When Washington thinks back on his life in the Democratic Republic of Congo, it is the closeness of community he misses most.
“Everyone knew everyone, the community was very close-knit,” he recalls. “Here in Canada, you might live next door to the same person for years and not know their names.”
Washington’s family came to Canada as refugees ten years ago and in that time he has come to see that there are different definitions for community. He is grateful for the community of people who welcomed his family to this country and helped them get established. He has a community of fellow students at Vancouver Community College where he is studying to become a nurse. And through his work with Communitas Supportive Care Society, Washington has come to know a community of people who care for those who live with developmental disabilities.
Washington is a Home Share provider for Victor, a man who lives with autism. Home Share is a community-based living arrangement where support is provided by contracted care-givers. These are people from all walks of life who welcome a person with a developmental disability into their lives. Washington and Victor have been roommates for more than two years. This arrangement gives Victor some independence, gives his family peace of mind knowing that he is well cared for, and has given Washington a unique perspective as he prepares for his career in nursing.
“Victor doesn’t speak so I have had to learn to communicate in different ways,” he says. “This has helped me when I’ve worked with patients who cannot communicate verbally.”
While Washington is in school, Victor goes to his day program where he takes part in various activities like bowling or swimming. Washington’s mother also cares for people with developmental disabilities, so when Victor is finished at his day program, he heads over to her house to “hang out” until Washington is done at school. They’ll have supper together and sometimes they’ll go for a walk in the park or enjoy another activity. The day might end by listening to the classical music Victor enjoys before getting ready for bed.
Washington enjoys his life with Victor and says the opportunity to share his home with him has enriched his life.
“He has really taught me patience,” Washington says. “Sometimes it can be difficult to do something and not expect anything in return but Victor has opened my eyes to the rewards of simply caring for someone else.”
When asked what he would say to someone who might be considering a Home Share experience, he says he’d give them the same advice he would give to someone considering a career in nursing: don’t do it for the money.
“You have to really want to do this, it is all about relationships,” he says. “It can be very rewarding and you meet so many different people who are part of a really loving community.”
He compares it to any family that has children: your time and your schedule revolve around them. That might seem like a sacrifice but Washington says that the rewards are worth it.
“Just as with kids, it is also awesome when you see a person with developmental disabilities grow and learn new skills and just be happy.”