Announcing Our 2016 Rachel Falls Compassion Award Recipient!

posted October 27, 2016

John and 2014 winner, Sara Daniel

Exhale is proud to honor John Eckstein with the 2016 Rachel Falls Compassion Award!

John joined Exhale as a talkline counselor in Spring of 2015, and has a degree in counseling and practices as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in the San Francisco bay area. John has worked as a counselor for community college students and has spoken with more than one thousand callers as a bay area crisis hotline counselor.

The Rachel Falls Compassion Award was created in 2008 to honor a very dear friend and ally of Exhale: Rachel Falls. The Hotline Director at the National Abortion Federation, Rachel passed away after a long battle with brain cancer. Rachel was a true pro-voice champion: she integrated post-abortion counseling into NAF’s services, collaborated with Exhale staff to train others in the field, and became a vocal advocate for promoting the emotional wellbeing of women who have had abortions.

This award is given once a year to a talkline counselor who best embodies the spirit and values of Rachel Falls: exuberance, strength, empathy, commitment, vision, and compassion. Only fellow talkline counselors can nominate the potential winner.

Last year's winner was Cari Kaufman.

In honor of winning this award, we sat down with John to ask him about his experience as an Exhale volunteer. Here's what he said:

What first brought you to Exhale?
I worked as a school therapist at the College of San Mateo and, over a few weeks, I had a number of clients who either were about to have an abortion or had previously had an abortion. In researching resources for these clients, I came across Exhale. I liked Exhale's mission and Pro-Voice message - and was happy to see they were located here in the Bay Area.

Tell me about your experience as a volunteer counselor. Are there particular stories or moments that stand out for you?
My favorite story is actually about a male caller who said, “We had OUR abortion two weeks ago.” At that time I’d been a counselor at Exhale for more than a year and this was the first time any caller, male or female, had ever referred to the abortion experience in the plural: as “we.” It makes me feel very emotional to think about this call even now because abortion can be a shared experience, rather than an isolated experience. How wonderful to be taught this lesson from a male caller.

Volunteering at Exhale is a really big commitment in terms of training and time—what is it about this work that has made you want to make it such a priority in your life?
I always find I get more than I give from speaking to callers. I feel more motivated, energized, alive, and honored that callers will share about the most vulnerable parts of their lives with me.

How have you grown as a result of your experience as an Exhale volunteer? What have you learned?
Volunteering at Exhale has helped me grow as a person because it's broadened my view on people's strengths and challenges. It's shown me how resilient people are despite going through difficult times.

What do you want to share with people who have experienced abortions in their lives?
Many of the callers are the most loving and compassionate people I’ve ever spoken with; yet they have trouble directing that compassion toward themselves. Many callers feel they’re isolated and alone and without support. I want them to know: You don’t have to go through this alone.

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