Marilyn Gambrell: “The Piped Piper” for Houston’s Children of the Incarcerated

No More Victims,Marilyn Gambrell, Shattered Lives, Donna R. Gore
Marilyn Gambrell and a few of her “kids.”

“Vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage.” Brene Brown, Ph.D

(Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. She has spent the past decade studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame.)

The Pied Piper of Hamelin is the subject of a legend concerning the departure or death of a great number of children from the town of Hamelin, Lower Saxony, Germany, in the Middle Ages. The earliest references describe a piper, dressed in multicolored clothing, leading the children away from the town never to return. In the 16th century the folk-lore expanded in which the piper is a rat-catcher hired by the town to lure rats away with his magic pipe. When the citizens refused to pay for this service, he retaliated by turning his power that he put in his musical instrument on their children, leading them away as he had the rats.

The translated version of poet Robert Browning’s story includes the following verse:

They fought the dogs, and killed the cats,
And bit the babies in the cradles,
And ate the cheeses out of the vats,
And licked the soup from the cook’s own ladles,
Split open the kegs of salted sprats,
Made nests inside men’s Sunday hats,
And even spoiled the women’s chats,
By drowning their speaking
With shrieking and squeaking
In fifty different sharps and flats

Truth is, such a hateful description might describe unwanted children of that time.  Such is the reality of Marilyn Gambrell and her charges.  She has been “Mama Gambrell “to the children of Houston, Texas, since 1993 when she began “No More Victims.   Marilyn Gambrell

Following years of service as a parole officer, Marilyn singlehandedly fought for the rights of these children, weighted down by burdens heavier than most seasoned adults could ever bear! Trying their souls:  homicide, human trafficking, rape, sexual assault, physical and verbal abuse, neglect, starvation, rage, anger,  suicidal ideation, illness, cutting and more.  She has garnered support, educational resources and medical treatment along the way, but, even now, it is “a virtual drop in the bucket of need.”

What is needed is everything that is lacking  from the most basic to that which we all take for granted.  No More Victims is indeed rich in things that do not cost money, such as love, compassion, lack of judgment, the ability to listen, support, inspire and provide a “safety net.”

Indeed, their lives are like a kaleidoscope,  a complex pattern of constantly changing colors and shapes, and with Marilyn in awe of the accomplishments of their fragile psyches, each of them taking baby steps and reaching heights no one thought capable!

The Shattered Lives Team featured Marilyn as a repeat, warmly welcomed, guest to discuss the challenges, the realities, and what’s on the horizon for “No More Victims” and her kids.

  Listen to Shattered Lives Radio Podcast

  • Introduction to our guest
  • Background information and her non-residential interactions
  • Discussion of relieving some of the stress and the results seen
  • The power of “the same secrets”
  • Beginning to talk and taking leadership roles: including “Sergeant at arms”
  • Calming down, loving, listening and nurturing- We can change it all!
  • Delilah asks about the link to human trafficking and their infiltration to these children
  • The “hot topic” of trafficking versus her children  Do they get enough attention?
  • Mixed messages… “Bless your heart”…BUT
  • The child will lead the way if we allow them to
  • The University of Texas Medical Clinic available:
  • A documentary on the horizon to really tell their life stories!
  • No dying, self injury or hurting someone else ….before education is thought of
  • What are the three components to the program?
  • A play in the making with Virginia Lange
  • Contact Information:
  • NO MORE VICTIMS , PO 440002, Houston Texas 77244-0002
  • No More Victims: DONATIONS:

Questions from the “Classroom”

  • What does it mean to live and breathe in their reality?
  • How do we break the cycle of the damage of parental incarceration?
  • What is the importance of the children designing and enforcing the ground rules?
  • What is the largest at risk population in the country and is it dealt with effectively?
  • What are some examples of the children taking ownership?
  • How does Marilyn deal with the families?
  • What are Marilyn’s alternatives to punishment?
  • How is human trafficking dealt with in her schools?
  • What is the situation with parents selling children?
  • How do we change the public perception of these children?
  • How will they be increasing their visibility in the future – before and after?
  • What will be happening in the future in terms of increased visibility?
  • What is part of Marilyn’s future dream for her kids?
  • What is available for organized conferences for children of Incarcerated adults?

The comments expressed on this website or on the broadcasts of Shattered Lives do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of the hosts, producers, or other guests.




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