Residential Counselor Since 2020

Mental Health

Sasha*, 25, lives in Cumberland County, having moved to the U.S. from Rwanda when she was a teenager and now works with people living with mental illness in a residential program.

I originally applied to come to the United States through my high school and graduated here in 2018. I liked working with people and I was taking college classes part-time, so I took a job in health care, working in food services, which was easier. After that I began working for Volunteers of America, where I still work now. I had to do certain training courses like CPR, CRMA, and MHRT. Today, I work in a residential program in Saco, Maine with people who are mentally ill. They live independently and can come and go, but we help them with communication and transportation, and make medical appointments–we’re like a support system. 

A successful day for me is when one of my clients has a hard day and I can make it better.

I had one client who had frustration around the holidays like Christmas time and New Year’s time. He couldn’t cope in that environment because he didn’t have fun growing up. And he’d see other clients whose families would come visit and have a meal with them and he’d get in crisis mode. So I would come up with something to do to remove him from that crisis mode, like ask him if he wanted to go out and buy a new video game. To see him be happy and forget the hard day he was having, was a successful day for me. 

If there is an opportunity for somebody who wants to come to the United States, you can go for it. You can get a lot of help. And in your job, you also have to be patient. You have to tell yourself it’s going to be okay and you’ll figure it out. You’ve got to have empathy, and good communication skills because the work we do is all about communicating with clients.

The days I come to work and my clients are happy to see me and tell me about their day is the reward. If I see a client is happy, I know I’m really making a difference in their life. 

*Name changed for privacy

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