There’s been a change of leadership at Afiya – Dani, our much-loved Director of Afiya for years, will be shifting her position mainly to our Pittsfield and Greenfield spaces, and helping our Berkshire friends to continue to grow and expand. Our new Director of Afiya is a truly amazing, charming guy named Micah. He’s worked with lots of youth groups, and has been a warrior in fighting to build supports that actually felt supportive. He’s a fantastic addition to our Afiya team.
Both Dani and Micah wanted to write something about their experiences and hopes about Afiya, so keep reading 🙂
A Note From Micah:
In May of 2015, I attended Greenfield’s annual “Mental Health Fair” at Energy Park. I was tabling at this event for the job I had at the time as a manager of a more traditional outreach program that provides support to young adults in Franklin County. I had known for quite some time that I really wanted to work for the Recovery Learning Community and was always on the lookout for job postings, but nothing had worked out yet. In the meantime, I was trying my best alongside the young adults I had the privilege to know to create supports that actually felt supportive – a Drop In with afternoon open hours, a Youth Council to govern it, and groups centered around creativity and mindfulness were some of the things we had created together and shared about with people at the fair. As a few of us were hanging out around the table that day, someone came through and offered us each a “wish bracelet.” These were thin, simple lengths of string with a bead threaded through them. She explained that we could make a wish, and it would come true once the bracelet fell off. I closed my eyes and wished for work that I could do wholeheartedly, without regret – and tied the bracelet around my wrist with some help.
Summer came, and with it the miraculous birth of my first child. Fall passed, and through a hundred baby bath times, sinks full of dishes, showers, hikes, and swims in the rivers of Franklin County my bracelet endured. Winter crept up, and I relied on regular support through the Alternatives to Suicide group in Greenfield to get me through the ups and downs of the holiday season. By January, the bracelet was hanging by a thread no thicker than a strand of hair, and I had interviewed for and accepted the position as the new Director of Afiya.
I marveled that the string was still hanging tight around my wrist as I prepared for an Afiya team dinner to celebrate the amazing work they’ve done throughout the year. Looking at the bracelet, it seemed impossible that it did not fall off at any moment. The magic of my wish had gotten me through the months of waiting, but I didn’t have to wait any longer. My wish had been granted, and I decided in the presence of my new coworkers and in the spirit of self-determination to break the bracelet myself.
It’s an honor to step into this role. It means so much to me to be a part of a team that is reimagining and reinventing what it looks like to offer true support and human connection in times of darkness and despair.
A Note From Dani:
I’ve been asked to say a bit about how my role is transitioning in our community and to talk about what I’m leaving behind as a result. This seems like a simple enough ask, but each time I sit down to write, I stare at my computer screen, drift off into memories of the last few years, get sarcastic, check out what’s in the fridge, play with Chowder Cat, respond to texts… you get the picture. The truth is, when I have big feelings about something, I often walk around the edges of them as long as possible before diving in head first. So, consider this a dive…
I’ve been around the RLC since 2012. A LOT has happened in those years, not the least of which was helping to open the first peer-run respite in Mass (woot!). It’s been a mixed bag at the house, mostly really good and amazing things, some really difficult and painful things. (I was about to forage in the fridge, but sticking with it because I love y’all.) As I say goodbye to this beautiful space, the incredible team of smaggles that inhabit it and the lovely people who come to stay, my heart is awful sore. Saying goodbye to a thing you’re still in love with will do that. I know that I’m still a part of the community and that I’ll still see the Afiya folks now and then, but that day in and day out of connection is forever different and that hurts. I think you all understand. And, it’s been confusing. I didn’t realize how much of my identity was wrapped up in Afiya’s walls until I was on my way out the door. I’m losing a big piece of me, so bear with me as I move through that (sometimes tip-toeing along the edges).
My heavy heart is made lighter, though, knowing that we have a strong team at the space, a strong community supporting us and a very strong new Director. Micah is a compassionate and capable leader, a big honest heart with legs and a fellow Hufflepuff. I’m really excited to see what new energy he brings to the work and to see how the house will continue to grow as a result. I will still be around to support Micah and the team, as needed, of course. Micah, thanks for taking on this huge and important task! I would hide-out in a bathroom with you any day. (Ummm, he’ll understand that joke. I hope. I made this weird.) Moving on! For me, I’ll be hanging out in Pittsfield and Greenfield for the most part. Right now, Cate, Alan and other team members are cooking up some amazing stuff for the Berkshires, so I’m supporting that to grow (check out the calendar for details). Natan, Emily, Jesse and many others have done an incredible job of building the Greenfield space up after lots of changes and I’m hoping to support them in that in any way that I can, as well. We’ll be doing more outreach and making sure that we stay a strong part of the community out there.
So, yes, some broken-heartedness, but also excitement, growth, love and determination. My time with Afiya has changed my life completely. I’m more open with my thoughts and feelings, I’m more compassionate and warm, I believe in myself as a leader and I see very clearly how important alternatives to the traditional system are in changing the world. I’ll never forget my time there. As I move into this new role, I take all the lessons learned, an open heart and a big passion to keep this work going! Please feel free to reach out if you want to talk or have any questions about my old role, my new role or what the word “smaggle” means. Thank you to every person on the WMRLC team – you all do incredible work!