“My passion for justice was ignited when I was 11 or 12 years old. As a strong Chicano community leader, my father was heavily involved in the War on Poverty programs and the United Farmworker’s Union (UFW) boycott. Every Saturday morning Dad would take 2-3 of my siblings and me to the local grocery store to join a UFW picket line. After giving up several Saturdays, we began to complain loudly about giving up our Saturday mornings. One Saturday, after walking the picket line and listening to our whining, Dad decided to take us on a field trip. We complained, but Dad would not tell us where we were going until he pulled into a local farm. There, he pointed to a series of what looked like chicken coops. He explained that those shacks were where families like ours lived for the summer when they picked crops. We were horrified! He told us that by walking the picket line, we were part of a larger struggle led by the UFW. He said if we were all successful, the UFW would make sure the farm workers would never again be forced to live in such horrible conditions.We were pretty quiet on the way home…..but we never complained again about the Saturday morning picket line.”
Rachel Sierra has a unique/extraordinary blend of experience/expertise in work that is geared towards the transformation of institutions, and work that is geared towards the transformation of individuals. Rachel has over 35 years of experience in organizational development, community organizing, group facilitation, resource development and administration of organizations. She served as a field coordinator and later Director of the west coast office of the Center for Community Change. In this capacity she was instrumental in providing technical assistance to local and regional community organizations, primarily on issues related to housing, community-controlled development, public education and immigration. This work included a range of capacity-building activities, including participatory research, board and staff training, retreat facilitation, strategic planning, and community based assessment and evaluation.
She has worked as Executive Director of several community based organizations including: the California Institute for Rural Community Leadership and Education (CIRCLE), the Women’s Institute for Mental Health, Central and Western Neighborhood Development Corporation (Davenport Iowa), and of the Migrant Child Development Center (Edgington, Illinois). Rachel was the first Project Manager of the Levi Strauss Foundation’s anti-racism project, Project Change, and under her leadership developed community based collaborative projects in three diverse communities around the country.
Rachel has also served as a group and meeting facilitator for a wide range of organizations, public institutions and foundations such as the Office of Community Engagement (Oakland Public Schools), Transnational Institute for Grassroots Research and Action (TIGRA), the Center for Third World Organizing, National Community Development Institute, (Oakland), Annie E. Casey Foundation, East Los Angeles Community Corporation, (LA) the Applied Research Center, (Oakland and Chicago), the Public Welfare Foundation, (Washington, D.C.), the Marin Community Foundation, the Youth Law Center (SF) and the W. Haywood Burns Institute. She has served as group facilitator and organizational consultant in the “birthing” and development of several key organizations, including a national network focused on youth of color.
On a parallel track, Rachel has more than 25 years of practice in yoga and meditation and has also engaged in the study of Traditional Chinese Medicine. For three years she provided yoga classes in Spanish to Latina immigrants in San Rafael CA, and body/energy work to low-wage Asian immigrant women through Asian Immigrant Women’s Advocates.
Rachel has a B.A. in Secondary Education from Marycrest College in Davenport, Iowa and has completed extensive graduate work in the School of Public Administration at the University of Southern California. In addition to her certification as a Sivananda Yoga Teacher she also has professional certificates from the Acupressure Institute, the Jin Shin Jyutsu Foundation and in Therapeutic Touch.