By Patience Zelee, Assistant Program Manager
My name is Patience Zelee. I am a single parent of a six year old, and I have worked full-time as an Assistant Program Manager/Direct Support Professional (DSP) at Hammer Residences for seven years. I came to the U.S. from Liberia, West Africa, in 1998. I am also a full-time student.
When I first applied for a job with Hammer, I told myself I would work here long enough to get back on my feet – 6 months tops. But within those six months, I fell in love with my job. Now, I cannot imagine myself working anywhere else. I have come to think of the individuals that I serve as my second family. I love joking around with my second family, going to movies or dances with them, having WII parties and many other things. But, it is not all fun and games. As a DSP, I also cook, clean, order and administer medications, drive to and from medical appointments and help with bathing, grooming and budgeting. I am trained to use a lift van, a Hoyer lift, stair lift (to transfer individuals up and down the stairs), bed baths and seizure protocol for one of the individuals that I serve. It is both rewarding and exhausting work.
Because of the wage structure, most of us who work in this field need to pick up extra shifts or have a second job in order to make ends meet. For those of us who are single parents, we sometimes go days without seeing our children. It’s unbearable for me not to see my daughter for days at a time because I have to work so much. It’s hard for me and her not to see be with each other as much as we would like, but that is how it has to be if we want to keep a roof over our heads and put food on the table.
A simple pay increase, of even 5%, would make a difference in all of our lives. I would not have to work so much, and I would be able to spend time with my daughter. It would also decrease DSP turnover, which would greatly benefit those I support.
Still, I continue to do this job because I want to make a difference in people’s lives. I believe it is one of the best things a person can do in their life. It matters to me and the people I serve.
So, please, help support a 5% rate increase for Direct Support Professionals in 2015 to better the lives of my daughter, my second family and myself.