Setting Strong Boundaries: Gabriel Malquisto

Our #FeatureFriday Series serves to honour educators and stakeholders of education in their ongoing hard work. Creating a more mindful, trauma-informed practice through an anti-oppression framework is not easy, but the work IS being done. Every day folk are not getting the recognition they deserve, so inevitably, we feel isolated in our grind. Our hope is that this series can be a reminder to you that we are NOT alone. Let’s connect and do this together.

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As soon as I met Gabby over video call, I knew he was something special.

There are people in this world who are remarkable without really trying to be. Gabby had this quiet wisdom about him that reached out to me from the other side of the world through the glowing screens on our computers. I longed to learn what he knew. Discussion Panel #2 couldn’t come soon enough.

Who is Gabby?

Gabriel Malquisto (he/him), who goes by Gabby, is an individual with many talents. He’s a hip hop dancer, a musician, a motorcycle enthusiast, a tattoo artist, a program coordinator and teacher with IT Tender, a pastor, and a loving father and husband.

Oh and did I mention he’s also a pastor?

It’s not everyday that you read tattoo artist, hip hop dancer, and motorcycle enthusiast, in the same description as pastor, and yet here we are with Gabby. He’s also a lover of karaoke, but really, I think it comes with the territory of being Filipino.

He’s the one crowd surfing because of course he would.

Gabby’s Work

Our next Discussion Panel in August is about the “Culture of Martyrdom: how to care without burning out”. Who better to talk about this than the people who work with the most vulnerable children in the world?

I reached out to an old friend of mine, John Coffey, who is currently the Executive Director at IT Tender in Manila, Philippines. In tandem with local Filipino staff, the mission of the IT Tender team is to empower Manila’s urban poor communities with access to education, relevant skills training, and mentoring. One can imagine how difficult it is to find life balance when doing such important work, and I knew that if the staff at IT Tender figured out how to care without burning out, then so could educators here in North America. I hoped to learn from them and invite one of their staff to join our Discussion Panel. John connected me with the best person for the spot: Gabby.

Not sure what Gabby’s looking at, but that space he’s in is mad cool. Check out Mr. Potato Head in the background just hanging out.

Gabby is one of the program coordinators and teachers on the team. He first started as a Street Educator, teaching street children how to read and write, and discovered the kind of passion in his work that dreams are made of. He knew he had to dedicate his life to this service, and to this day, he continues to work with children in poor communities through IT Tender. One of the programs he recently championed is the Sponsor-A-Child-Now Music Therapy program. Children would come to learn guitar, healing through the power of music, taught initially by Gabby himself. As the children grew and learned how to play, Gabby switched to mentoring young people so that they could become guitar teachers themselves, thereby empowering the youth to become leaders in their community.

Sponsor-A-Child-Now Music Therapy program at IT Tender.

Setting Boundaries

Something Gabby and I have in common was that at one point, we both went too deep into our work and burned out. We crashed hard. We took on the heavy burdens of the children we served, and our bodies absorbed all of the stress. We got sick, we had to take time off of work to heal, and we were forced to face what we knew all along but wouldn’t allow ourselves to reconcile.

It is impossible to fix other people’s problems. We can only offer our best, guilt-free. The rest is up to them.

What a devastating realization for fixers like us. Because how could we not hope to try and protect these kids, to give them everything, to feel as though there was always something more we could do to help them? In accepting this truth though, in accepting that we simply cannot do it all, we also found freedom. Where we didn’t know how to protect our peace, we learned to fortify so we could remain healthy. We care deeply for the children we serve, and yet there is no reason to bear the burden of guilt if it is not within our capacity to fix their problems. It’s a bit of a contradiction, one that we’ve both come to terms with.

So Gabby and I will be talking about how we came to reject the culture of martyrdom and set strong boundaries so that we could continue to do the important work that we are passionate about. It was a journey and a half, with lots of prayers and therapy between the both of us, but one that we’re grateful to have survived and from which we’ve emerged stronger.

We hope that in sharing our experiences, others will feel hopeful that it’s possible for them too.

The most important people in Gabby’s life: his daughter Raya and his wife Jizza.

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Stay tuned for more #FeatureFridays! Our other panelist for Discussion Panel #2 is next!

Until then, don’t forget to join our mailing list for updates, as well as RSVP to our next Discussion Panel in August!

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[IDs: (1) Gabby lying on his back on the laps of 2 of his friends while yelling into a wired microphone. The 2 men are laughing hysterically while Gabby scream-sings into the mic. (2) Photo of Gabby wearing a grey fitted cap looking upwards, sitting casually on a motorbike wearing black jeans and a white tee. (3) Gabby, his daughter, and his wife are lying down on their backs, looking up at the camera that is pointed at them in aerial view. Their last name, Malquisto, is in block letters on the bottom left corner of the image.]

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