Her Boundless Call to Care

Middlebrook Farms Associate provides lifechanging help to a stranger 1,600 miles away
Dionne Semoy
Jan '22
Benchmark 25th anniversary

Some people’s hearts are very big. Such people simply can’t stand by when another person is suffering. They must act.

Dionne Semoy is one of those people.

Dionne, who started working at Middlebrook Farms at Trumbull in 2003, serves as the community’s Senior Resident Care Associate (RCA). She provides direct care to residents, while also overseeing other RCAs. “I love being the person who can make a resident comfortable, help with whatever they need and give them hope going forward. It’s very important to be there for them.”

Recently, her caring nature propelled her to reach out to a man she’d never met, in Jamaica. The act changed his life forever, along with the lives of Dionne and her family.

Dionne is a native of St. Thomas Parish on the eastern end of Jamaica, about 45 minutes from Kingston. She came to the United State when she was 16.

This past May, Dionne was watching a program on “Facebook Live” that specializes in stories of people in need. On this day, the host was visiting a homeless shelter in Kingston and approached a 32-year-old man named Odane Campbell. Dionne says he had been literally thrown away by his mother as a baby; left in a trash can where his back was broken.

Rescued and placed in a boys home in Montego Bay, he grew up, acquiring the nickname “Hunchback Boy.” On the few occasions he went into the outside world, he was abused, treated as an outcast, Dionne says. When he turned 18, he had to leave the orphanage.

With no family and no other support, he lived on the street, scrounging for food and shelter. Along the way, kind people did take him in for a while. He landed a job working on a garbage truck, but was transferred to Kingston and then let go when the company judged him a risk due to his handicap. He received some government support, but one day walking home with his government money, three young men robbed and shot him. He was paralyzed from the waist down. That was September, 2020. He ended up in the homeless shelter.

‘My heart was touched.’

“It just hit me.  This man was going to be locked away for the rest of his life. He needed help, and the system wasn’t helping him.”  She recalls tearing up, imagining what would happen to him. “My heart was touched. I thought: What could I do?”

One night, she woke to the feeling that someone was calling Odane’s name to her. “I’m not a religious person, but it seemed that God was giving me a message. I knew that Odane was always praying to find a mother. A voice kept telling me: You’ve got to get Odane out of there. He’s never had a chance to have a real life.”

Facetime conversation

She contacted the “Facebook Live” program producers to see if she could call the man or find a way to help him. Despite difficult bureaucratic hurdles, she was able first to help with money to provide him a wheelchair. Then, in July, she finally was able to talk to him. She told him she’d seen the video and felt his pain. “I said, ‘I won’t stop ‘til I get you out of there.’”

Dionne wanted Odane to live in one of her extended family’s homes in St. Thomas Parish. She enlisted a cousin on the island to help cut through red tape. Eventually, the family succeeded in moving him into the house.

Dionne’s husband, Patrick, also a native of Jamaica, is in the U.S. Army and served three deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Dionne and Patrick have three adult children. The couple, who live in Bridgeport, Connecticut, finally met Odane in October on a visit to Jamaica. “He touched all of our hearts. He’s the big baby in the family now. My husband loves him to death. Odane calls me every day. He says, ‘Mommy, thank you so much.’”

The family has hopes of adopting Odane and bringing him to the States. “That’s the goal. Once he’s here, I’ll be able to care for him better.”

Rescuing Odane and giving him “a chance to have a real life” is who Dionne is. “My passion in life is to help abused children.” When she was young, she hoped to become a social worker to engage that passion.

“I had to help Odane. I was compelled.” She couldn’t bear the thought that “he would spend the rest of his life in an institution.”

And it sounds like Dionne isn’t finished with her mission to make a difference in the lives of others. Odane’s plight, she says, “reminds me there’s a lot of people out there who need help.”

Read more about Dionne in this Connecticut Post front-page story.

Dionne Semoy
Middlebrook Farms at Trumbull