A fun trip to the Aquarium became an opportunity for encouragement and empowerment from the sisterhood. A few years ago, Daryllyn Ward, a staff member of Living Resources’ Albany Supportive Living Program started a women’s group with her ladies, giving them an opportunity to talk about their struggles and support each other. Since then, Daryllyn, who is now the Residential Habilitation Manager of the program has noticed a growing bond between the participants and increased confidence within each of them.

Alice recently mentioned to the group that she would like to visit the VIA Aquarium in Rotterdam NY to see the stingrays up close. The idea took form and soon after, Alice and Jessica arrived at the Aquarium with Daryllyn, ready for an afternoon “Under the Sea.” When they approached the stingray touch tank, Jessica noticed that Alice seemed apprehensive and she recognized that her friend was feeling anxiety. Jessica had experience with the stingray tank and was able to demonstrate the technique of holding her relaxed hand near the top of the tank. This allowed the stingrays to swim just under her hand, rubbing against it as it passed by. After a few demonstrations, Alice became comfortable enough to try.  When she did, she delighted in feeling the stingrays’ soft, smooth bodies dance under her hand.

Jessica shared that her own anxiety was a bit high at that moment but, “Instead of feeling anxious, I started feeling happy knowing I was being a good support.” Alice was grateful for Jessica’s encouragement. She said, “It feels good knowing I have such a good friend who could help support me with overcoming my fear.” Daryllyn couldn’t have been prouder of both of their ability to work through the moment together. She was honored to step back and watch the magic of the sisterhood unfold before her.

The Aquarium staff were extremely supportive of this group from Living Resources, checking in regularly to attend to their needs. One staff pointed out that a reptile show was about to start and recommended they attend it. There, the ladies delighted in interacting with reptiles including Madagascar hissing cockroaches and a bearded dragon. When the Ball Python snake was taken out, the energy of the group changed dramatically – all three women shared the emotion of fear. Staff Daryllyn felt empowered by Jessica’s support of Alice at the stingray tank and decided to follow her example. She said, “That was my first time holding a snake. I’m usually very afraid of snakes but I wanted to be a support to them.”  She summoned the courage to hold it, admitting, “It was very weird to be holding the snake but after a few minutes I was very happy to overcome my fear and just go for it!”

The three women agreed that the whole experience at the VIA Aquarium was empowering. They complemented all the aquarium staff for their caring attention, noting that the staff running the reptile show was trustworthy and friendly, and not only cared for their safety but the safety of the animals.

With encouragement from the sisterhood, the caring guidance of their Living Resources Super Hero, and a community of allies they are able to follow the advice of Eleanor Roosevelt who said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.”

Albany Supportive Living is a program that serves individuals living in various certified Supportive Individual Residential Alternatives (IRAs), typically in apartments with non-24/7 staffing. The ASL program provides habilitation services to supported individuals that includes, but is not limited to, apartment maintenance, cooking, cleaning, shopping, and general organization. The program also provides nursing services and medication management services, along with assistance with money management. Individuals living in supportive apartments are expected to live independently with staff support.