Support for Those Who Need a Helping Hand

March is National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month—an opportune time to recognize the value of inclusion for this population, along the important work that direct care workers do each day for people with developmental disabilities. So it is only fitting that we put a brief spotlight on Ali Alribayawi, one of our direct care staff for CHD’s Meadows Homes.

Our 20 Meadows Homes help residents develop emotionally, cognitively, and socially so they reach their maximum potential. Support options include 24-hour residential support, shared living (matching individuals with community members), and individual community support—depending on their needs.

Alribayawi is on the staff of one of Meadows Homes that provide 24-hour residential support in Chicopee. He had his first experience in direct care helping his elderly mother with day-to-day activities, “and I found that this is something I like to do,” he said. He had experience with residential services for the developmentally disabled at another agency before coming to CHD in January of 2022, working at several Meadows Homes.

At present, Alribayawi works with Raymondo 50, and Nicholas, 24. “It’s a really fulfilling job—these people need some help, and I’m glad to do it,” he said. “They don’t ask for much—just some support in life, and to have fun, like any person.”

Meadows Homes staff provide residents with guidance in such areas as health and dental care, safety skills, nutrition and meal planning, money management, and relationship building, to name a few. Cooking classes, exercise classes and various recreational opportunities are offered as well. Staff also assist with transportation for community activities and employment opportunities.

One of the favorite parts of Alribayawi’s job is helping residents enjoy doing some of the simple things in life that many of us take for granted: “They love walking in the neighborhood, going to the park, going for rides—and listening to music in the van on the ride,” he said. “If they’re not having a good day, getting out of the house changes their mood—especially going to the movies, and going swimming.” He points to a framed photo on the wall of Raymondo, with a broad smile, in a swimming pool. “Even just going to the supermarket and choosing the food they want is a good experience,” he said. “Raymondo really likes pancakes, so when we take him to Stop & Shop, he always gets pancake mix.”

Alribayawi said that essential qualities to have in direct care include patience and being a calming influence. “It’s not a job for everyone,” he said, explaining that sleep problems are common in people with developmental disabilities. “When Raymondo and Nicholas go without sleep at night—and this happens every once in a while, they might not have a good day,” he said. “Some people think this job will be easy, but when [disruptive] behaviors start, you have to be focused—and be there for the residents.”

For Alribayawi, an uplifting aspect of his role is experiencing how thankful the residents are of our staff and services. “”Raymondo is verbal, and he says ‘thank you’ a lot,” he said. Nicholas is not verbal, but Alribayawi knows he is appreciative. “They both like us [staff] a lot.”