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Work today began with excited, somewhat slobbery greetings from a precious golden retriever that could hardly contain himself at the sight of three (equally excited) Duke students. Waddington is the kind of dog that instantly makes you feel at ease and welcomed, no matter the circumstances. In this way, he is a perfect mascot for the organization after which he was named and for where he can be found quite often (but never often enough). Waddington Street Centre is incredibly welcoming – not just for three naïve Americans finding their way in a new (but actually really old) Durham, but for those seeking mental health resources. The Centre aims to support this disadvantaged community by providing avenues for personal development, social interaction, and supported recovery while combatting stigma and discrimination. These services include an education program with courses ranging from art to technology, health training that promotes physical activity along with overall well-being, and supported housing for those who need assistance acquiring a place to live.

We began our experience at Waddington Street in the midst of a grand occasion: Celebrating Learning Day. This event marks the end of term for those doing coursework at The Centre and is a true celebration of their accomplishments. It was a wonderful day of awards, presentations, and congratulations that made me even more excited to work here during the next few weeks. Although the certificates awarded may not carry official merit, the pride and gratification so apparent on the faces of those receiving these distinctions makes their overwhelming significance undoubtable.

Like Threshold, where I worked in Durham, NC, the sense of community at Waddington Street is remarkable. Whether service users come in to meet with a staff member, play football, or just for a chat and a “cuppa,” their presence is always valued and their contributions to the collaborative atmosphere of The Centre are crucial. Being in the company of so many people persisting in the face of so many different forms of hardship makes it difficult to leave without an awareness of the incredible privileges we may have and a renewed sense of hope for the challenges we may face.