Meet Katy Carris !
Katy Carris, Night Facility Coordinator for Helpmate, takes great pride in her work for the organization and in the experiences that brought her to this position.
While attending Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana, Katy received a Bonner Fellowship which required ten volunteer hours a week at a local non-profit. At 18 years of age, she was assigned to a battered woman's shelter, where, as she remembers, "They just handed me the keys with no training or education in the job. " Her duties included checking residents in and out, monitoring the crises hotline and hospital emergencies. Katy was not frightened of the huge responsibility. She says she knew she had to listen to the women living there, trust them, and understand their situations in order to to help them, "I didn't talk much, but I learned a lot in those years."
While still in school she was a co-founder of the Earlham Community Action Center, where campus organizations could come together to find and distribute information to the school and community about their social action movements.
Her work in the years following college graduation was pointed towards the struggle for economic justice. She worked with the Highland Research and Education Center in Tennessee, an organization working with people fighting for justice, equality and sustainability in Appalachia and the South. She was first an intern and later an education team member. She also spent time time as a union organizer in the carpet industry in Georgia.
Katy sees her job with Helpmate as very much an extension of those experiences, "All of the ladies who have to come to Helpmate are doing the best they can to take care of their families. It is a struggle for them to regain their freedom, self respect, and a sound economic footing. Helping them is what I like about this work."
Another Helpmate project close to Katy's heart is the children's art program which she started and has facilitated for the past year. The program uses art as healing tool for our youngest survivors of domestic violence. Children three and over meet once a week, and the children themselves decide their own guidelines at the beginning of each session. "It is such a program of value," Katy explains, "Because these children are in control for perhaps the first time in their lives. They can use their art to express their feelings on issues like self esteem and safety in the world."
Many of us might not working a night shift, but Katy is proud of the responsibility she has been given as the first line of defense for anything that might happen at the shelter during her hours there. She is protecting the valuable lives that take refuge behind our walls.