Wonderful News!

Wonderful News!

We are ecstatic to announce that Allison Waters has joined the Reality Ministries staff in the newly created position of Clinical Director. Allison graduated from Duke with her Masters in Divinity and from UNC Chapel Hill with a Masters in Social Work in 2015. Since then she has been working as a Social Worker NC START, caring for people with developmental disabilities in crisis. She’s been an all-star Reality volunteer for over 4 years. Below, she shares her story, and what it will mean to be the “Clinical Director.”
 
by Allison Waters

In college, I studied Social Work, expecting it to seamlessly partner my faith and my profession.
 
Then I met Lawrence.  He lived in an apartment near my college campus. Lawrence always introduced himself by saying: “Hello, my name is Lawrence. I’m 100 years old and have pure Autism.” Over the years, we became good friends. I learned that he loved history and sports, and he could freestyle rap about anything.  I learned he was not 100 years old. I also learned that Lawrence had been homeless for about 20 years of his life.  He described trying desperately to get help during this time, pursuing countless programs and seeking the help of many Social Workers. He tried housing programs, job programs, programs specifically for people with Autism, but none of these were able to meet his needs. In my naiveté I thought “There’s no way none of those programs worked for him. He must not have been trying hard enough.”
 
Simultaneously, I was working my first Social Work job at a day center for homeless women.  The longer I worked there, the more I began to see things within my own program that Lawrence had described about being homeless. Limited resources forced programs to prioritize who would be helped based on strict eligibility, which resembled something like choosing between “worthy” and “unworthy” poor. Rigid boundaries existed between the “helper” and the “helped,” the “abled” and the “poor.” While my training in Social Work was valuable because it helped me understand people and communities, I was discovering that the systems I was working within were exclusive, rigid, and flawed. It did not align with my faith as perfectly as I hoped.
 
I lived in this tension between friendship and service, faith and profession, for years until I was completely overwhelmed. I decided to step away to study and reflect, and therefore came to North Carolina to study Social Work and Theology side-by-side.  My first weekend in Durham, I attended a dance at Reality Ministries, and I was amazed.  It was a place of love and celebration of all people and embraced vulnerability as precious. From the second I walked in the door, I was welcomed exactly as I was. I was seen, celebrated, and known. There was no “helper” and “helped” – everyone simply belonged.
 
Over the past five years I have been transformed by this community. The friendships I’ve made at Reality shape the way I think about my profession and my faith. I have longed to merge my clinical training and call to ministry for many years; by the grace of God, this longing was met with a growing need at Reality for more staff and special attention to what it means to grow in our community given the unique aspects of intellectual and developmental disabilities.
 
In his book Becoming Human, Jean Vanier speaks of three facets of transformative love:revelation, understanding, and communication.  The vision for my role is that sound clinical knowledge will equip the whole staff and the Reality community as we grow in revealing more about ourselves, understanding the revelations of others, and communicating with one another given the strengths and vulnerabilities of each person.
 
The responsibilities of the job will grow and change as needed, and I invite feedback from all who are interested. Generally, I will be available to consult with staff, participants, and volunteers regarding community resources, mental health, and needs within the Reality family.  I will also be available for individual and group therapy. All aspects of the job reflect Reality's mission to enhance and deepen relationships. This position will not change Reality; it will provide support to promote what is already here--transformative love.