When Christmas arrives, the Turinas won’t wrap store-bought gifts for their adult children. Instead, they give money to charitable groups whose missions are dear to the hearts of their children. And their children do the same for them.
Their gratitude inspires their spirit of generosity, and this is just one small example.
Eliana and Pedro Turina are Ignatian Volunteers in Northern Virginia and IVC donors. When asked why they give these gifts of time and treasure, the Turinas immediately describe their blessings.
“I am so blessed and have received many gifts throughout my life. I feel such gratitude”, Eliana says.
After a career of service with Catholic Charities, Eliana volunteers with ALIVE!, an organization whose wraparound services address the needs of low income residents of Alexandria. Pedro retired from an international development career, having worked in countries from their native Chile to Canada, and now serves as a Basic Needs Counselor at United Community Ministries, where he works one-on-one with men, women, and families who seek food, rental and utility assistance, medical assistance, and clothing. He helps clients access programs and has a special interest in helping with educational resources for their children.
“Full-time work didn’t allow us lots of extra time for service, though it’s always been part of our lives. We’re happy to be able to do this now through IVC,” says Eliana.
“To me it’s been very good,” Pedro says. “When we gather with other Ignatian Volunteers every month, we are asked the question, ‘When did you see the face of the Lord?’,” says Pedro. “I know that I encounter Christ more than once every day,” describes Pedro.
Eliana’s IVC work is in an administrative role at ALIVE! “I had the experience of working face-to-face with the poor in my career at Catholic Charities,” she says. “All the getting to know people in needy situations one-on-one and encountering and discovering the faces and stories of the poor is something I’m familiar with. I started at ALIVE! in the child development center working with the children. Then I realized the level of administrative need – to organize the program, organize client files, fulfill subsidy requirements with the city, complete statistical analysis and reports for our food program – so I began serving in an administrative capacity. Now my work is recording donations from grants and individuals, keeping the donor database up-to-date, creating correspondence for donors, and generating reports. I see the impact of this type of work on their operations.”
Pedro uses his multilingual skills in his one-on-one work with clients. “We have clients from around the world, from very different backgrounds and with different survival skills, including undocumented immigrants. They can be ignorant of the language, opportunities, and how to get resources and education for their children. I help them enroll children in school, teach clients how to read report cards, explain the educational system, and have even helped with algebra homework. I do a lot of work with mothers and their children.”
“One day a lady said that she was very appreciative of what I had done. She said, ‘I’ve been here for many years, and no one has ever explained this to me’. I replied, ‘You came here for food. I also give you food for thought’.”
“We bring work home with us, special projects, we both work this way. You try to help and you just do it. People value Ignatian Volunteers because we are committed, dedicated and have lots of experience to get things done. Our agencies are very appreciative,” says Eliana.
“So much of our service is recognizing those we serve as individuals. Making sure they know that they are important, they are valued. We’ve had different opportunities and options. It’s so important to make them feel important and cared for,” says Eliana.
Eliana and Pedro were attracted to IVC’s spiritual component. “IVC’s spiritual side gives me new perspectives on how I function on a personal basis, plus my experiences in my job. It’s very relevant. I think differently about interactions and my relationships at UCM. I ask myself what Christ would do in a situation like this. It’s an interesting case of growth to me, a new perspective on how I deal with people. I get a lot of inspiration from it”, says Pedro.
As a married couple, The Turinas enjoy sharing their IVC service with one another. “We share a lot at home,” Eliana says. “Every time Pedro comes home from UCM he tells me about the families and their situations. Even though I’m not there, my heart breaks for them.”
“She’s also my consultant,” Pedro adds. “I appreciate when we share this because I learn more. I learn from my conversations with my wife and also from retreats, and sharing with other Ignatian Volunteers who have similar experiences.”
“Next year we’ll celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary,” Eliana says. “When we have a celebration we don’t need anything. I’ve thought about asking our friends to make contributions and we’ll list IVC, each of our agencies, and our church’s poor box.”
“I feel that I have been blessed in many ways in my life,” says Eliana. “If I have extra to share, I’ll do it.”