain forever, but many of the folks we work with have ongoing trauma. Having this awareness and knowledge has allowed me to act in a more compassionate way. By taking away the judgmental part of me out of the equation, I am able to step back and try to figure out how this individual has been affected by trauma and what I can do to help them overcome their obstacles. This, in turn, has improved my patience with everyone I encounter. I have not reached the level of understanding and compassion that I want, but I am very proud of the progress I have made.
Hector served as a Precious Blood Volunteer at Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation from August 2017-June 2018.

To learn more about becoming a Precious Blood Volunteer go to www.preciousbloodvolunteers.org