By Akeem Hill, Manager, AHRC New York City’s Glen Oaks Residence

Working at any level of a nonprofit organization can be challenging.  Burnout can come quicker than most realize if a little rest and relaxation from time to time aren’t prioritized. When it is prioritized, direct care and working to support those with intellectual disabilities can be very rewarding, both personally and professionally. Agencies like AHRC New York City make it as natural and normal as possible to let their staff know it’s okay to take that time & to thank them for all that they do, starting with DSP Appreciation Week.

When staff were asked about DSP Appreciation Week and what being a DSP means to them, some had similar responses like “simply having compassion for others” and “patience is one of the most important things a DSP can have”. A Direct Support Professional encounters a lot that really pushes them to use problem-solving skills on a daily basis. On top of the many hats a DSP wears, that skill and knowledge will always be at the center. Another DSP said, “You learn a lot fast and eventually become a fast learner. Being hired as a DSP has been interesting because everyone’s experiences are different.” I can relate, having begun my career in that same position.

To me, being a DSP means showing that you care, simply put. Starting in this field in 2015, I realized it took all those things and more to provide supports to people. Making a difference is fundamental, contributes to overall growth, and can be rewarding. An amazing part that I’ve experienced while being a DSP and still working closely with people supported is the lasting impressions you have on individuals. Building relationships is an eye-opening part of our work: going the extra mile, having integrity, being self-aware, and remembering to have fun are other things that come along with it.

For many employees, being a DSP center around having an awareness that everyone lives and communicates differently. No matter that difference, we are all still human, and having humility is very important. One DSP said, “Sometimes you have to place yourself in another person’s shoes to understand their point of view”. That statement always stood out to me because it creates a space for learning & understanding. He continued “Being a DSP means constantly changing and growing all the time. One day you realize you’re further in this field than where you started, and it may seem like it happened overnight”. The people we support may look at DSPs as everyday heroes, whether they voice it or not.

Acknowledgment and recognition are among the most notable things AHRC NYC prides itself on and continues to do with the utmost confidence. We provide human services, and we all have to remember what the most important word in that phrase is–human.