Former Direct Support Professional

Direct Support Professional

After moving to Maine from Rwanda, Cedric Mfuranzima worked as a Direct Support Professional (DSP) supporting individuals with developmental disabilities. Currently, Cedric, 26, lives in Cumberland County and works to support other DSPs in the field.

What has your career path looked like? 

I moved to the U.S. in 2015 for college from Rwanda to a small business college in Massachusetts. I came up to Maine in 2017 because someone told me there was a Rwandan community, so I came up and met the people, learned about their lives and what kind of work they were doing, and asked myself, what would my value be here? So, I took steps to be a valuable member of the community. By 2019, I was spending half my week in Maine and half in Massachusetts, where I was completing my education. I got my bachelor’s of science in business administration in 2020. My first job as a DSP intern was at New England Integrated Living Support (NEILS) in 2019, and later on, I worked as a full-fledged DSP at Safe Residential Care. I was one of the first DSPs they hired. I met other DSPs at that time, and they sparked my interest in this profession for me. They promoted me to be a house manager. I was in charge of the other DSPs’ schedules and started focusing on other agency-wide issues such as hiring, employee retention, activity planning, technical assistance, business development, and planning.   

What do you consider success in your job?

There were many, many moments in the day that felt worthwhile. When I would help the night shift crew arrange the house to make sure it was clean and in order, the residents would wake up in an organized and beautiful place. So you could see in their eyes when things are done right, their eyes have a way of expressing joy. I could see how relaxed they were and how friendly they would become. They’d hold my arm and show me something important to them. That sense of peace and relaxation in their faces was my success. 

How would you describe the impact of your work as a DSP?

During my time in residential care, there was a man named Jacob. Jacob had behavioral issues, and we could see from his paperwork that there was no parent or guardian in the picture. He had a lot of anxiety and had been moved to a different place, and he became a little bit lonely. So, we organized this bowling event with all of the residents, and Jacob had a great time. He came up to me and said, ‘You’re my hero.’ That felt very fulfilling. 

What advice would you give people who want to be a DSP?

If you are in a new country, the best way to ‘find’ yourself is to look at yourself through someone else’s eyes.  If you take this time, you will spend a lot of time learning from your colleagues, peers, and community. It’s the kind of job that will help you learn about yourself in a new place. To me, it was a surprise. I thought I would be in a job making money, but what I got out of it was more than money; it was what I realized I could do for another person. If I weren’t positive, if I weren’t proactive, then that person would suffer, and I would suffer. This job puts you in a place where you learn and dig deep.

It’s the kind of job that will help you learn about yourself in a new place.

What kind of person is the right fit for your line of work, both in personality and character traits? 

Someone who has patience and kindness. Someone who has a positive attitude. And someone who has a curiosity about the people they work with, who takes an active role in helping them day to day, not a passive role, just sitting around. 

What do you wish people outside the industry knew about your daily challenges?

That we have families, and we need time to spend downtime. I now work several jobs and 100 hours a week for my family. We need time off to recharge. If there was a pay raise, I could work fewer hours. Right now, the agency cannot hire you to do more than 40 hours a week, but some people I know from Africa take two full-time jobs so they can support themselves here and support their families in Africa.

What do you want them to know about the rewards of your line of work? 

When you are giving, you gain something in return. You gain a lot by giving your time and attention to an individual you are taking care of. You learn about yourself, grow as a person, and grow together.

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