Hey there! My name is Alex Lombardi and I am thrilled to join the Benevolence Farm family as the Program Manager. My first experience working with justice-involved women was as a Residential Advisor (RA) with UNC Horizons. UNC Horizons is a substance use disorder treatment program for pregnant or parenting women, using a trauma-informed model of care in both their residential and outpatient services. The residential program provides free housing, and both programs offer support systems on site and in the community, in order to facilitate the women’s full focus on their recovery. I loved having the opportunity to work directly with the women and to develop a relationship with each of them. Witnessing the systems-level barriers the residents and their children faced upon graduation from the program, after almost a year of intense self-work, motivated me to think more intentionally about how I wanted to have impact and advocate for change. I was infuriated by the expectation that individual-level solutions were expected to address structural-level injustices, so I decided to pursue my Master of Social Work degree. Assisting with research focused on Specialty Mental Health Probation solidified my passion for criminal justice reform, and I would now substitute reform with transformation. This position connected me with the Durham County Criminal Justice Resource Center, where I coordinated the development of an integrated reentry grant in the Durham County Detention Center, prior to accepting the position with Benevolence Farm.
Benevolence Farm’s compassionate framework, and vision to create a more equitable, just, and nurturing world for women and their communities, are what drew me to the organization. Women have incredible power and strength, and I am passionate about doing my part to help women discover and/or rediscover their immeasurable potential. I also appreciate that the Farm does not accept conditional funding, which I believe allows for more freedom around programming and creativity within the work that can be performed. I believe this creates space for re-imagining around how our society defines healing and justice, reiterated by Benevolence Farm’s dedication to work that is intersectional and reaps structural change. Combined with my love of gardening and nature, I knew I had found a community that aligned with my values and interests.
My first day was May 26th and, not surprisingly, my first week looked different than I anticipated due to COVID-19. However, the circumstances provided me with the opportunity to welcome our 20th resident in a gradual and individualized way – I think this helped both of us get acclimated! Each day was dedicated to ensuring she was comfortable and felt welcome, in spite of spending her first few days in a hotel room to ensure a safe transition to the Farm. Watching her open her welcome basket, thoughtfully curated by Benevolence Farm staff and residents based on what she likes, was a joyful moment, and one that I will look forward to with each new resident. I began to see how extensive Benevolence Farm’s network is, and grew more eager to learn about all of the relationships that have been nurtured, and to do my part to continue to foster partnerships. I was also amazed by the organization’s ability to adapt and to be responsive to the needs of both the residents and the larger Alamance County community. Overall, I ended the week feeling extremely inspired and motivated to work hard to continue the momentum of the efforts of the staff and residents. Can’t wait to see what adventures my second week holds!