For 17-year-old Gabriela Auguste, connecting civilians with veterans in the name of service isn’t just volunteer work, it’s personal. The rising high school senior is all too familiar with the challenges veterans face when they come home, especially after her father transitioned from the military to civilian life in 2015.
Inspired by her father and motivated by a desire to support her family, Gabriela started volunteering with The Mission Continues, an organization that empowers veterans to keep serving and succeeding in their communities. By helping to connect veterans with civilians, the organization facilitates service for vets adjusting to life at home by finding purpose through community impact. Deploying veterans on new “missions” in their communities, they’re matched with civilians in platoons nationwide.
Though her volunteer work within the Miami platoon, Gabriela is helping to bridge the gap between civilians and veterans, and is today’s Daily Point of Light award honoree. Points of Light spoke to her to learn more about her work with The Mission Continues.
What inspires you to volunteer?
Every day of my life, I feel so blessed to be able to attend school, to have my family. I know that many people in life aren’t as fortunate as I am. Last summer I had an opportunity to study abroad in Jordan, working with Syrian refugees, and that truly helped me understand how fortunate I am. I was inspired hearing their stories, and when I returned home, I was committed to working even harder to give back.
Is there one veteran story that stands out, and motivates you to continue volunteering?
One of the most powerful and empowering is my father’s story. He separated from the military in 2015, and he’s been diagnosed as being 100% disabled. He’s only 36-years-old. The separation and all that he’s been through medically took a toll on my family, but my dad is one of the lucky ones – he made it out of the military and completely changed his life. So many veterans battle PTSD, depression, and worse. A study has shown that 20 veterans commit suicide each day. My dad is living a healthy lifestyle, he doesn’t let his disability stop him, and he is serving as a leader in his own community to help change those statistics. He motivates people to do better and he gives me the drive every day to try to transform myself and my community.
I’ve learned that hard work does pay off. When you help someone it makes their life a little bit easier. I volunteer as much as 40 times each month, and each time you volunteer, there is a piece of you in everything you do. You make an imprint everywhere you go.
You had an unusual request for a Christmas gift this year. Tell me about it.
I asked for a service trip to Puerto Rico for Christmas this past year after Hurricane Maria hit the island. Some of my family members have passed away following the hurricane due to the overwhelming heat. Christmastime is about giving back, it’s not about the presents. We spent 10 days in Puerto Rico and helped distribute over 500 toys to orphanages and hospitals, delivered 50 lbs. of food and water, and worked at an animal hospital. Here in Florida, when a hurricane hits, you lose air conditioning for four days. In Puerto Rico, they’ve been without AC and supplies for months. It opened my eyes to what others are dealing with – I’m only a couple miles off the coast from them, but they’re over here still struggling. These service opportunities really give you a chance to experience something that you may have never been able to experience before.
Are there any future partnerships, programs, or events that you are excited about?
We’re working towards forming a service project partnership with national parks. We’ll also try to organize another trip down to Puerto Rico.
Why do you think it’s important for others to give back?
People get stuck in everyday life. When you volunteer, if you put yourself out there and free yourself from the everyday routine; it gives you a sense of life and perspective. Service gives me a sense of purpose, and being able to work with veterans every day is pretty awesome. They’ve given their lives for you and now they’re still giving back.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Gabriela Auguste? Visit All For Good for local volunteer opportunities.
Note: Read more about Gabriela’s father here, featured by Points of Light in 2017.
Post written by Marlena Militana.