The Provider – Vol. 40 – No. 5 May 2019


Ness Bellini, right, and self-advocate Cassandra at the 2018 Caring Force Rally.

Ness Bellini, West Region Self-Advocacy and Rainbow Support Group Coordinator has been with the Western Massachusetts Training Consortium since September 2017. On a typical day, Bellini offers individual support to self-advocates, attends to meeting and event preparation details, and plans for and supports self-advocates to facilitate one of several monthly self-advocacy groups. Bellini graduated from Hampshire College and spent much of the following year serving AmeriCorps at the United Arc in Turners Falls. Bellini identifies as trans, using they/them/theirs pronouns, and brings to their role a passion for supporting people with marginalized identities, including self-advocates identifying as trans and/or non-binary that participate in the Rainbow Support Group. They said this work supporting teens and young adults, as well as their upbringing with both parents in helping professions, led them to human services. While working full-time, Bellini is also a student at Westfield State pursuing a Master of Social Work degree, and continues education in the Department of Developmental Services’ “Training of Trainers” for Sexuality Educators.

Bellini’s supervisor Mary Kate Farley-Dimino says “they have such a sincere style of supporting people in becoming the most effective Self Advocates they can be.” As emphasized in the Consortium’s mission, they demonstrably values the wisdom gained from “lived experience” as one of our most important resources. Bellini recognizes it “makes sense to work with people who’ve been through similar things.” “Over two years ago, self-advocates interviewing Ness knew right away they were right for the job,” said WTMC Executive Director Kristel Applebee. “The interview included an impromptu role play and Ness joined right in – it’s been an environment of curiosity for learning ever since! Ness teams with self-advocates and colleagues in an exceptional way, promoting skill development, stronger relationships and leadership that has increased impact on our service systems and community. We’re grateful for their contributions and can’t wait to see what’s next!”