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The Second month of the Faenza Recovery House - Paul's Story

Paul Baker tells of his experience of living and working for a month at the Faenza Recovery House in July 2013:

I arrived at the Faenza Recovery House on a warm, sunny Saturday afternoon at the end of June, to take over from Karen, the role of recovery mentor to the guests and workers for the second month of the three month long Recovery house project....
  The day before, Chiara, one of the guests had died whilst spending the weekend at home.

It was a sad way to begin my stay.

However, the following day a remarkable meeting took place. Chairas' mother and sister, the guests and their family members, the workers and volunteers came together to grieve and to share their memories and feelings about the life of Chiara. A meeting I believe could never have taken place in a conventional service.  As Karen has described in the previous blog a gathering that showed the strengths of the project, the humanity and belief that together we can care about and make a difference in our own and in each others lives - even in difficult and tragic circumstances.

In some ways Chiaras' passing served to strengthen our resolve and became a motif for the project. We committed ourselves to holding a celebration of Chiaras' life at the end of the month and also to hold her in our hearts.

In the following weeks I got to know the people who lived at the house, the mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, friends and lovers, the people I worked with as volunteers and paid workers in a very deep and meaningful way. I spent most of my waking hours thinking about and working on ways of assisting people to move on with their recovery journeys - not just the guests, but all of us.

The project is unapologetically ambitious - it believes that people can and will be able to make the changes they want to make to move on with their lives and that we can accomplish this by disregarding the "mental illness" label and focus on the person instead, what had happened to them and discovering with them what they wanted from their lives.

We had some wonderful successes over the month, some seemingly commonplace, like guests riding bicycles again after many years of not doing so - or more remarkably driving a car when few people suspected this was possible. Other successes were related to the way people felt about themselves, how they saw and lived their lives and reconsidered what was possible for themselves and for others and beginning to make the necessary changes to accomplish new ambitions and new goals. Again, this was not limited to the "clients" but very much included family members and workers too.

Of course, there were also many challenges along the way, unanticipated issues and problems that we had to find creative ways of resolving, or think about in a new way so we could adapt the way we were approaching peoples needs. A key to this was and is the direct involvement of the family members of the guests (in attending the recovery training meeting twice a week, the parties and celebrations and the individual meetings that we held) to better understand everyones perspectives about the past, the present and the future. After two months, the visiting psychiatrists (who spent a day with us each week) were saying they could see great and positive changes in the people living in the house.

On the 30th July we held the celebration to honour Chiaras. life, we had a BBQ, music and dance, we unveiled a mural and presented painted ceramic tiles we made for her. Chiara means "light" and we named the project "Casa Chiara" in recognition of this and the motif of the project too.

It has been a real privilege to live and work with my friends at Casa Chiara - I will never forget you or the time I spent in the farm house and grounds, sitting and talking in the shade under our courtyard tree, tending the vegetable garden, cooking and partying.

If this is work then when can I come back?

Paul
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Posted: 18/08/2013 00:12:59 by Global Administrator
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