Rachel Carpenter joined to OAC team earlier this fall from the Young Adult Volunteer Program! We are so glad to have her as a part of our team and wanted to give you the opportunity to get to know her too!
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from? What things are you passionate about? What do you love to do?
I was born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina. I’m passionate about learning from people’s stories and empowering them toward their goals. In college, I enjoyed building relationships with international students and immigrant families as well as fostering community across different faiths and worldviews. In terms of hobbies, I love singing in choir, learning languages, spending time in nature, reading world literature and memoirs, and watching international films.
You recently graduated from college. Where did you attend and what did you study?
I attended Davidson College. I majored in Psychology and minored in Religious Studies.
Why did you want to be a part of the YAV program and why did you choose Central OAC as your site?
As graduation approached, I was searching for a way to transition from school, the only context I knew well, to the workforce. I decided to join the YAV program because of its commitment to high-impact service through relationships. It seemed like a balanced way to primarily focus on empowering communities in a respectful, lasting manner while also discovering what contexts I would work best in. It would be a challenging and transformative year that would inform my lifestyle and work in the future.
I appreciate the spiritual focus of the YAV program. I consider this service year to be a pilgrimage of walking beside communities in Atlanta. The spiritual foundation of the program provides grounding for the service that is not always found in every volunteer program or nonprofit position.
I chose the OAC as my placement because the staff members are clearly passionate about the guests as whole people, and they approach the mission of reducing and preventing homelessness holistically through job readiness programs, a self-sustaining food co-op, and identification. Growing up, I really enjoyed volunteering at local shelters and Room in the Inn programs at various churches. While working at the OAC, I would be interacting with those experiencing homelessness in a different context than I had seen before. It would present new challenges and lessons, so I very much appreciated the opportunity to learn from that.
What have been your favorite things about working at the OAC so far? What about the biggest challenges?
One of my favorite things about the OAC is that the passionate staff and volunteers strive to find the humanity that is often lost in a dehumanizing system of procedures, regulations, qualifications, and tons of referrals. We cherish the full stories of each of our guests. We try to cultivate and maintain a sense of sacred ground within our office as a place where everyone is met exactly where they are in their vulnerabilities and innately respected as full human beings. It’s encouraging to see that some guests do truly feel welcomed and heard. I always appreciate learning from the experiences of guests and sharing in their lives.
Conversely, the hardest part about working here is that there must be boundaries and our own regulations for the center to function. We are limited. The number of people seen changes every day based on the number of trained volunteers. We are only allowed to pay for certain documents. For everyone’s safety, some struggling guests are asked to return on another day after waiting in the cold for hours. It is very hard to maintain a sense of sacredness and dignity while working with systems not designed for that, and the OAC as a human organization is not perfect.
What are you most looking forward to during your year doing YAV?
I look forward to immersing myself in a new city and learning from the community. Reflecting on both the positive and negative experiences with other YAVs in Atlanta will help me remain grounded.
What are your plans for the future?
Future plans are still being developed. My long-term goal so far is to go to graduate school. I’m considering either a Masters in Counseling to focus on families and adolescents or a Masters of Divinity to become a chaplain. For the upcoming calendar year, I’m looking for jobs in the region.