Kiran, a young woman with developmental disabilities, lived in a congregated, segregated institution under terrible conditions for many years, as both a child and an adult. Moving to a typical home with 3 other women was a big change in her life, and she had no friends or relatives to welcome her there, except for the staff who are working with her and the women she moved in with. As we all know in SRV, there is a tendency for natural relationships, if a vulnerable person has any at all, to be replaced by paid relationships in the form of paid workers. In Kiran’s situation, we realized soon after her move that she was surrounded by people who were paid to be in her life, or who were volunteers for her service organization. They are caring, committed, and dedicated staff, but one cannot forget that they are, indeed, paid workers, and people need more than just paid or volunteer workers in their lives.

SRV theory highlights the lack of freely-given relationships as a nearly universal “wound” experienced by so many vulnerable and devalued people.

The team began to wonder, where might young women be found who are about Kiran’s age in the town where she lives who might be excellent possible friends? Well, look and you’ll often find. A Community College sits quite close to the place where Kiran works, full of twenty something young women who are interested in many of the same things Kiran is, and might be interested in knowing her. With a few careful introductions, Kiran was quickly included in several friendships with students at the community college.

As we know from the SRV theme of “Personal Social Integration,” relationships with valued people in the community are important for many reasons. The relationships that Kiran is building with the college students have good chances of benefitting Kiran herself, her close social circles, and the community at large, for many reasons proven by empirical research but also in concert with the values ascribed to by our major civic and religious traditions.

And for Kiran, we now need to support her to hold on to, and get stronger in this valued role of friend, to be one step closer toward attaining a full, rich, and meaningful life within her community.