Who We Are – Finding Solace in Caring for Others
Nearly 5,000 miles separate Providence, Rhode Island from Tuzon, Liberia. Beacky Gaye has lived in the United States for more than three decades, but her heart still stretches the entire distance.
Beacky (pronounced “Becky”) serves as a certified nursing assistant, CNA, at Capitol Ridge at Providence. Many people who leave their homeland to live in another, immediately cut emotional ties to the old country. Others, like Beacky, never sever those bonds.
At Capitol Ridge, she tends to residents’ needs, often easing the frustration and pain that can come with cognitive decline. It’s a role she cherishes primarily because she loves helping people. But also, her work brings to mind her mother, who is suffering with Alzheimer’s disease in Liberia and being cared for by Beacky’s sister. At 95, her mother is the oldest person in their village, Beacky says.
“The thing I like about working here is talking to the residents, calming them down when they’re confused. It’s like I’m taking care of my mom. I feel good,” she says.
Hardship in Liberia was the motivator that convinced Beacky and her husband to come to America. Liberia is located on the west coast of Africa. Beacky’s village of Tuzon is situated inland, on the country’s northern border with Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast). Her family struggled to make ends meet, selling wood and the rice they grew to survive. “It was poverty. There was no work. Life was not good there.”
Coming to America
Her husband left first, but it wasn’t easy. “It was very difficult to leave. He was trying and trying and trying.” Finally, in 1976, he succeeded with the help of an uncle. “My husband came here to make a life. He worked hard, then sent for me.” But that wasn’t until 1988, when they’d already been separated for 12 years.
She arrived in America with two stepsons. She and her husband would go on to have three more boys. All five sons are adults now, living in Providence. Her husband works in a group home in Massachusetts.
When she first got here, Beacky says, “I didn’t have anything. I didn’t have papers or anything.” She landed a job working in a jewelry factory in Johnston, RI. Before long, she left the factory. She and a friend found work caring for patients in nursing homes. “We were learning on the job,” Beacky recalls. She earned her CNA license in 1990, setting her course for the future. She came to Capitol Ridge in 2008.
Today, at 61, Beacky looks forward to every-other-year trips to Liberia. She typically goes in the dry season – February or March. She has helped out in her village by building a home for her family there. Her stay lasts only a couple of weeks. When she has to leave, she says, “I cry. I miss the food, I miss my nieces and nephews.” And, of course, her mother. She looks forward to a time – after retirement – when she can visit for a month or two at a time.
For now, she feels fortunate to be working at Capitol Ridge, to be caring for people who call her their “buddy” and whom she loves in return. “It’s so nice here. All the people are good to work with. I love it here.”
“Beacky is special. She brings light and laughter to the residents and her colleagues everyday with her contagious positive attitude and energy,” says Tristi Delaroca, Capitol Ridge’s executive director. “You can be sure wherever Beacky is fun and laughter will follow.”