The first in a series featuring various members of Faith Community reflecting on the ups and downs of their service year with Covenant House.
Ryan, originally from Louisiana and a graduate of Mississippi State University, works at Covenant House in Atlanta, Georgia, where he says the Southern culture makes him feel like he’s not too far from home.
When he stumbled across Covenant House Faith Community on the website of the Catholic Volunteer Network, Ryan was intrigued. “I’d worked with kids before,” he explained, “But I never really thought about kids facing homelessness as an issue. That drew me to want to learn more.” He found Covenant House’s Catholic orientation and its mission very compelling, so he took the leap and joined Faith Community in Atlanta.
And now, with just over a month left in his year of service, Ryan has learned and experienced a tremendous amount.
From the beginning, he found himself pleasantly surprised. “Going in, because it’s a volunteer program, you think you’re going to be doing very basic work. But really you get treated like full-time staff. The site expects us to go above and beyond.”
He has moved around a lot in terms of his responsibilities at the shelter, learning to be open to whatever comes his way. “My trust in God has definitely been strengthened this year,” he says, “trusting that the youth in our shelter will be safe and taken care of, and trusting God to give me the ability to handle the work.”
There are many creative ways of connecting with the youth. He and his fellow Faith Community Atlanta member Liam often play basketball in the gym with the male residents of the shelter. “You get to use your skills to do different things, you can use sports as a kind of therapy.”
And he’s experienced the many joys of the work, when the youth in the shelter succeed in their endeavors. “Seeing them get that job or go back to school or even transitioning to another program or to an apartment or back to their family. It’s so rewarding seeing them creating a goal they didn’t even know they had, and then achieving it.”
Living in community, an essential part of the Faith Community program, has also helped him grow. Though he’d lived with roommates in college, he’d never been so intentional about communal living before. “It’s being intentional in sharing money and sharing time. Being really intentional about getting to know each other on a much deeper level. It’s been a very rewarding experience.”
So what’s coming next for Ryan after he wraps up his year with Faith Community? “Hopefully medical school,” he says, “But if not, I’ll probably move back to Louisiana and look for a job with a non-profit. After this year, I couldn’t imagine working for any other type of company.”
And his advice for those who are, like he was just a year ago, discerning a year of service: “Don’t have set expectations, because they’re not always going to be met, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Just be open to whatever the work is.”