Cambridge Community Advocate Gives Back at Home and in the Community
As a Community Advocacy Coordinator for the Cambridge, Mass. Economic Opportunity Committee, Raymond Chicoye knows his way around the services that help Cambridge residents and fellow Haitians, but when his mother-in-law passed away and his father-in-law needed full-time assistance to live at , Raymond didn’t know where to turn for help.
In July, 2008, Raymond’s mother-in-law, Ertha, was rushed to the emergency room, where she was diagnosed and passed away from a heart tumor. Her husband Pierre, blind since 1998, explained in his native French, “The loss of my wife really hurts. My wife helped me get around, but she’s gone. God gave me strength to cope.”
Before she passed away, Ertha spoke with her daughter on the phone and asked her to “take care of Father.” Mirium and Raymond fulfilled Ertha’s wish when they insisted that 77-year old Pierre – whose base has been in the U.S. - live permanently in their with Raymond as his caregiver in the Caregiver Homes program.
Raymond commented, “What surprised me is that I do community work and I didn’t know about Caregiver Homes!” When he learned about the program, his first thought was “What’s the trap? It’s too good to be true!” He spoke with CGH Boston Program Managers Gloria Pascual and Kris Whitney, who “made it sound so easy.” Pierre was already a MassHealth consumer and the admission to Caregiver Homes happened within weeks. Raymond now receives a stipend for the care he provides and the family receives regular support from CGH Registered Nurse, Mary Davies and Care Managers, Sarah Mausner and Erin Woodbury.
Another key player in making it possible for Pierre to live with Mirium, Raymond and their four children, is the Mass Commission for the Blind. Case Manager, Denise Dracup provided training and helped configure the aparent for his safety and mobility. The family describes how – since his blindness – Pierre has become “very concerned with the time and is always asking what time is it, is it dark, is it sunny?” Pierre shows off his watch and they explain how Denise was able to locate and send him a talking watch that tells the time in French!
Pierre added, “I was hoping God would open my eyes again, but I am thankful for all the organizations that helped me cope with this situation. When you have this handicap – finding people who help you really touches your heart. It makes me think that I’m not alone in the battle. Even by you (Caregiver Homes) visiting me, that encourages me to keep on living.” Pierre’s calm, thoughtful and pleasant demeanor and his easy smile make it apparent why so many are willing and feel honored to help him.
In Haitian culture, family life is very important and extended family is traditionally viewed as the social unit. Raymond and Mirium certainly display these family values in their care of Pierre and now Raymond’s sister and two children, who were left less after the recent earthquakes in Haiti.
As caregiver, Raymond is committed: “I don’t see myself sending my father-in-law to a nursing . It’s a pleasure to help him. It’s my job. I hope my kids do the same.”