Saturday, December 08, 2007
Week in New England
The trip was great! We left Monday night, just as New England was getting its first snowfall of the year. Of course I assumed our flight would be delayed or canceled, and I was ready. It was delayed about 20 minutes so they could add more fuel in case we had to land at JFK. But we landed in Maine as planned. The view outside as we were landing was incredible. Beyond words. We don't get snow in Georgia very often, and when we do it's minimal. So seeing all the snow was a real treat. I loved every minute of it!
When we landed safely, all the passengers spontaneously applauded.
We stayed at a bare-bones hotel that said they would leave our keys taped to the office door when we came in, and we could register in the morning. This was a very small town, obviously. They had a diner down the block that had the BEST food. They were on the Today Show because of their Lobster Rolls, so of course I had to order the Lobster Rolls. They were delicious!
So the next morning we got up early and drove to the respite center in Maine. They were so hospitable to us and devoted all their time to showing us around and answering all our questions. We were there the whole day. They believe in mutual peer support, which means there is no helper and no helpee. There is no "sick" one and no "well" one. Many of the paid staff also use the respite beds at some point. They didn't have rules (except a few necessary ones like no drugs or sexual activity in the center), and their policies were scarce as well. They emphasized open dialogue, honesty, relationship, and community. If there's a problem, it is addressed by all people involved, and everyone is heard. Negotiations occur. Rules are unnecessary.
I was impressed with their philosophy, and it was in alignment with Shery Mead's training.
Speaking of Shery Mead, we met with her and Chris Hanson after touring our second respite center in New Hampshire on Thursday. She showed us their training schedule for when they come to Georgia in January to train our new staff. I REALLY like Shery and Chris! They are like-minded souls. They get it. We are incredibly lucky to have them help kick-start our center!
We're naming it The Peer Wellness Center for now. That may or may not change.
I am really getting a handle on what it is we are doing, and it is simply groundbreaking. I saw that through this trip. It's freaking me out how HUGE this is, and how supported we really are by our peers in New England who are already doing this. I see the big picture. This is the next natural step in mental health alternatives. I can easily see these respite centers popping up all over the world.
While we were there, I heard that Soteria House has opened in Alaska. Soteria was the first ever respite center. They lost their funding and shut down, which is what happens to respite centers. But Soteria House is the most famous and most ground breaking -- and now they are in operation again! This is excellent news!
Hmmmm, I wonder if I'll ever see the snow in Alaska....
The video is an array of short snow scenes I took while driving.