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My Eyes Are Open Now: Working with Ojulu Changed my Perspective

Here, in Gretchen’s own words, is a story about her journey with Ojulu,  Daily Work job seeker. 

My name is Gretchen Guenter and I have been a volunteer at Daily Work since June 2017 and a board member since February 2018.  Both roles are enriching my life in many ways. 

As a Daily Work volunteer, I am a case manager who meets one on one with job seekers who are seeking help with their employment search. I have met a diverse and amazing group of individuals that cannot be summarized in any succinct way because each person brings a unique story of their individual experiences. Daily Work is organized so that job seekers can meet with case managers for an extended time, even many years.  This depth of relationship is what makes Daily Work a treasure. My eyes have been opened through knowing people I might not have otherwise met and working with them to overcome the barriers that stand in the way of their employment.  

I will share one story of a client who has given me so much more than he knows. I met Ojulu (pictured above with Gretchen (left) and Hellen (right) in the winter, he arrived at Daily Work on a freezing cold day in a thin, cheaply made suit that was easily two sizes too big for him, no hat or coat. His English was difficult to understand yet he expressed himself well as we sat together and talked about what brought him to Daily Work. His kindness and grateful comments have been a theme at every appointment. It has been eight months since that first meeting.  

Through our time together, we have submitted job applications, shopped for warmer clothes, and visited the library to become familiar with their services and get him started with English language learning courses. He has new glasses and has been to appointments at the doctor and dentist that we set up together. We filled out forms for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and he gratefully accepted a cup of tea and food resources that Daily Work sometimes offers. He and his roommates moved out of a very cold apartment that was infested with bedbugs to a duplex where my husband and I brought him a mattress and some houseware items. When we first started working together, he worked in a produce warehouse where he says he is grateful for warm water to run over his chilled hands during his work breaks. Physically, his appearance has changed and he is healthier and looks stronger.

Shortly after meeting him I read City of Thorns by Ben Rawlence. The book chronicles the lives of nine individuals living in Dadaab Refugee Camp in northern Kenya. I think of my client, who spent more than 10 years at Dadaab and tell people about the kindness and wonderful conversations I have with this man who is new to Minnesota and one of the bravest individuals that I know. He opened my eyes so that now I hear the news differently, see a map of the world differently, and think differently from having worked with him at Daily Work.

This is one story, yet I have met many clients, each as interesting as the next.

Today, Ojulu has a living wage job working with Whole Foods and he is making plans to visit his wife in Africa. Daily Work is a place that helps people find employment and make connections to many critical resources. I can’t say enough about the great work of this organization or the tenacious job seekers we meet. We work in partnership with job seekers so they can find work and together, we make the world a better place by knowing and caring for each other along the way.

To read Gretchen's Daily Work Volunteer Spotlight interview Click Here

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